Connecting Agropastoral Food Culture Research to Livestock Commercialisation Policy

This project aims to understand how livestock and agricultural commercialisation policy in Africa can be better connected to research on the food cultures of agropastoralist people.

In both East and West Africa, agro/pastoralism is an important livelihood and ethnoprofessional activity. Anthropological and historical research has focused on agropastoralist food cultures, describing how practices of food production, processing, trade and consumption have adapted as pastoralist people have engaged over centuries with local and international markets, in global contexts of technological change.

In recent decades, agropastoralist livelihoods have continued to change, in the context of continent-wide agricultural policy favouring commercialisation, modernisation and formalisation of the agricultural and livestock sectors. There is a noticeable disconnect between many policies dealing with livestock sector commercialisation and modernisation, and research on agropastoralist food culture, despite the practices of production and consumption which connect them. For example, proposed commercialisation of the dairy sector is sometimes difficult to connect to gendered associations of milk trade in the cultures of people such as the Fulani. The result is that pastoralist people, and specific groups such as women or those of given ethnicities, may not fully benefit from livestock sector development, or may even be disadvantaged.

This exploratory research therefore aims to define a new research agenda for connecting policy on livestock sector development to research on agropastoralist food cultures. The project convenes a group of policy actors, researchers, development organisations and local community representatives from East and West Africa. Together, they co-construct understandings of agropastoral food cultures, through participatory photography and desk research on a case study of milk and the dairy sector. They share results in a seminar modelled on the Kenyan local meeting forum, the Baraza, where diverse parties debate issues such as policy moves. This aims to more clearly define how cultural research may link to policy making and implementation, and lay out an agenda for such research and engagement.

Project details

start date
1 February 2021
end date
31 January 2023


About this project


Recent work


Milk Markets in Agropastoral Areas of Africa

IDS Policy Briefing 211

This briefing suggests how markets in artisanal milk products may contribute to agropastoralist livelihoods in semi-arid Africa. In some of these areas, milk plays important nutritional and cultural roles, but production is declining due to environmental changes.

3 May 2023