African Dryland Peoples and Climate Change: A Knowledge Network for Conservancies

African Dryland Peoples and Climate Change: A Knowledge Network for Conservancies

Kathleen GALVIN (USA)

Colorado State University, USA

Climate change is projected in East Africa to increase temperature and precipitation, but most importantly, to increase the frequency and severity of droughts in some areas. Climate change is occurring in conjunction with land fragmentation, increasing human population, competition over land use and changing market forces.  Africa’s savannas, which are home to the largest concentrations of megafauna on Earth and pastoralists and their livestock, are literally losing ground to settlement, farming, roads and resorts.  But some places are re-aggregating the land to provide biodiversity conservation and enhance human livelihoods. Community-based conservancies (CBCs) are promoted as solutions to the large-scale changes that are occurring in savannas.   However, there is surprisingly little empirical evidence that supports positive change in poverty reduction, or that support both conservation and development.  There is a clear need for social-ecological research on both the processes of governance within and between conservancies, and their goals and outcomes. But for change towards biodiversity conservation and human well-being to occur on the ground now there must also be science and other knowledge(s) co-mingled, discussed and learned from.  A transparent Knowledge Network (KN) for learning through action for collaborative managers, herders, policy makers, academics, and the general public can improve decisions through effective communication by the voices working in conservancies. This includes stories of experiential knowledge, videos, scientific papers, blogs, and policy briefs, and there are multiple knowledges based on age, gender, languages, ethnicity, social networks, economic sectors, and government levels. While biodiversity is addressed through macroeconomic, regulatory and innovation policies at the global level through the UN Post-2015 Development Agenda, the UN COP 21 meetings and others, it is at the local level that changes occur. With change occurring so rapidly, the past is no longer a reliable guide to the future so that knowledge networks are vital to decision-making. Are conservancies flexible and nimble enough to act to climate change? It depends on their structure, functions and processes. The complex human-ecological systems conservancies govern are embedded in other linked systems but through KNs communities/conservancies may get the chance to become centers of innovation for adaptation.



Kathleen Galvin is a Professor in the Department of Anthropology, and Senior Research Scientist at the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory at Colorado State University, USA. She is an Associate Director of the School of Global Environmental Sustainability   and Director, The Africa Center .  Trained as a biological anthropologist, she has conducted interdisciplinary social-ecological research in the drylands of Africa and for over 25 years.  She is interested in issues of pastoral land use, conservation, climate variability and change, food security and resilience and adaptation strategies of people in the savannas. Her research explores local perceptions of climate change and environmental changes and viable solutions.  The Kenyan work has resulted in an award-winning video  Her latest work on pastoral nutrition shows that despite environmental and social changes nutrition remains low (open access: . She has also examined the importance of spatial complexity and the costs of land fragmentation for pastoralists around the world. She was a co-author of Changing the Atmosphere, a report to the American Anthropological Association on Global Climate change ( . For more information see

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