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Library Media perceptions and portrayals of pastoralists in Kenya, India and China

Media perceptions and portrayals of pastoralists in Kenya, India and China

Media perceptions and portrayals of pastoralists in Kenya, India and China

Resource information

Date of publication
January 2013
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ISBN / Resource ID

Through the analysis of newspaper articles and a survey of journalists, this publication identifies gaps and highlights differences in how the media portray pastoralism in Kenya, China and India. In discussing their methodology, the authors note that their reliance on national, English-language publications meant that they were not able to include data from vernacular language press in pastoral regions.Although able to make significant contributions to food security, livelihoods and economic prosperity, the benefits of pastoralism often go unnoticed. The authors argue that this is in part due to an overly negative narrative about pastoralism within the media, one that portrays the livelihood as in some way bad and in need of change. The media coverage of pastoralists in the three countries can be summarised as follows.

Kenya – Pastoralists are mostly featured in ‘bad news’ stories (often concerning drought or conflict) and are portrayed as vulnerable and lacking agency, with almost no mention of benefits.
China – Presented as a cause of environmental degradation, pastoralists here are viewed as being happy beneficiaries of government investment and settlement projects.
India – While viewed with more pity (with regard to loss of grazing rights and dwindling pastures), media coverage was rare; journalists responded that pastoralists are ‘invisible’ to news editors.

Having outlined the nature of the media portrayal of pastoralism, the paper then looks at what was missing from the media coverage.

Pastoral voices, in particular the perspective of women and children, were absent from the majority of news articles (Kenya came out top with 41 per cent of articles featuring a pastoral voice).
An adequate variety of voices was missing from all three countries. While the vast majority of Chinese articles quoted a government official (82 per cent) with civic groups barely represented (two per cent), this finding was reversed in India (15 per cent and >50 per cent).
Very few mentions were made across the board regarding the economic importance of pastoralism, and in Kenya and India there was little discussion of government investment.
Positive portrayals of mobility were rare; more common were narratives that saw mobility as a problem, despite the knowledge, skills and advantages inherent in such techniques.
Climate change was roundly under-represented; and when it was highlighted, it was to show the vulnerability of pastoralists.

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Authors and Publishers

Author(s), editor(s), contributor(s)

M. Shanahan

Data Provider
Geographical focus