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Improving the livelihoods of pastoralist families and communities


Drought and the management of climatic anomalies

Livestock can fall victim to two main types of climatic anomaly: droughts and blizzards. These have very different impacts on herders. In blizzards, animals are cut off by snow and are often unable to break through the ice that forms over the grass in order to feed. In this situation, a large number of animals are likely to die simultaneously, irrespective of herders' strategies and the condition of the stock. Droughts, on the other hand, are cumulative, and the gradual realization that a drought is in progress causes pastoralists to move their animals rapidly in search of more favourable conditions. As a consequence, animals die slowly - the weaker ones first - and are often sold in advance of likely death in order to realize some profit.

Droughts, or periods of unusually low rainfall, are part of the expected pattern of precipitation in semi-arid Africa, and in the past the common response of pastoralists was to move to areas with higher rainfall where vegetation persisted. This was no more than an extension of typical intra-annual seasonal movement in which pastoralists cluster in more humid regions during the dry season, moving to drier zones when the rains begin and they can take advantage of the new grass. Pastoralists vary in their willingness and capacity to move, and those that shift rapidly and for long distances in response to a coming drought are more likely to conserve their herds. Contributors to Gallais (1977) show that, in the Sahelian droughts of the early 1970s, nomadic pastoralists survived better than their agropastoralist neighbours because they move their herds long distances.

Recent high-profile media coverage of El Nio and similar climatic anomalies has tended to present an image of unprecedented climatic crisis. In reality, however, there is no unambiguous evidence that the climate is worsening, although distributions are changing, as indeed they always have changed (Blench, 1999c; Blench and Marriage, 1998, 1999). However, a series of rapid and external changes in the twentieth century have led to pastoralists coming under unprecedented pressures, to which they are unable to respond appropriately. A number of factors are making long-distance opportunistic movement increasingly impractical. Notable among these factors are the establishment of national frontiers, the expansion of cultivation - even in very dry areas, and continuing increases in total livestock numbers. The consequence is that droughts now cause significant humanitarian problems and localized degradation, since large numbers of animals converge on certain pastures, especially around wells. This, in turn, is responsible for long-term impoverishment among pastoralists, since they must sell animals cheaply and cannot afford to buy them back when the drought ends. At the same time, it places extra stress on already ineffectual veterinary services, since weakened animals are more susceptible to pathogens.

These cycles are increasingly understood by national governments, international agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), with the result that effective mechanisms to deliver relief supplies to affected pastoralists are generally in place. This, however, has led to the perception that drought is essentially a humanitarian problem. As a result, policies that deal with the long-term consequences and try to prevent the cycle from simply repeating itself are inadequate. There is considerable historical evidence that pastoralists who could not succeed in difficult climatic conditions or who lost their herds through disease simply left the agro-ecological zone and became settled farmers or traders. This was a brutal but effective mechanism for reducing pressure on resources. However, the provision of food aid has the effect of keeping in place populations who would otherwise move and initiate a new subsistence strategy.

All over Africa, improved water supply has been seen as the solution to evening out the variability in precipitation that leads to periodic crashes in livestock numbers, because it makes pasture in waterless regions utilizable. Arid rangelands have generally been the object of extensive well and borehole implantation which has encouraged herd expansion beyond the capacity of rangelands to support them. In the Somali region, a strong distinction is made between water from natural sources (gall, saha) and water that is accessible through wells (el, sur), boreholes, artificial basins (war) and cisterns (birked). Natural depressions are accessible to all members of the section owning the land. In all other cases, the resource is controlled by the groups responsible for maintaining it. In recent times, individual ownership has begun to supersede collective ownership, and controlled water resources are seen as a source of cash income. As well as external programmes, Somali areas in particular have also been the recipients of local investment to build groups of birkeds, i.e. cisterns, around which settlements often develop (Sugule and Walker, 1998). The growth of these has been phenomenal since the mid-1980s. At the same time, new wells and boreholes have been constructed throughout Somalia. Some well owners also have tankers and sell water to pastoralists in remote pastures.

