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Stakeholder workshop in South Ethiopia

by Felix

In the first 10 days of November, I went on a research trip to Ethiopia. There, I had the opportunity to represent POLISES in a stakeholder workshop on pastoralism in southern Ethiopia. The workshop – organized by our cooperation partner Lance Robinson from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) – was held in Yabelo, a small town in Borana zone. Even though 571 kms does not sound that far for German standards, it take as long as two days to get there from Addis Abeba.

It brought together elders from two rangeland councils of the region, community leaders from two other ethnic groups, officials of the regional government, NGO representatives as well as a couple of scientists.

The main objective of the workshop was to identify and analyze factors that affect rangeland condition and visualize them in an influence diagram. These diagrams look a little like mind maps and constitute the first step towards developing a model.

I was invited to present our POLISES research and show how our models can serve as helpful tools also for actual political decision-makers. They allow to explore and compare different scenarios even within a stylized model, and thus, help organize and substantiate a discussion. Therefore, one of our next steps is to develop a model that deals with the expansion of agriculture in that region, which was named as one of the most pressing issues during the workshop.

For me as someone mainly working off my computer, the most interesting part though (and especially if you have a social science background) was to get to know "real" pastoralists. It was fascinating to meet people with a lifestyle that is so different from our own and who are proud to keep up the traditions of several centuries. That's why I'm very grateful for this opportunity to do a little bit of "field work" and excited to see how things continue.

Before and after the workshop I also had a couple of days to spend at the Addis campus of ILRI where I discussed the current status of our model as well as potential future collaboration opportunities with experts of different fields.

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