Human Ecology

, 39:289 | Cite as

Coping with Uncertainty and Variability: The Influence of Protected Areas on Pastoral Herding Strategies in East Africa

  • Bilal ButtEmail author


A large number of East African pastoralists reside around protected areas (PAs). Over the last few decades pastoralists have been affected by the loss of grazing lands and increasing climatic variability. Many pastoralists who reside around PAs have resorted to grazing inside PAs to counter environmental variability. However, there is little information on how PAs influence the herding strategies of pastoralists. This case study from southern Kenya employs a spatially and temporally explicit mixed-methods approach to understand and evaluate the herding strategies of pastoralists around a PA. The results find that pastoralists access PAs on a regular basis, regardless of seasonality or herd size. Movement into PAs was partly driven by the loss of grazing land to conservancies. PAs affected pastoral herding by presenting differential opportunity costs to disparate groups. However, households with large herd sizes utilized the most flexible strategies to counter environmental variability and uncertainty.


Pastoralists Protected areas Cultural ecology Drought Coping strategies Herding strategies Kenya 



This research was funded by the NSF (Award# 0525809 & 0706756), Compton Foundation and Michigan State University. Additional support for writing was provided by the University of Wisconsin, Madison and the International Livestock Research Institute. This study was conducted with the permission of the Government of Kenya (Permit No. MOEST 13/001/31 C 85). I would like to thank my research assistants for their hard work and dedication in the field, and Ting-Li Lin for help with the statistical tests. This manuscript also benefitted from comments by M. Turner, A. WinklerPrins, B. Derman, C. Duvall, A. Shortridge, R. Reid, J. Gruley, the editor, and two anonymous reviewers.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

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