Such developments have several consequences; they increase sedentarization, and thus break down the traditional pattern of seasonal migration between dry- and wet-season pastures. Unlike camels, cattle and small ruminants cannot be away from a water point for more than two days without serious health consequences. The expansion of water points therefore also encourages the herding of sale-oriented species, notably cattle. Cisterns are often associated with range exclosures and privatization, thereby altering the open access pasture system. Sugule and Walker (1998) note that pastoralists are aware of the negative consequences of inserting too many birkeds, and they cite an agreement between two clans to restrict the numbers of cisterns. However, they also observe that there is a growing tendency to cheat on such agreements, or at least to rewrite the rules. It seems very unlikely that customary agreements, xeer, can do more than temporarily limit the growth of birkeds. In times of average of above rainfall, the birked system is generally positive, although as herds become more static pathogen load and veterinary costs increase. Pastoralists thus become more vulnerable to stress; when rainfall declines, the cisterns empty and the stock dies because alternative water resources cannot be reached. In addition, pastoralists are most likely to have to sell animals when prices are lowest (in a drought or at the height of the dry season) in order to buy water when its prices are highest.

The present responses to drought, and the policies of governments, agencies and NGOs, focus on restocking and sedentarization. Restocking can work on a local scale, although it is expensive in terms of management and seems to provide no evident insurance against further droughts, which on average seem to occur every ten years. Although it is now generally agreed that pastoralists are not responsible for overgrazing, as earlier literature implied, the inexorable increase of both herds and cultivation has placed unparalleled pressure on resources. Pastoralists themselves tend to insure against individual risk by dispersing animals to other herds; this is effective for individual herders, especially as protection against epizootics, but does not remove animals from the system. Unless there is more effective strategic thinking about the long-term consequences of present drought response strategies, the cycle of crises is likely to continue.

Early warning systems: idea and reality

The other great hope for rangelands has been remote sensing. It was believed that the use of satellites would make it possible to detect pasture availability and abundance well before the usual land-based methods could, and national governments would then be able to direct pastoralists to appropriate sites. Remote sensing was seen as being similar to notions of early warning, which is intended to give relief agencies advance notice of likely crises. Although considerable resources have been invested in these methods, the results have been, at best, ambiguous. One reason is that remote sensing is only a very crude tool for detecting pasture abundance and cannot detect quality; pastoralists know which species their animals eat, and these do not show up on the false-colour images of remote sensing. In addition, even if this problem were somehow remedied, the problem of communications infrastructure would remain. When information reaches national governments, their own systems of communication with pastoralists in remote areas are so poorly developed that they are unable to pass it to producers.

The basic idea of early warning systems is extremely attractive. Droughts occur fairly frequently in fragile rangeland, and the result is humanitarian disaster - plainly seen on television images. If it were possible to predict in advance that a drought was about to occur, two actions could be taken:

Early warning systems seem to have been strongly technology-driven, especially since the late 1970s. As rich, multi- (false)-coloured satellite images of desert areas began to appear, the illusion of omniscience developed. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA Web site) and the Spot Satellite Earth Observation System (Spot Image Web site) could tell pastoralists when vegetation was going to be in short supply through the mysterious agency of the "normalized difference vegetation index" (Infocarto Web site).

The value of such prediction engines remains controversial, and disillusionment has also set in from the opposite end of the equation. It became apparent that:

In addition, there may have been a problem of visibility. There is less exposure and credit to be gained from preventing something happening than from "saving" people when it does. Early warning predictions put people in a position of greater knowledge, but do not necessarily equip them with the tools to use such knowledge. The 1980s phase of disaster response saw something of a dip in the popularity of early warning, although technical advances in climate modelling have led to some restoration of its credibility (Blench and Marriage, 1998). There are now numerous Web sites devoted to providing up-to-date information on such climatic anomalies as El Nio Southern Oscillation and to monitoring catastrophic events that are relevant to food security. These include, on a global scale, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded Famine Early Warning System (FEWS Web site) and, on a regional level, a system for South Africa (South Africa Web site). Agencies now have somewhat less hubris about their capacity to respond, but the emphasis has changed to influencing governments to build awareness of the impact of climatic anomalies into their long-term planning. The variability of climatic conditions is a reality that needs to be acknowledged and incorporated into government policy, as well as individual- or group-level contingency plans.

