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PENHA Founding Director Gives Keynote Speech at the University of Samara's 1st International Research Conference

The University of Samara in Ethiopia’s Afar Region hosted its first international research conference entitled “Pastoral and Agro-Pastoral Community Development for Sustainable Livelihoods” on 19th to 21st June 2018. The event was attended by over 300 researchers, practitioners and academics from multi-disciplinary fields from academic and research institutions in Ethiopia, Bangladesh, India, the United Kingdom, Oman and Zambia.

The conference provided a forum to discuss challenges and seize on opportunities and strategies for pastoral and agro-pastoral community development in the region, and an opportunity for networking and ongoing collaboration. It was preceded by a day’s trip to the pastoral areas of Asseita and the Awash River and a visit to a local sugar beet factory.

PENHA was represented by two of its board members – Dr Zeremariam Fre, PENHA’s founding Director, and Nicole Kenton. The conference was opened with energising music and dance from an Afar cultural group, followed by a welcome by Mr Mohammed Ahmed, Vice President for Research and Community Services at Samara University and Dr Adem Bori, President of Samara University.

Dr Fre and Mr Awol Arba, Deputy Governor of Afar Regional State, gave the keynote speeches. Dr Fre expressed his wish for ongoing collaboration. Nicole Kenton gave a presentation on the changing face of pastoralism and its challenges and opportunities, and recommended research opportunities specifically focused on the Afar Region. She spoke of the important contribution that pastoralism makes to culture, biodiversity, the environment and the economy across the region.

Fifty presentations were given on a range of themes, including livestock and agricultural value chains, animal health, water and energy, land and soil decontamination, soil fertility, health, education, human behaviour, women’s empowerment and pastoral advocacy and rights. Dr Fre gave a lecture to participants and students on the evolution of pastoralism in the Horn of Africa, presenting a regional perspective.

Recommendations of the conference included a commitment to evidence-based research and policies which consider the social, economic and cultural settings of the pastoralists and agro-pastoralist communities in the Afar region and beyond.

The conference culminated with the signing of the Samara University Declaration, which committed the organisers and participants to continue building on the outcomes of their research and the conference recommendations, as well as work by other stakeholders actively involved in the Afar Region, so that livelihood options evolve in ways which are most suited to the realities of the Afar pastoral and agro pastoral communities.

Photo credits: Abubeker Yasin/Nicole Kenton, Afar Ethiopia June 2018