Recasting national policies for pastoralist development

I propose to categorize policies according to their intended goal into a three-fold typology: (i) compensation policies aim to buffer the negative effects of technological change ex-post to cope with the danger of frictional unemployment, (ii) investment policies aim to prepare and upskill workers ex-ante to cope with structural changes at the workplace and to match the skill and task demands of new technologies, [and] (iii) steering policies treat technological change not simply as an exogenous market force and aim to actively steer the pace and direction of technological change by shaping employment, investment, and innovation decisions of firms.

R. Bürgisser (2023), Policy Responses to Technological Change in the Workplace, European
Commission, Seville, JRC130830 (accessed online at

This epigraph focuses specifically on the how to think about policies that better respond to effects of automation on displacing workers.

Please re-read the epigraph and then undertake the following thought experiment.


Imagine it is pastoralists who are being displaced from their usual herding workplaces, in this case by land encroachment, sedentarization, climate change, mining, or other largely exogenous factors.

The question then becomes what are the compensation, investment and steering policies of government, among others, to address this displacement. That is, where are the policies to: (1) compensate herders for loss of productive livelihoods, (2) upskill herders in the face of eventually losing their current employment, and (3) efforts to steer the herding economies and markets in ways that do not lose out if and where new displacement occurs?

The answer? With the odd exception that proves the rule, no such national policies exist.


Yes, yes, of course there are the NGO, donor project, and local department trying to work along these lines. But one has to ask at this point in development history whether their existence is the excuse government uses for avoiding having to undertake such policies, regionally or nationally.


A more productive exercise might be to ask: How would various pro-pastoralist interventions be classified: as compensatory, as investment, and/or as steering?

It seems to me that many of the pro-pastoralist interventions fall under the rubric of “steering policies”. The aim is to keep pastoralists who are already there, there–and better off in some regards. Better veterinary measures, paravets and mobile teachers that travel with the herding households, real-time marketing support, mobile health clinics, restocking programs as and when needed, better water point management and participation, and the like are offered up as ways to improve herding livelihoods in the arid and semi-arid lands.


Fair enough, but clearly not far enough, right?

For where are the corresponding compensation and investment policies?

Where, for example, are the policy interventions for improving and capitalizing on re-entry of remittance-sending members back into pastoralism once they return home? Where are the national policies to compensate farmers for not encroaching further on pastoralist lands, e.g., by increasing investments on the agricultural land they already have? Where are the national (and international) policies that recognize keeping the ecological footprint of pastoralist systems is far less expensive than that of urban and peri-urban infrastructures?


So what?

This missing government policies would function much along the lines government support of various “new green initiatives” are meant to: They seek to derisk dryland development by enlisting the private capital of pastoralists, agro-pastoralists and farmers via adjusting the risk/returns on their private investments in local infrastructure, such as markets and transportation. Obviously this is easier said than done and would have distributional impacts if done.


On the derisking state, see

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