Although the 1990s saw considerable advances in meteorology, problems remain, both on the technical side and in terms of packaging and presenting the product. Regional forecasts, such as those made for West and Southern Africa, provide probabilities about the average rainfall for the coming season, and these may help inform choices over seed selection but say nothing about the timing or distribution of rains. The relevance to pastoralists is, in any case, dubious. Pastoralism is essentially a reactive subsistence strategy, by which herds are taken to the areas of greatest productivity in a given year. Pasture depends on factors such as soil quality and water retention; for the foreseeable future, pastoralists will determine their movements either by what they observe or by traditional transhumance routes. At present, weather forecasting based on sea surface temperatures and satellite imagery is often too general and zonal to be of any value in a restricted field of operations. The alternative is thus to look for ground-based indicators, most notably livestock prices and herd movements, as well as talking to pastoralists (Hesse, 1987; Swift and Umar, 1991). One of the most well known of these systems is the Turkana early warning system in northern Kenya (Buchanan-Smith and Davies, 1995).

Whether technology options have failed rangeland producers remains controversial; their advocates point to specific successes. However, the long-term record does not seem to be very encouraging in either the developed or the developing world. This is almost certainly because the decisions that pastoralists have to make to conserve their herd are too local to be captured by regional information systems. In terms of intensifying water and pasture supply, the usual rules of livestock systems apply; short-term gains do not lead to long-term sustainability. Moreover, changing ideas about the nature of a rangeland resource and the importance of landscape maintenance are leading to long-term transformations of notions of the ultimate goal of pastoral production.

Security in pastoral zones

The section on Pastoralism and warfare (p. 7) discusses the close relationship between highly mobile pastoralists and warfare. In addition to the factors mentioned there, the remoteness of pastoral zones means that they are typically in regions where borders are disputed and mobile forces can easily conduct guerrilla warfare. The continuing conflict in the Horn of Africa illustrates this and the consequences for the pastoralists who reside there.

Prior to the establishment of nation States, interethnic conflict associated with access to grazing and cattle raiding was common, notably in northern Kenya and Uganda (Fukui and Turton, 1977; Bollig, 1990; Perner, 1993; Hendrickson, Armon and Mearns, 1999). However, since the 1960s, border disputes and struggles for political power have meant that warfare has been endemic throughout the region. Increasingly sophisticated weapons have entered the region, including the familiar AK47, enabling raiders to pursue their objectives with far more lethal consequences. Somali raiding into northeast Kenya has pushed the Turkana westwards into confrontation with the Karimojong in Uganda, who in turn are raiding into the Sudan. Less numerous and powerful pastoral peoples have no defences and either they are forced to flee their gazing lands or their animals are stolen and they end up in camps.

Even larger-scale disputes between nations can be highly destructive of pastoral enterprises, as the Eritrea-Ethiopia border war demonstrated. The sowing of unmarked landmines in pastoral areas can make whole regions off-limits. Donors are inevitably reluctant to supply even emergency food aid while resources are being diverted towards transboundary military confrontation, and enthusiasm to fund long-term development is still scarcer. Such conflicts also make the sort of regional planning that is essential to a coherent rangelands strategy still more difficult to establish.


Structural features of pastoralism

Pastoralism has some key structural features that differentiate it from other enterprises such as agriculture and fisheries and which are relevant to making long-term policies (Hogg, 1997a). Among these are:

Although these principles would seem to follow logically from the nature of the pastoral enterprise, aid and development agencies have often been slow to adapt policies to the specificity of livestock production, and development formulae are often applied to an undifferentiated class of poor or vulnerable people.

Sedentarization and land tenure

Tenure and rights of access form an essential component of the analysis of alternative land uses for pastoralists and agropastoralists, especially in non-equilibrium environments where the availability of grazing and water varies. The regime experienced by a stakeholder affects the pattern of costs and benefits of incorporating wildlife into a livelihood strategy.

The precolonial system in eastern Africa was open access and based on a state of virtually constant warfare (Fukui and Turton, 1977; Markakis, 1993; Bollig, 1990; Bol Aken, 1991; Mawson, 1991; Perner, 1993). Pasture and grazing rights were sustained by military force rather than any type of consensual system. Continuing intergroup raiding was as effective a way of building up herds as investing in improved livestock productivity was, at least as far as the victors were concerned. Where arms have become widespread among pastoralists, as in Somalia, the southern Sudan and adjacent regions of Ethiopia and Kenya, violent conflicts are continuing to the present.

