To achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in agropastoral communities, investments must facilitate seamless cross-border mobility, diversify skills and livelihood options, and directly strengthen family and socio-cultural bonds. This is according to a new report, “Promise, Peril and Resilience: Voices of Agropastoralists in Africa’s Borderland Regions”, published by the Africa Borderlands Centre (ABC), a flagship initiative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
Speaking during the launch of the report, Ahunna Eziakonwa, UN Assistant Secretary-General, UNDP Assistant Administrator and Director of UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Africa, said: “In Africa’s borderlands, governance lies at the centre of unleashing the potential of mobility, labour diversification and family ties. Borderland agropastoralists are demanding stronger laws, policies, budgets and actions from local governments, national authorities, regional organizations and international development partners, to better enable the maximization of their developmental potential.”
The report is based on the direct testimonies of 1,042 agropastoralists living in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, South Sudan and Uganda. It comes at a time when the socio-economic impact of COVID-19, drought and famine are having devastating effects on agropastoralists’ livelihoods, most of whom are living in Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASALs).
Hon. Idris Salim Dokota, Principal Secretary, State Department for Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASALS) & Regional Development, Government of Kenya, speaking on behalf of Cabinet Secretary Hon. Rebecca Miano, noted: “The affected borderland areas are treasures of diverse natural resources, untapped renewable energy and resilient people, whom, if supported by governments and international partners, will not only stand fully on their feet, but contribute significantly to food security and the overall sustainable development of Africa’s economies.”
The research offers unique insights into the challenges, opportunities and resilience mechanisms of African border communities. Key findings indicate that conflict and security threats significantly impact borderland communities. Fluidity and flexibility in income generating activities are critical climate adaptation mechanisms in borderland communities. The family, a unit of social mobilization, serves as the nerve centre of mobility and labour diversification. The report also highlights the important role of women and youth inclusion in the economic viability and sustainability of Africa’s borderlands.
Representing the African Union Commission’s Political Affairs, Peace and Security Department (AUC-PAPS), Ambassador Fred Ngoga-Gateretse, said “The African Union is seeking to bridge the development gap by placing borderlands at the centre of our efforts. With only 40% of delimitated and demarcated borders in Africa, the AU is committed to turning barriers into bridges by completing these efforts before the 2027 deadline. Our partnership with UNDP is committed to jointly realizing this vision for an Africa with peaceful, prosperous, and open borders.”
Free and safe movement across borders is not just a strategy to cope with vulnerabilities – it also maintains family and community ties, allows trading of goods and services, and creates opportunities to improve livelihoods. Half of those surveyed have crossed an international border within the last year. For one in five, such crossings are a monthly occurrence.
“This report challenges oversimplified notions of borderlands as lawless, backward, and developmentally peripheral places to live. It validates the point that agropastoralists have a strong attachment to their homelands by demonstrating a remarkable adaptability to living in rugged terrains and enduring vulnerabilities, therefore taking responsibility for their development journeys,” said the Dr. Zeynu Ummer, Senior Chief Technical Advisor and Team Leader of the UNDP Africa Borderlands Centre.
Through the work of the Africa Borderlands Centre, UNDP is listening and learning from these rarely accessed communities, and showcasing the innovation, creativity and potential of people and nature in border areas. Since its establishment in 2021, ABC has deepened its investments in border regions by focusing on value and supply chain development, digital financial inclusion, investment in climate-resilient and smart infrastructure, and cross-border peacebuilding and social cohesion.