Introduction: Becoming Poor
The chapter situates the impoverishment of the African Red Sea Littoral within a discussion of pastoralist economics and an analysis of definitions of poverty. Historically, access to life-supporting resources in the region was embedded within the web of reciprocal dependency that formed the bases of pastoralist social relations. This dependency structured the pastoralist moral economy and protected all from real want even during periods of routine adverse ecological conditions, such as drought. The dismantling of this moral economy tracks the differences in behavior and outcomes for the poor and not-poor. The not-poor are able to maintain their own relative health throughout the range of normal environmental conditions because they continue to have sufficient access to life-supporting resources through a combination of market means and social capital. The poor are all those who do not meet this standard and therefore experience normal adverse conditions as ecological crises.