Clearly, there is no merit in perpetuating these systems, and the relative long-term security in the regions further south suggests that innovative strategies must be sought. The literature divides sharply into two camps: those proposing that all non-reserved land be converted into private ownership, and those proposing communal tenure systems of different designs. There is now considerable experience of both types of strategy over the region as a whole. The form of land tenure has significant implications for tenure over other resources such as wildlife.

Land tenure regulations in the United Republic of Tanzania are in a state of disarray (Shivji, 1994). Compared with Kenya, very few ranches have been established in Tanzania. One of the few that is still operating is Mkwaja Ranch on the coast near Tanga, which is owned by Amboni Holdings Limited. The southern part of the ranch, which is a wilderness area with abundant wildlife and tsetse, has recently been sold to the Wildlife Division in order to expand the Sadaani Game Reserve.

The conflict between the nomad and the settled farmer goes back to the earliest written records and is mythically symbolized in many cultures. Cain slew Abel, the Chinese emperors built the Great Wall to keep out the marauding hordes, and the rulers of Egypt were constantly at war with nomads from the deserts west of the Nile.9 The association of highly mobile pastoralists with raiding and warfare has been crucial in establishing negative stereotypes throughout history, whether these be the Tuareg of the Sahara, the Mongols in Central Asia, the cattle raids poeticized in the Tain or the present-day Somali shifta raiding into northeastern Kenya.

Typically, the State sees only the threat, and ignores the fact that pastoralists frequently exist on land that is too fragile or too variable to be intensively used and that they are, moreover, a significant supplier of pastoral products to farmers and urban populations. Government policy tends to favour the agriculturist, and faith in the technical assistance given to farmers is reinforced by ethnic prejudices, since administrators come predominantly from agricultural backgrounds (Horowitz and Little, 1987).

There is therefore a long history of the State attempting to settle pastoral nomads, often with very limited success. In what is now the Islamic Republic of Iran, for example, during the epoch of Rez Shh (1925-1941) there was a concerted campaign, not only to settle the pastoral nomads, but also to eliminate their distinctive culture in terms of language, dress and authority structures (Digard, 1990). During the administrative chaos of the Second World War, the nomads rapidly reverted to their former migratory patterns and, up to 1960, a long series of councils restituted much that had been appropriated during the 1920s and 1930s. However, during the rule of Mohamed Rez Shh, persecution of nomads began anew, and leaders of many groups such as the Qashqafled into exile (Beck, 1986). Following the departure of the Shah and the period of uncertainty, many returned to reform their authority structures. However, within a couple of years, Revolutionary guards were attacking with Qashqa'i with the same helicopter gunships that the Shah had used.

In the Near East, attempts to settle pastoralists go back as far as 1910, when King Abdul Aziz moved Bedouin into Hijra schemes in Saudi Arabia. These centres grew until 1929, when a revolt destroyed them and, by the 1950s, they had completely reverted to herding settlements (Chatty, 1996: 19). In spite of this discouraging outcome, such schemes were replicated throughout the region, often under very different political regimes but with very similar results.

Resettlement has had an equally bad record in the Horn of Africa. Resettlement schemes in northern Kenya and southern Somalia began with the best of intentions, but failed because it is impossible to service any alternative form of employment effectively. Following the 1973-1974 drought, the Somali Government engaged in large-scale settlement schemes for displaced nomads (Samantar, 1991). The effect was to give land tenure to individuals on the scheme, even though this was contrary to usual patterns of tenure in the region. However, the work itself was perceived as degrading and, as a consequence, almost all men of working age returned to herding or used their improved access to find work abroad. The settlement schemes then became more like dry-season encampments populated principally by children, women and the elderly.

However the conflict between the two groups does not justify one sector being sacrificed to the other, particularly given their symbiotic relationship. The growing number of pastoralists and settled farmers who are diversifying into agropastoralism demonstrates the potential complementarity between herding and farming. Furthermore, the scope for greater collaboration is evident; inputs such as fodder, as well as crop residues, provide the possibility of increased diversification of herd management techniques.

Even spontaneous sedentarization does not necessarily entail an increase in production or food security; on the contrary, it may have the effect of shifting underemployment and hunger to other regions. Economic and military pressure on the Negev Bedouin has forced many to settle, often with disastrous consequences for their society (Meir, 1997). The growing urban population places greater demand for livestock and agricultural produce while the labour force in rural areas dwindles, and depopulation of areas that are suitable for pastoralism only wastes natural and human resources. Niamir (1991) notes a drain of expertise as young people move out of the pastoral sector.

