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Pastoralists make the most of resources distributed unevenly over space and time to provide a range of goods and services. Operating in a shock-prone environment, pastoralists deploy endogenous strategies such as mobility, diversification in agriculture or in non-agricultural activities, management of social networks, etc. However, accurate and reliable knowledge about the economics of pastoralism is yet to be understood and absorbed at the local, regional and national levels, based on reliable data. In the absence of such knowledge, governments and private firms neglect investment that would allow those systems to better connect to markets, and are unable to provide appropriate services, infrastructure and tenure security.

With Argentina, Chad and Mongolia as pilot cases, this study by CIRAD, commissioned by FAO, funded by IFAD and facilitated by pastoralist associations (Fundación Gran Chaco, Réseau Billital Maroobé, and the National Federation of Pasture User Groups), aimed to fulfil this knowledge gap through a multifunctional assessment of pastoral production systems and their economic contribution. Importantly, incorporating self-consumption of pastoralist households’ productions themselves as an key component of gross revenue shows a significant increase in their contribution to national GDPs. The diversified sources of revenue and the importance of self-consumption also indicate that pastoral systems fulfil a range of functions (income, food security, flexible labor, etc.).

Further, the study promotes close cooperation between pastoralist associations, research institutions and development partners. Such new partnerships allow strengthening the capacity of those pastoralist associations in collecting and managing their own data, as well as using this data in policy dialogue.