The European Journal of Development Research

, Volume 22, Issue 5, pp 660–677 | Cite as

Pathways and Dead Ends of Pastoral Development among the Afar and Karrayu in Ethiopia

  • Detlef Müller-Mahn
  • Simone Rettberg
  • Girum Getachew
Original Article


The article highlights heterogeneous patterns of pastoral development in Ethiopia. The key question is to what extent current changes may be interpreted as ‘sustainable development pathways’ in which resilience of livelihoods and natural resource bases are maintained under conditions of stress, or rather as unsustainable ‘dead ends’, characterised by the inability of pastoral groups to cope with and adapt to externally induced changes. The article argues that the answer depends largely on the state's commitment to pastoral development. Empirical evidence from two case studies among Afar and Karrayu clans in the eastern lowlands of Ethiopia suggests that in the past, external interventions by government agencies and large-scale irrigation schemes have been detrimental to pastoral livelihoods. It is concluded that the future of pastoralism in Ethiopia will be determined by divergent but partly complimentary development pathways, and by attempts to give pastoralists a voice in decision-making over their own development.

Cet article met en lumière l’hétérogénéité des modes de développement pastoral en Éthiopie. La question clé est de déterminer si les évolutions actuelles peuvent être interprétées comme des ‘voies vers un développement durable’ dans lesquelles les moyens de subsistance et les ressources naturelles peuvent être maintenus malgré la pression subie, ou plutôt comme des ‘impasses’ insoutenables caractérisées par une incapacité des communautés pastorales à faire face et à s’adapter aux changements exogènes. L’article montre que la réponse à cette question dépend largement du niveau d’engagement de l’État dans le développement pastoral. Deux études de cas sur les populations Afar et Karrayu des basses terres orientales de l’Éthiopie montrent empiriquement que, dans le passé, les interventions externes des agences gouvernementales ainsi que les programmes d’irrigation à grande échelle ont eu des effets préjudiciables sur les moyens de subsistance pastoraux. En conclusion, l’avenir du pastoralisme en Éthiopie sera déterminé par des voies de développement divergentes mais en partie complémentaires et dépendra d’une volonté de donner aux communautés pastorales une voix dans les prises de décisions concernant leur propre développement.


development livelihoods pastoralism pathways uncertainty vulnerability 



We thank DFG (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft) for the financial support of the empirical field work and two anonymous referees for their detailed and helpful comments, and also Tobias Hagmann, Doris Schmied and Florian Weisser for their feedback on the work in progress.


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Copyright information

© European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Detlef Müller-Mahn
    • 1
  • Simone Rettberg
    • 1
  • Girum Getachew
    • 1
  1. 1.University of BayreuthGermany

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