The encroachment of cultivation on to land that was traditionally held and grazed by pastoralists has forced them on to increasingly marginal and unproductive land. Despite this, some interest groups argue that pastoralists are inherently inefficient and self-destructive and that they should be settled, as is the official line in Nigeria, for example (Awogbade, 1983). Besides the cultural damage involved in forcibly settling pastoralists, small-scale agriculture or urban employment does not necessarily offer a lifeline out of poverty.

The fact that nomads are often unwilling to settle suggests that it is generally deleterious (particularly given the role of opportunism and adaptability in the decision-making process), except after some near-starvation critical point. Adverse conditions generally encourage pastoralists to wander more and further afield. If it were beneficial for pastoralists to settle, they would, but until such time arrives the rationality of nomadism is evident.

The weather, "pastoralist irrationality", sedentary farmers and governments have all been blamed for the impoverishment of pastoralists. However, apportioning blame does not solve the problem, and there is as much of a political problem in the relationships among the parties concerned as there is in the nature of the agents themselves. Cullis (1992) suggests that future work for development lies in advocacy. Conflict between sedentary and nomadic groups has escalated in recent years, in spite of the relationship of symbiosis and bartering that has been - and remains - essential to both sectors. An analysis that concludes that there are too many mouths and too little water does not explain the political alliances or address the need for diversity to maintain any part of the system. The tendency to look at the world in terms of opposites rests on the assumption that clear distinctions can be made between sedentary and nomadic people and, consequently, between pastoralists and agriculturists, but this is not borne out by the fluid and adaptable existences of many groups. The semi-nomadic pastoral populations of the Lahawin in the Sudan, for example, divide the year into migration and settlement phases, and the mobility of group members is dependent on the rainfall as well as on other factors such as herd size (Gorman and Boosh, 1990). Other nomadic groups are known to choose an increasingly or decreasingly mobile existence, depending on environmental conditions. Nomadic peoples often live on the land surrounding rainfed agriculture; in wet years agricultural practices are expanded while, in drier years, people return to pastoralism (Johnson, 1969).

Past external intervention has been informed by Northern specialists, but the lessons of the integration of the pastoral system with other sectors point very forcefully to the conclusion that future advice and thinking, whether from within the pastoral sector or from outside it, should take a holistic view of the situation. Settlement does not reduce the consumption needs of pastoral groups, and the issues of food security and pressure on resources are not addressed by a policy of sedentarization.

Issues of land tenure in the pastoral sector remain a fraught topic. Broadly speaking, prior to the modern era, traditional tenure in pastoral areas was either loosely framed or non-existent. Where a resource was patchy and the pastoralist an opportunistic grazer it made little sense to establish elaborate tenure regimes. The exceptions to this were where a valuable and fairly reliable resource was being competed for by a variety of players. For example, in the inland Niger delta in Mali - a vast wetlands used for livestock, fisheries and rice growing - a complex regime to regulate access to pasture existed in the precolonial era. The Beja, living along the Red Sea coast of the Sudan, seem to have "owned" patches of rangeland for a very long time, reflecting the antiquity of their settlement in the region. In pastures subject to heavy snow, frameworks grew up to control access to meadows in the lee of hills where snow depths were the least.

During the twentieth century, with the growth of the nation State and widespread demands to codify landownership, pastoralists and others were compelled to think more coherently about tenure. In many regions, the absence of written documents has simply allowed farming and timber interests to take over pastoral land without any hindrance. This should not be thought of as a problem confined to the developing world; at present, cases are being brought in Sweden concerning timber interests that are gradually eating away at Saami land. These are succeeding because of the absence of written documents confirming Saami proprietorship. The irony in this case is that Scandinavian countries have a reputation for pastoral studies and projects that are conveniently located faraway and take an entirely different approach to customary tenure.

Pastoral areas have been managed "traditionally" under common property resource (CPR) management schemes, although these are really constructs of the colonial era. CPR areas are increasingly recognized as complex and highly adaptable systems, involving multifaceted rights to resources. They vary from open access to communal use with reciprocal arrangements, exclusive use and privatization. In communal areas of Botswana, Namibia, the United Republic of Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Zambia, 12.5 percent of the land area is designated for wildlife use for the benefit of local communities (Kiss, 1990).

