Rethinking pastoralism and African development: A case study of the Horn of Africa



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astoralists in the Horn of Africa have become among the most marginalized and disadvantaged of minority groups. This is due to their wide dispersal, climatic and ecological conditions, state neglect, development plans that have excluded them, seizure of their land, land tenure laws, national borders that restrict their freedom of movement, internal strife and national conflicts. The corollary has been the neglect of gender issues in the pastoralist communities, where custom and religious teachings defining women’s role have been overtaken by rapid modern development. Consequently, the bulk of the land in the Horn of Africa, the pastoralist habitat, lies in the semi-arid and arid zone, home to the largest aggregation of traditional livestock producers in the world, estimated at 15 million people. While there is some non-pastoralist production, the pastoralist contribution is more important economically, providing significant employment and income opportunities seldom shown in official statistics. Traditional livestock production is becoming non-viable through the gradual erosion of access to land and water, as they are turned over to cultivation. This loss has been facilitated by the unwillingness of states to acknowledge and respect pastoralists’ rights to land. Loss of mobility of people and animals has disrupted the process of adjustment that maintains the balance between people, land and livestock. Pastoralist society has been adversely affected by state borders dividing ethnic groups, separating people from their kin, traditional leaders, places of worship, markets, pastures and watering places.