Boran cattle grazing on pasture (ILRI/ Camille Hanotte).

SPARC launches new podcast 'Dynamic Drylands' featuring ILRI experts

“Arid zones are not dead zones. They are areas full of life, full of challenges, challenges that are constantly changing. That’s why the responses must also be dynamic.” Colette Benoudji, ODI researcher.

A new podcast mini-series ‘Dynamic Drylands’ is taking a fresh look at aid, development and resilience in the drylands of Africa and the Middle East, and features several ILRI researchers as contributors. 

As climate change forces new, complex challenges on the millions of farmers and herders who live in these regions, they are responding. Broadcaster Bola Mosuro asks: what does long-term resilience look like in these fast-changing places? How are pastoralists and farmers adapting and innovating? And what can governments, development organisations and businesses do to more effectively support them?


Episode one looks at the kinds of support farmers and herders need, and which aid programmes work are actually effective. Mosuro investigates how people can adapt and thrive in the face of complex, seemingly unsolvable problems: where decades of marginalisation, insecurity or conflict are compounded by new issues such as climate change, or the rise of militant insurgency. Contributors include Dorice Agol, Muzzamil Abdi Sheikh, Colette Benoudji and Simon Levine.


Episode two explores the issue of modern dryland developments which are altering pastoralists’ access to land and natural resources. Traditionally, pastoralists have exercised collective ownership of a variable landscape, where resources vary in availability between wet and dry seasons. This shared governance is now running into conflict as more land is used for crop farming, and is managed and owned by individuals. This fragmentation of pastoral lands removes resources and blocks traditional routes of livestock movement. Movement is vital to effective pastoralist systems, but pastoralism may not hold much priority when it comes to deciding land use, or granting herders secure rights. Some decision makers today may view pastoralism as an outdated, even backwards practice.

Mosuro explores how to resolve farmer-herder conflicts, with contributors including ILRI’s Fiona Flintan, and Sarli Sardou Nana and Emmanuel Seck.


Episode three investigates the ‘economic engine’ of pastoralism—its markets and financial systems, and how they are adapting to new challenges. Contributors include ILRI’s Rupsha Banerjee and Kelvin Shikuku, and Carmen Jacquez.

Banerjee explains that repeated shocks in recent years—drought, rains, disease—exacerbated by climate change have interrupted the normal cycles of regeneration in pastoralist life. Together with Shikuku and others at ILRI, they have helped develop Index-based livestock insurance (IBLI) to help herders navigate these crises.

Shikuku is also particularly interested in developing a form of livestock insurance suitable for women who are typically excluded from owning or managing cattle, such as within the Samburu communities of north-central Kenya. And Banerjee advises that it’s essential to understand and adapt to both the way aid agencies operate, and the legacy of informal systems used by communities.


Episode four investigates inventions and innovations making a difference in the drylands. From a smartphone app ‘AFRIscout’ to improve the way pastoralists and farmers interpret weather and climate patterns, to artificial intelligence to help with cattle sales, and new forms of social support that are transforming women’s lives and livelihoods. Contributors include Diba Wako, Tahira Mohamed, Alexis Teyie and Joshua Laizer.

The podcast is produced by Supporting Pastoralism and Agriculture in Recurrent and Protracted Crises (SPARC). SPARC was commissioned by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) of the United Kingdom. The programme’s member organisations are Cowater International in partnership with ILRI, Mercy Corps, and ODI. Additional donors and partners include the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and Jameel Observatory.