Communal areas in the semi-arid rangelands of eastern and southern Africa are under increasing pressure. Historically, the solution to many of the pressures faced in these areas was thought to lie in privatizing communal resources. However, in terms of community-based natural resource management (CBNRM), the privatization of resources can increase conflict between wildlife and livestock, and also increase tenure insecurity and gender-based discrimination (Birgegard, 1993; Hunter, Hitchcock and Wyckoff-Baird, 1990; Rutten, 1992; Game Ranching Ltd, 1995; Lane and Moorehead, 1994, 1996; Lane, 1997).

Fragmentation of rangelands complicates the sustainable management of a resource such as wildlife, especially in non-equilibrium environments (Scoones, 1995, 1996; Lane, 1997; Lane and Moorehead, 1994, 1996). The degree of investment in and management of a resource is related to its value, which varies according to when and where the resource is evaluated, as well as to who is making the value judgement. For CBNRM schemes to function, neighbouring landowners may have to organize to join their lands together in order to manage wildlife and avoid conflicts over the identification of producer communities. Strong institutional management, secure rights of tenure that build on existing frameworks, and conflict resolution skills are all likely to be important ingredients for the success of integrating wildlife into the sustainable rural livelihood strategies of pastoralists. These considerations suggest that larger tracts of land, with clearly defined and secure tenure rights, are likely to be easier to develop as wildlife management areas. However, this creates an inherent bias towards nationalization or privatization and reinforces lite interests in commercial ranching or agriculture (White, 1992).

Rethinking pastoral organization

Pastoralists are not very prone to develop complex social institutions to defend their interests as a group, in part because their mobility and flexibility make it hard for such institutions to maintain their coherence over long periods. The exception to this is when pastoralism is allied with military organization, as in the case of the Mongols and other horse-mounted raiders of Central Asia, or in the States established by the Fule in West Africa. However, when conquest leads to empire, the necessity to maintain a functioning administration effectively excludes actual pastoralists. Traditional social organization thus focuses on the household and kin group, while more nebulous clan entities provide social identity but not necessarily organizational capacity.

This has seemed highly unsatisfactory to outsiders encountering pastoral societies because various types of cooperation would seem to be a precondition for development. Pastoralists moving through arable areas are frequently in conflict with farmers; to prevent this, it would seem logical to form agreements with farmers. The purchase of drugs, and access to water and pasture, would seem to be better regulated by local and regional associations. Moreover, the prejudice against pastoralists in many nation States might be better combated by organizations that could effectively articulate their case to government.

In the command economies, the solution to this was relatively simple: through collectivization, cooperation and association were simply forced on people. This had both a good and a bad side: it made the delivery of inputs simple and the organization of necessarily collective operations, such as predator hunts, functional. It also evened out the production of winter hay and ensured that the economic burden of herd loss would not fall on single households. The disadvantage was that the system was heavily subsidized from outside and subject to arbitrary pricing. As a result, there was no discrimination for competence, and unsustainable production strategies were the rule. Despite the benefits, these systems have been collapsing gradually since the fall of communism, and far more traditional social patterns are reasserting themselves.

Outside the command economies, principally in Africa and the Near East, the main tool in the armoury of developers has been the Pastoral Association (PA). By one means or another, pastoralists were encouraged to associate and to negotiate collectively with outside bodies for veterinary services, water development, etc. Since the 1970s, the World Bank and regional NGOs such as SOS-Sahel have been involved in the promotion of PAs across the Sahel. In East Africa, the system of group ranches was developed, principally for the Maasai, in order to encourage a more comprehensive system of landownership, and thus investment, as well as to provide centralized systems of livestock dipping. Elsewhere in Africa, PAs were more fluid, as governments have not generally had the resources to mount such a large-scale operation as the group ranches.

Whether PAs have really been successful, and indeed how success is to be measured, remain moot. Evaluations or "institutional audits" generally suggest that the associations remain heavily dependent on external support (e.g. Hesse et al., 1998). Pastoralists were hit very hard by the droughts of the 1970s and 1980s and the rinderpest epizootic of the 1990s. As a consequence, what fragile social capital had been built up tended to dissipate as herdowners scattered. This may well be the problem with any sort of voluntary association of this type. When promoted by committed individuals it can be successful for some time, but the logic of pastoralism is such that, in a period of crisis, herds scatter and, with them, the associations.

