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Absentee herd owners and part-time pastoralists: The political economy of resource use in northern Kenya

Abstract

The prevalence of absentee herd ownership in Africa's pastoral areas is increasing. Its presence has important implications both for local resource management systems and for research programs that address pastoral ecology and related topics. This paper examines patterns of absentee herd ownership in the Baringo District of northern Kenya. This region has been the source of much debate regarding herder “mismanagement” of range lands. Three categories of absentee herd owners are discussed in the paper: (1) ranchers, (2) livestock traders, and (3) townsmen. It is suggested that the blame for some of the apparent resource mismanagement in the region may lie more with actors in these categories than with the pastoralists themselves. Data collected during an 18-month period in 1980–1981 on pastoral ecology, grazing patterns, and tenure institutions are presented in support of the argument. The paper concludes with a comparative analysis of contemporary resource management strategies in pastoral Africa, emphasizing that: (1) the Baringo case is not an isolated anomaly, and (2) a new orientation toward pastoral studies is warranted.

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Little, P.D. Absentee herd owners and part-time pastoralists: The political economy of resource use in northern Kenya. Hum Ecol 13, 131–151 (1985). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01531093

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Key words

  • Africa
  • pastoralism
  • resource management
  • political economy