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ASSET OR DETRIMENT?: INFORMAL CROSS-BORDER SOCIO-ECONOMIC RELATIONS IN ETHIOPIA-KENYA BORDER AND IMPLICATIONS FOR LOCAL DEVELOPMENT [Abstract ID: 0306-02]
The Ethiopia-Kenya borderland is home to historically marginalized pastoral communities. Before the 1990s, these communities were ignored in the discourse of national development. Pastoralism was regarded as an ‘archaic’, and ‘backward’ way of life and pastoralists were seen as ‘needy’ populations. Post-1990s policy developments in both Ethiopia and Kenya led to a change of perspective in which pastoral frontiers started to be seen as areas with huge potential for national development. However, the strategies implemented to achieve local development still raise questions. From the state perspective, mobile social structures, which are indispensable to pastoral production, are regarded as a challenge to local development, and need to be sedentarised. Moreover, informal economic relations are treated in government documents as lost public revenue that has to be policed. Conversely, the local communities see informal socio-economic relations as the backbone of their existence. This research seeks to investigate the connection between informal cross-border socio-economic relations and local development. Moreover, it proposes policy orientations and models for the practice of social work at the margins of the state. The findings of this research reflect the perspective of the local communities. Accordingly, we argue that if facilitated and supported by harmonised policies, mobile ways of life and cross-border economies can drive development from below. Instead of blaming the state development paradigm, this project derives lessons from the contexts of West Africa and the Arctic North, and calls on policy makers and social work practitioners to work towards promoting informal cross-border socio-economic relations.