Nonetheless, if pastoralism is to make any effective defence of itself in the new millennium, it will have to develop new structures; existing social institutions have not served it well in a new era. It seems likely that new technology may change the equation in interesting ways. Proposals to use radio to communicate useful information to pastoralists have been under discussion for some time, but have generally been blocked by State control of the airwaves in almost all pastoral areas. Recent times have seen a significant relaxation of radio licensing in many countries, and deregulation may well encourage the provision of information services to pastoralists. Even more important is the evolution of affordable satellite phones, probably also supplying Internet access. These may allow pastoralists to link together and to learn about resources and inputs in remote places. Mobile phones have already transformed communications in many countries that have unreliable landlines, and this process has every potential to drive even more far-reaching changes.


Restocking, whether initiated by herders or organized by an external agent, attempts to rehabilitate herders within their environment, rather than suggesting that they settle and take up, for example, fish production.10 However, rehabilitation relies on there having been a significant change in the environment or in herders' management of it. Returning to the status quo ante serves little purpose and contravenes the principle of constant readjustment in conditions of disequilibrium. Simply providing pastoralists with animals to replace those lost during drought does not take account of the fact that the available land, environment and management have not sustained the level of stocking. Restocking risks providing another hecatomb for the next drought. The loss of weight from animals during drought is of much less importance than the loss of animals through starvation, especially if rehabilitation through restocking replaces lost animals. Selling animals at appropriate points in the drought cycle maintains the possibility of autonomously rebuilding herds in better times. It is beneficial as a means of management, but is still geared towards maximizing herd numbers.

Restocking is usually thought of as something perpetrated by agencies, but pastoralists have their own systems of insurance against drought. Herders prepare for drought and epizootics by "lending" their animals to relatives or friends in exchange for looking after some of their animals in return. If a herd is caught up in a crisis and suffers high mortality, the herder calls in the lent animals to form the nucleus of a new herd. Even when such an insurance mechanism is not in place, it is quite usual for relatives to lend animals until they have produced sufficient offspring for the affected herder to rebuild a viable enterprise. Such mechanisms have not always been successful; hence the suicides of West African pastoralists who lose all their herds. Restocking by outsiders tends to result in distress sales or slaughtering. When implemented inappropriately, restocking risks achieving little more than postponing disaster and the decline of pastoralism, while interfering with indigenous recovery systems (Heffernan, 1995).

The need for a viable herd determines the nature of restocking programmes, and a herd that is large and diverse enough to support a family, providing a taxable surplus for purchasing necessities, is considered optimal. Despite the obvious weakness - that such standards of sustainability are subjectively determined - this concept informs the level of restocking (Bernus, 1987). In some projects, pastoralists were given money in place of animals so that they would have more autonomy in restocking. Mace (1989) records some successes with restocking while stressing that, even following restocking, families with fewer than 100 goats will need some additional form of income. Moris (1988) goes further and, from work by Oxfam in Kenya, draws attention to the need to work within pastoral administrative mechanisms when interventions are made. Many NGO interventions rely on the provision of small stock, which do not provide food security because pastoralists are dependent on the diversity of produce from their herds (Oba, 1992). Toulmin (1987, 1995) considers both the drought cycle and restocking responses and concludes that restocking should only take place within a bundle of drought interventions and that these should be targeted at specific points in the drought-reconstitution cycle.

In some parts of the world, livestock raiding was a highly developed culture that not only constituted a threat to viable herds but was also a method of restocking a herd after a drought. Sweet (1965) argues that camel raiding in the Persian Gulf countries was part of a larger system that maintained the ecological balance within the region. In East Africa and Madagascar, cattle raiding was much more developed than in West Africa (Fukui and Turton, 1977). This is one "traditional" recovery mechanism that is not usually advocated by aid agencies, although it remains fairly widespread in the Horn of Africa. In the southern Sudan, much of the conflict has found expression in cattle raiding, which undermines food security in the region and destabilizes the population. The potential for livestock production, as well as agriculture, is significantly underused and there is a cycle of threats to food security leading to social upheaval which, in turn, results in further food-security problems.

