The Cost of Living Becomes Unaffordable, 1913–1945
In the first half of the twentieth century, non-elite pastoralists lost the ability to cope with the normal variability of the ARSL’s natural environment because they lost access to the limited fertile zones that historically served as drought pasture reserves. Unable to cope with routine droughts, non-elite pastoralists were pushed into a cycle of famine and food insecurity. This process was not linear. There were moments of apparent recovery. For a time, Afar pastoralists prospered because they held a virtual monopoly on the transport of Ethiopian slaves to African Red Sea ports. Similarly, Eritrean pastoralists used the income from serving in the colonial army to invest in the expansion of their herds. However, these short-term booms masked deeper problems. The progressive enclosure of drought pasture reserves was making it impossible for most pastoralists to maintain themselves and their animals through the full range of normal ecological conditions.