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By Giorgia Giovannetti, University of Firenze and Robert Schuman Centre, EUI. Given at EUI on 10 April 2019.
The word “nomad” derives from Greek “nomos” which means “pasture”.
Discussion: The Future of the World is Mobile - Giorgia Giovannetti
Schuman Centre’s Seminar Series:
The Future of the World is Mobile: What can we
learn from pastoralists
Elements for Discussion
University of Firenze and Robert Schuman Centre, EUI
April 10° 2019
Outline: the research questions and the
keywords: mobility, resilience and uncertainty
• Q1: Can the experience of pastoralists, who have long relied upon mobility,
help us address the challenges of global migration, cross-border trade and
managing flows of information and commodities?
• Q2: Can we learn from pastoralists how mobility could help in responding to
uncertainty for wider challenges?
• The idea is that pastoralism is much beyond search for water and pasture...
Nomads are pastoralists equipped with a mobile capital (livestock) and a
flexible territory. The main limiting factor for a pastoralist is grass.
• Pastoralism helps understanding also economic and social mobility (and
• Pastoralism can be taken as a benchmark for other situations of
«movements» (e.g. migrations)
The (main) challenging issues (I perceived)
1. The role of movement (mobility) of people across different borders:
geographic borders, different ecological niches; identity borders,
different livelihood modes (i.e. economic and social movements);
relational borders, networks (i.e. cultural and political movements)
2. Concept of resilience, in particular looking at food security, livelihood
protection, and cultural identity in situations of complex emergencies
(situations hit by multiple shocks at the same time, shocks which are
repeated and prolonged over long periods of time)
3. The fact that resilience (of a community) is inextricably linked to the
condition of the environment and the treatment of its resources.
Little role is played by the environment itself if not in the case of
exceptional ecological crises when resilience is substituting disaster risk
4. Uncertainty makes signals confused (difficult to read)
What do we mean by Mobility?
• Mobility is more than mere “motion”. Is an adaptation strategy
• Mobility is not uniquely related with nomadic migratory movements but it is a
"state of mind”, an habitus that involves social relations, cultural features,
historical and traditional reconstructions and present narratives and discourses.
• It is an "umbrella term" which encompass all types of movement: physical, social,
economic, political, etc.
• Mobility does not necessarily entail actual movement from A to B but a close
reading into people's own perception and understanding of spaces, opportunities,
and constraints (this concept is new for me and I believe very important)
• Movement covers many types of geographical mobilities (e.g. the migratory
• Not only territorial but also economic, socio-relational and cultural mobilities.
Different typologies of mobility: economic, cultural, social
• This research broadens the concept of mobility to embrace economic,
social and environmental perspectives
• Markets, towns and roads. Economic reasons to move:
• Livestock can be sold when pastors need cash (price takers?);
• Herders may buy livestock; can also resell them at a higher price or
merge them with their existing stock;
• Traders can cross borders between towns and rural areas in search of
customers selling all sorts of things;
• Young people can move in search of job opportunities;
Economic mobility, 2
• Drivers (cars, motorbikes, pickups) carry people and goods for local shops
• Women, people move to collect money from cash grant programs.
Economic mobility is a profitable movement. But could be dangerous. It
exposes people to dangerous places. Possibility to run into enemies, wild
animals and “evil spirits” [many examples of economic mobility beside
Cultural mobility (I know very little)
• Culturally mobility is sometimes linked to health and illness.
• Not to be able to move may imply death. Not to be able to move is the most
dangerous symptom which can affect both humans and livestock.
• Movement guarantees survival.
• [Recent analysis of house prices looking at correlation with «cultural life»]
• Environmental movement is to follow grass, rains, and water. Different groups
of pastoralist travel according to the needs of different animals (feeding
• Animals are able to transform grass into proteins for humans, the pastoralist
triad: milk, blood, meat.
• Tuareg people from Sahara say “we are sons of the clouds”. In this, they
introduce another element: rain.
• The relationship between rain and vegetation is one of the determinants of
the movement of people and animals.
• Mobile people measure and map their inhabited space through the time they
take to cross it;
• Individuals’ existence is thus deeply affected by resources’ availability and place
• [Recent studies on environmental driven migrations]
• Social movement is made of people, paths, gifts and generosity.
Importance of nested relations of households, neighbours, clans.
• People (pastoralists) walk to meet the maximum number of people
possible along the way.
• [Difficulties in town with underdeveloped infrastructures]
• Mobiles phones are changing the frequency and rapidity of contacts
among people, in a way which is still unpredictable.
• The affect also economic mobility (no need to move to collect cash
transfers if you can get on Mpesa)
Mobility & migration
• Migration is one (very relevant) “mobility way”
• It contributes to strengthen people resilience, yet not without risks.
• To understand how migration can reduce vulnerability we need to know what
migration means for the people on the move (and the reasons underpinning
migration: economic? Social? Cultural? Environmental?)
Mobility of goods/services/global value chains
• Mobility is not only people but also goods (final and intermediates): importance
of Global value chains for development (a country cannot do the whole car but
can certainly specialize in one task)
• Mobility is not only people but also capital
• Is resilience linked to different types of mobility (people, goods, capital, ideas)?
Policies: what can we do?
• Importance of the impact of national policies on local movements
• The concept of resilience is at the centre of current debates in
development and it is increasingly adopted by policy makers, even
though it is not clear what resilience really means in practice.
• Many implementing agencies and donors are unaware of what needs
to be done and there is little agreement on what resilience
programming looks like, despite the conspicuous and growing
number of interventions aiming at “building resilience” of target
• The danger is that resilience provides a new attractive term but no