Livestock banking

Livestock banks that are similar to cereal banks have been proposed as a way of assisting producers to carry stock across difficult seasons. Livestock banking proposes that the expense of restocking can be spared if, during parts of the year, animals can be traded in to an independently owned "bank" in return for a token. The animals are then tended until such time as the pastoralist decides to redeem them. There is, however, a fundamental asymmetry between grains and animals, in that only the latter require feeding. This, in turn, demands a responsible, disinterested and well-established organization to function as a holding operation for the stock, and this seems politically unfeasible. A system in which animals are fed at the expense of the government during the hardest parts of the year, when grain is scarce and expensive, seems improbable. It is not evident how such schemes would be able to fund the feeding of livestock when the pastoral system has proved incapable. Goldschmidt (1975) proposes a National Livestock Bank for Kenya, which would make sense if livestock planning were conducted according to very strict economic criteria. Such ideas have never been put into practice.

Other alternatives might include simply turning the animals into cash and then buying them back when prices are low. This would undoubtedly be effective for individuals who see a drought coming, but would cease to work were it adopted by more than a small fraction of the pastoral community. This, of course, is what livestock traders do all the time, speculating in animals as well as simply directing slaughter stock to the abattoir, and livestock producers generally despise them for it instead of imitating their model. Livestock insurance is yet another common proposal that, despite its apparent attractions, has never been put into practice. The transaction costs of both registering animals and insuring against fraud seem to be too high to make the scheme workable, even assuming pastoralists were willing to pay money up front for an eventuality that might not occur.

Economic diversification

A key strategy promoted by governments to address the crisis perceived to be afflicting rural areas of Europe is economic diversification. As the terms of trade move ever further against livestock producers, the latter are increasingly urged to diversify in order to insure against further declines in the market. After analysing the threats to Dasanetch society in southwest Ethiopia, Carr (1977) sets out an entire programme of economic diversification based on locally available resources. This is an old story with traditional pastoralists; catastrophe, whether climatic or epizootic, enforces economic and often social change. However, for pastoralists within their ecozonal niches this is often not easy because they are there precisely because of the remoteness of the region and the problematic climate. Projects to encourage diversification have thus often met with a rather stony response. Bollig (1997: 82), discussing the Himba of northern Namibia, notes that they conduct almost no outside activities and even their gardens are meant more as market buffers than as risk-aversion strategies.

The diversification of income and the engagement in temporary paid labour are indirect means of restocking. Money gained in other sectors can be channelled into pastoralism, particularly after a drought when animal numbers are low and prices high (Horowitz and Little, 1987). The integration of pastoralism with other sectors thus benefits the pastoralists' own restocking agenda; this, argue Horowitz and Little, should be supported because the alternatives to herding that are available to pastoralists are not likely to be as socially, ecologically or economically effective in the short to medium term. Large fluctuations in herd numbers can create green desertification which occurs when livestock numbers are no longer capable of keeping back woody bush encroachments (Heffernan, 1995).

Among the Bedouin of the Near East, however, economic diversification has become so extreme that, in many cases, dependence on sheep production is more symbolic than actual. Lancaster (1981) and Abu-Rabia (1994) describe how the Jordanian and Negev Bedouin have increasingly taken up a variety of seasonal and permanent employment outside the pastoral sector and are investing in permanent housing, thereby maintaining and perhaps even cementing their social structure while effectively discarding herding. This process is slower in remoter areas but, in Oman for example, Chatty (1996) found a relationship between smaller flocks and degree of dependence on wage labour among the Harasiis pastoralists.

8 As many restocking programmes have found, the livestock that herders are willing to sell elsewhere, especially breeding females, is usually only the poorest quality animals.

9 There are references to pastoralists in the deserts west of the Nile Valley in Egyptian records. Ramses III defeated a Libyan tribe called the I-S-B-T-U, usually identified with the Asbytes of Herodotos. The Tehenu appear in Fifth-Dynasty sources (3200 BC) as livestock keepers of the Western Desert, and numerous other tribes are mentioned later (Vernet and Onrubia-Pintado, 1994: 56).

10 This reflects the conclusion of more than one report on pastoralists in the Lake Turkana area of northern Kenya.

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