Food Security

, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp 15–28 | Cite as

The role of livestock diversification in ensuring household food security under a changing climate in Borana, Ethiopia

  • Bekele MegersaEmail author
  • André Markemann
  • Ayana Angassa
  • Anne Valle Zárate
Original Paper


While food insecurity is a growing concern across the developing nations, accentuated by climate variability and change, it could be even worse for pastoralists given their unpredictable exposure to climate risks. The Borana herders experience food insecurity as a result of recurring droughts causing huge losses of cattle, and are thus increasingly shifting from cattle pastoralism to multi-species herding. The present study examines the role of livestock diversification in combating household food insecurity using herders’ perceptions, a modified household food insecurity access scale (mHFIAS) and dietary diversity score. Herders perceived child growth, adult height and body condition to be decreasing as a result of declining milk production and changing dietary trends. Results also revealed a high level of seasonal food insecurity and low dietary diversity with the majority (81 %) consuming one to three food groups. Livestock diversification was a major factor affecting household food security. Households practising diversification had significantly fewer months of food deficit (2.3 vs. 3.8), lower mHFIAS (5.5 vs. 8.7) and a higher average off-take in the form of livestock sales (7.4 vs. 4.0) than non-diversified ones. Diversification improved dietary intake of specific food groups and the average number of meals consumed per day. While fruits, eggs and fish are not part of the Borana diet, a large number of respondents consumed no vegetables (93 %) or meat (96 %), potentiating the risk of micronutrient deficiencies. This study highlights the particular significance of livestock diversification, among other socio-demographic factors, in attaining food security under a changing climate in the study area.


Climate variability Dietary diversity Food insecurity Livestock diversification Borana 



The research work has been financially supported by the Dr. Hermann Eiselen PhD Grant from the Foundation Fiat Panis. This publication is an output of the scholarship from the Food Security Center, University of Hohenheim, which is supported by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). Respondents spent their time and energy in answering questions. All contributions are gratefully acknowledged. We are thankful to the anonymous reviewers and the editor for their constructive comments and corrections to improve the quality of the paper.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


