Human Ecology

, Volume 43, Issue 1, pp 1–14 | Cite as

Herding by Mobile Phone: Technology, Social Networks and the “Transformation” of Pastoral Herding in East Africa

  • Bilal Butt


Over the last decade, the number of people who rely on mobile phones in sub-Saharan Africa has grown rapidly. The ubiquity of mobile phones in rural livestock communities is thought to “transform” or “revolutionize” the way different social groups interact as they manage social, political and environmental challenges to their livelihood strategies. This research among pastoralists in Kenya examines the political, economic, ecological and socio-spatial contexts in which mobile phones are used and places these contexts within pre-existing resource struggles in order to understand the prevalence of mobile phone use among pastoralists. Results indicate that, while the use of mobile phones for herding is widespread, the extent and efficacy of information sharing is strongly influenced by pre-existing social struggles to gain access to prohibited grazing locations.


Political ecology Grazing Kenya Maasai Development Conservation 



I would like to thank Maatany Ntimama for his assistance with data collection, and Megan Cole for assistance with data entry. Kayla Yurco, Jenny Cooper, Meghan Cornwall and Antoinette WinklerPrins provided helpful comments on earlier drafts of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

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