The Kuchi nomadic herders of Afghanistan have endured the harshest of weather conditions while tending their flocks for thousands of years. In recent years and decades, their traditional way of life has been threatened by power struggles, war, expanding agriculture, market competition, and deforestation. The Pastoral Engagement, Adaptation, and Capacity Enhancement (PEACE) project is involved with Kuchi herders on-the-ground, and in both animal nutrition and computer laboratories to provide them with a new suite of tools and skills to enhance their ability to compete and thrive in rapidly changing times.
The main parts of PEACE are:
- The Livestock Early Warning System (LEWS). LEWS involves forage condition forecasting using satellite remote sensing and the Phytomass Growth Simulator model (PHYGROW). Using these tools, we are establishing the capacity to assist the Kuchi with much needed information on range conditions that will help them in day-to-day decisionmaking needs. LEWS includes a sophisticated process of using near infrared radiometric analysis of fecal samples to determine the nutritional status and needs of sheep and goats.
- Conflict resolution training through workshops. We have implemented a series of workshops attended by Kuchi leaders from around Afghanistan to provide the skills needed to peacefully resolve issues that might otherwise lead to hostilities and strife. Working with provincial Kuchi representatives and the Independent Department of Kuchi, we engage in both conflict resolution training and the training of workshop leaders to multiply our efforts nationwide.
- The Livestock Information Network Knowledge System (LINKS) is a protocol we are implementing in Afghanistan that provides real-time information about the livestock market to anyone with a cell phone. This system is currently being implemented with the help of the Afghanistan Ministry of Agriculture.
In addition to our main objectives, PEACE is involved with marketplace surveys of animal products and their origins, and with lifestyle and demographic surveys of the Kuchi themselves. We hope to transfer all of the PEACE technology and skills to Afghan institutions and personnel by the time we complete Phase II of our project, which if funded, will last through 2014.
UC Davis and Texas A&M University, Department of Ecosystem Science and Management (formerly Department of Range Science) have a long history of working together to implement LEWS and LINKS projects under the UC Davis Global Livestock Collaborative Research Support Program (GL-CRSP) in East Africa, Mali, and Mongolia. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) supports these efforts in the worlds neediest places. Historically, our program, has also focused on interdisciplinary projects including human nutrition, economic growth, environment and watershed rehabilitation, zoonotic diseases, and policy linked by a global theme of agriculture and livestock at risk in a changing environment.
Using our survey data, we can assemble geographical snapshots of socioeconomic conditions such as summer water availability, shown below.