  1. Ajani, S. R. (2010). An assessment of dietary diversity in six Nigerian States. African Journal of Biomedical Research, 13, 161–167.Google Scholar
  2. Angassa, A., & Oba, G. (2007). Relating long-term rainfall variability to cattle population dynamics in communal rangelands and a government ranch in southern Ethiopia. Agricultural Systems, 94, 715–725.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Angassa, A., & Oba, G. (2008). Herder perceptions on impacts of range enclosures, crop farming, fire ban and bush encroachment on the rangelands of Borana, southern Ethiopia. Human Ecology, 36, 201–215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Arimond, M., & Ruel, M. T. (2004). Dietary diversity is associated with child nutritional status: evidence from 11 demographic and health surveys. Journal of Nutrition, 134, 2579–2585.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Barrett, C. B. (2010). Measuring food insecurity. Science, 327, 825–828.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Becquey, E., Martin-Prevel, Y., Traissac, P., Dembele, B., Bambara, A., & Delpeuch, F. (2010). The household food insecurity access scale and an index-member dietary diversity score contribute valid and complementary information on household food insecurity in an urban West-African setting. Journal of Nutrition, 140, 2233–2240.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Becquey, E., Delpeuch, F., Konate, A. M., Delsol, H., Lange, M., Zoungrana, M., & Martin-Prevel, Y. (2012). Seasonality of the dietary dimension of household food security in urban Burkina Faso. British Journal of Nutrition, 107, 1860–1870.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Belachew, T., Hadley, C., & Lindstrom, D. D. (2008). Differentials in measures of dietary quality among adolescents in Jimma zone, Southwest Ethiopia. Ethiopian Medical Journal, 46, 133–142.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Belachew, T., Hadley, C., Lindstrom, D., Gebremariam, A., Lachat, C., & Kolsteren, P. (2011). Food insecurity, school absenteeism and educational attainment of adolescents in Jimma Zone Southwest Ethiopia: a longitudinal study. Nutrition Journal, 10, 1–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Berhanu, W., & Fayissa, B. (2010). Analysis of the household economy and expenditure patterns of a traditional pastoralist society in southern Ethiopia. Working Papers 201005, Middle Tennessee State University, Department of Economics and Finance.Google Scholar
  11. Berhanu, W., Colman, D., & Fayissa, B. (2007). Diversification and livelihood sustainability in a semi-arid environment: a case study from borana Southern Ethiopia. Journal of Development Studies, 43, 871–889.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Bleich, E. G., Rhissa, Z., & Mack, S. (2005). The FAO special programme for food security: livestock diversification - a case study in Chad. World's Poultry Science Journal, 61, 23–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Coates, J., Swindale, A., & Bilinsky, P. (2007). Household Food Insecurity Access Scale (HFIAS) for measurement of house hold food access: Indicator guide (v3). Washington, DC: Food and Nutrition Technical Assistance, Academy for Educational Development.Google Scholar
  14. Coppock, D. L. (1994). The Borana plateau of southern Ethiopia: Synthesis of pastoral research development and changes, 1980–90. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: ILCA (International Livestock Centre for Africa).Google Scholar
  15. Cossins, N. J., & Upton, M. (1987). The Borana pastoral system of southern Ethiopia. Agricultural Systems, 25, 199–218.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Cossins, N. J., & Upton, M. (1988). The impact of climatic variation on the Borana pastoral system. Agricultural Systems, 27, 117–135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Desta, S., & Coppock, D. L. (2002). Cattle population dynamics in the southern Ethiopian rangelands, 1980–97. Journal of Range Management, 55, 439–451.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Desta, S., & Coppock, D. L. (2004). Pastoralism under pressure: tracking system change in southern Ethiopia. Human Ecology, 32, 465–486.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Desta, S., Tezera, S., Gebru, G., & Kristjanson, P. (2011). Summary of baseline household survey results: Borana, Ethiopia. CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS). Copenhagen, Denmark. Accessed on 24 July, 2012.
  20. Devereux, S. (2009). Why does famine persist in Africa? Food Security, 1, 25–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Doti, T. (2010). Climate variability, pastoralists’ vulnerability and options. The case of the Borana of Northern Kenya. In D. A. Mwiturubani & J. A. van Wyk (Eds.), Climate change and natural resources conflicts in Africa. Monograph 170. Pretoria, South Africa: Institute for Security Studies.Google Scholar
  22. FAO. (2004). Dietary diversity in Dangarayo and Dinsor districts, Somalia. Rome, Italy: Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nation.Google Scholar
  23. FAO. (2007). Guidelines for measuring household and individual dietary diversity, version 3. Rome Italy: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nation.Google Scholar
