MOOC on ‘pastoralism in development’: an online learning journey

A rich and interactive online course takes participants on a learning journey based on the principle of self-discovery.

Began January 2021
Ced Hesse

Senior fellow, Climate Change; team leader, climate resilience, productivity and equity in the drylands

Drylands: building climate resilience, productivity and equity
A programme of work showing how IIED is building capacity to act on the implications of climate change for equitable and climate resilient development in the drylands
People and cattle in an arid landscape

Pastoralists in Turkana, Kenya (Photo: copyright Greta Semplici)

‘Poor understanding of pastoralism’ is a frequently acknowledged limitation in pastoral development.

Even the knowledge about pastoralism is a treacherous legacy of misunderstanding and debate within rural development, further confused by poor and highly politicised public data and off-the-shelf methodological tools that keep captive even the new theoretical developments. 

Although specialist understanding of pastoralism has improved substantially over the last two decades, progress is slow.  

Too often, learning about pastoralism even in higher education is from perfunctory and often outdated information at the margin of courses concerned with different topics.

Specialist training on pastoralism remains extremely rare, usually relying on the personal interest of individual scholars scattered across different academic disciplines and institutions all over the world. This raises both financial and logistical obstacles for those interested in learning.

What is IIED doing?

IIED and pastoralism specialist Saverio Krätli have developed a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) funded by Misereor.

For development of the MOOC we have also collaborated with the International Network for Advancing Science and Policy (INASP), with programme support from Tabitha Buchner.

Together, the MOOC team bring decades of expertise in drylands and pastoral development including specialism in pastoral production strategies, policy-oriented research, and design and implementation of policy-oriented training programmes on the dynamics of pastoralism.

Why a MOOC – and why now?

The MOOC provides an entry point for understanding pastoralism, and a valuable tool for navigating the available knowledge.  It's rooted in empirical observation and the latest breakthroughs in research and theoretical reflection.

Consistently with the pedagogical approach of a MOOC, this introductory course supports substantive learning through a rich range of media including videos, photos, audio material, interviews, graphs, animation, and presentations.  

A learning journey based on the principle of self-discovery

Clear milestones, practical exercises for self-learning, and tutor-led sessions make the MOOC engaging but fun and easy to follow. Users will be equipped with orientation skills to embark on their own learning journey – drawing on the principle that learning is easier and longer lasting when re-contextualised from the learner’s experience.

Our ambition: who we will reach

The MOOC is aimed at people coming to work on pastoralism for the first time, be it from the world of development or research. It will also be of interest to those with previous experience of moving across the landscape of ‘pastoralism in development’, who are looking for points of reference and clearer directions.

Our targets are primarily practitioners and students, but the MOOC will also appeal to people wanting to articulate the logic of pastoralism to policymakers, administrators and the wider public: pastoralist civil society organisations, lobbying groups and journalists. 

It is the project’s ambition that universities offering courses in pastoralism - initially those in East Africa – will host the MOOC, for example integrating it as a complementary module in their courses.


The MOOC’s governance structure includes:

  • An advisory group of specialists with experience of working on pastoralism and teaching about pastoralism
  • scientific committee responsible for setting the strategic direction of the MOOC, and
  • community of practice including stakeholders and representatives from key networks working in the pastoralist community who will support the development of the MOOC, providing feedback and recommendations.

Pastoralism photo gallery

Pastoralism in development

Additional resources

Animation: Pastoralism is the future, CELEP, VSF-Belgium, Misereor, Belgian Government (2021)

Pastoralism: making variability work (PDF), Animal production and health paper No. 185, FAO

Life on our planet. A reflection on pastoralism, development and climate change, Saverio Krätli (2021), Blog

Crossbreeding or not crossbreeding? That is not the question, Saverio Krätli, Fred Provenza (2021), Blog

Farmer-herder conflict: open your eyes, change the narrative, find solutions, Camilla Toulmin, Saverio Krätli (2020), Blog

Pastoral Development Orientation Framework, Saverio Krätli (2019), Publication

Valuing variability: new perspectives on climate-resilient drylands, Saverio Krätli (2015), Book

A house full of trap doors: identifying barriers to resilient drylands in the toolbox of pastoral development, Saverio Krätli, Brigitte Kaufmann, Hassan Roba, Pierre Hiernaux, WenJun Li, Marcos Easdale, Christian Hülsebusch (2015), Discussion Paper

The unrelenting persistence of certain narratives: an analysis of changing policy narratives about the ASALs in Kenya, Michael Ochieng Odhiambo (2014), Country report

A review of China’s rangeland management policies, YanBo Li, Gongbuzeren, WenJun Li (2014), Country report

Media perceptions and portrayals of pastoralists in Kenya, India and China, Mike Shanahan (2013), Report/paper