Human Ecology

, Volume 32, Issue 4, pp 465–486 | Cite as

Pastoralism Under Pressure: Tracking System Change in Southern Ethiopia

  • Solomon Desta
  • D. Layne Coppock


While economic development has proven elusive in African pastoral systems, change is pervasive. The majority of the Kajiado Maasai, for example, have endured marked declines in per capita livestock holdings and other aspects of human welfare over the past 50 years. We surveyed 317 Borana households to see if similar patterns occurred in southern Ethiopia, and our predictions were largely confirmed. Once viewed as the epitome of sustainable pastoralism, the Borana system now confronts numerous challenges. Decline in per capita cattle holdings has spurred household-level diversification to include maize cultivation and camel husbandry in some areas. Resource pressure has encouraged local annexation of some formerly common access grazing areas. Economic links between pastoral households and local towns still appear rare, however. Our results suggest that patterns of internally induced socioeconomic change due to population pressure in such semiarid systems are broadly predictable, and that development intervention priorities should reflect system dynamics and address emerging issues. A focus on improving risk management by facilitating household economic diversification and restoring some aspects of opportunistic resource use may be the most appropriate development options among the Ethiopian Boran at this time.

Boran drought risk management pastoral development 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Solomon Desta
    • 1
  • D. Layne Coppock
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Environment and Society, College of Natural ResourcesUtah State UniversityLoganusa

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