  24. Faye, B., Chaibou, M., & Vias, G. (2012). Integrated impact of climate change and socioeconomic development on the evolution of camel farming systems. British Journal of Environment and Climate Change, 2, 227–244.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Ferro-Luzzi, A., Morris, S. S., Taffesse, S., Demissie, T., & D’Amato, M. (2001). Seasonal undernutrition in rural Ethiopia. Magnitude, correlates and functional significance. IFPRI Research Report 118. Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  26. Fratkin, E., Roth, E. A., & Nathan, M. A. (2004). Pastoral sedentarization and its effects on children’s diet, health, and growth among Rendille of Northern Kenya. Human Ecology, 32, 531–559.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Galvin, K. A., Thornton, P. K., Boone, R. B., & Sunderland, J. (2004). Climate variability and impacts on east African livestock herders: maasai of ngorongoro conservation area, Tanzania. African Journal of Range and Forage Science, 21, 183–189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Garrett, J. L., & Ruel, M. T. (1999). Are determinants of rural and urban food security and nutritional status different? Some insights from Mozambique. World Development, 27, 1955–1975.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Gregory, P. J., Ingram, J. S. I., & Brklacich, M. (2005). Climate change and food security. Philosophical Transaction of the Royal Society, 360, 2139–2148.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Headey, D., & Ecker, O. (2013). Rethinking the measurement of food security: from first principles to best practice. Food Security, 5, 327–343.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Hoppe, C., Mølgaard, C., & Michaelsen, K. F. (2006). Cow’s milk and linear growth in industrialized and developing countries. Annual Review Nutrition, 26, 131–173.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Jahnke, H. E. (1982). Livestock production systems and livestock development in tropical Africa. Kiel, Germany: Kieler Wissenschaftsverlag Vauk.Google Scholar
  33. Jyoti, D. F., Frongillo, E. A., & Jones, S. J. (2005). Food insecurity affects school children’ academic performance, weight gain, and social skills. Journal of Nutrition, 135, 2831–2839.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Megersa, B., Regassa, A., Kumsa, B., & Abunna, F. (2008). Performance of camels (Camelus dromedrius) kept by pastoralists with different degrees of experience in camel keeping in Borana, Southern Ethiopia. Animal Science Journal, 79, 534–541.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Morton, J., & Barton, D. (2002). Destocking as a drought–mitigation strategy: clarifying rationales and answering critiques. Disasters, 26, 213–228.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Nanama, S., & Frongillo, E. A. (2012). Women’s rank modifies the relationship between household and women’s food insecurity in complex households in northern Burkina Faso. Food Policy, 37, 217–225.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Oldewage-Theron, W., & Kruger, R. (2011). Dietary diversity and adequacy of women caregivers in a peri-urban informal settlement in South Africa. Nutrition, 27, 420–427.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Regassa, N., & Stoecker, B. J. (2012). Household food insecurity and hunger among households in Sidama district, Southern Ethiopia. Public Health Nutrition, 15, 1276–1283.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Sadler, K., Kervan, C., Calo, M., Manske, M., & Catley, A. (2009). Milk matters: A literature review of pastoralist nutrition and programming responses. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: Feinstein International Center, Tufts University and Saves the Children.Google Scholar
  40. Savy, M., Martin-Prevel, Y., Traissac, P., Eymard-Duvernay, S., & Delpeuch, F. (2006). Dietary diversity scores and nutritional status of women change during the seasonal food shortage in rural Burkina Faso. Journal of Nutrition, 136, 2625–2632.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  41. Solomon, T. B., Snyman, H. A., & Smit, G. N. (2007). Cattle-rangeland management practices and perceptions of pastoralists towards rangeland degradation in the Borana zone of southern Ethiopia. Journal of Environmental Management, 82, 481–494.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Speranza, C. I. (2010). Drought coping and adaptation strategies: understanding adaptations to climate change in agro-pastoral livestock production in Makueni district, Kenya. European Journal of Development Research, 22, 623–642.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Tache, B., & Oba, G. (2010). Is poverty driving Borana herders in Southern Ethiopia to crop cultivation? Human Ecology, 38, 639–649.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Tache, B., & Sjaastad, E. (2010). Pastoralists’ Conceptions of poverty: an analysis of traditional and conventional indicators from Borana, Ethiopia. World Development, 38, 1168–1178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Thorne-Lyman, A. L., Valpiani, N., Sun, K., Semba, R. D., Klotz, C. L., Kraemer, K., Akhter, N., de Pee, S., Moench-Pfanner, R., Sari, M., & Bloem, M. W. (2010). Household dietary diversity and food expenditures are closely linked in rural Bangladesh, increasing the risk of malnutrition due to the financial crisis. Journal of Nutrition, 140, 182–188.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Tiki, W., Oba, G., & Tvedt, T. (2011). Human stewardship or ruining cultural landscapes of the ancient Tula wells, Southern Ethiopia. The Geographical Journal, 177, 62–78.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Torheim, L. E., Ouattara, F., Diarra, M. M., Thiam, F. D., Barikmo, I., Hatl, A., & Oshaug, A. (2004). Nutrient adequacy and dietary diversity in rural Mali: association and determinants. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 58, 594–604.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Villa, K. M., Barrett, C. B., & Just, D. R. (2011). Whose fast and whose feast? Intra-household asymmetries in dietary diversity response among East African pastoralists. American Journal of Agricultural Economics, 93, 1062–1081.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht and International Society for Plant Pathology 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bekele Megersa
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • André Markemann
    • 1
  • Ayana Angassa
    • 3
    • 4
  • Anne Valle Zárate
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Animal Production in the Tropics and SubtropicsUniversity of HohenheimStuttgartGermany
  2. 2.School of Veterinary MedicineHawassa UniversityHawassaEthiopia
  3. 3.School of Animal and Range SciencesHawassa UniversityHawassaEthiopia
  4. 4.Botanical InstituteUniversity of CologneCologneGermany

Personalised recommendations