Field and river

20th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies (ICES20)
Mekelle University, Ethiopia

"Regional and Global Ethiopia - Interconnections and Identities"
1-5 October, 2018

ICES20 logo

Use the "back" button of your browser to return to the list of abstracts.


Saverio KRATLI, IUAES Commission on Nomadic Peoples

Pivotal to the challenge of defining axes of activity in pastoral development in Ethiopia is the decision on whether pastoralism is to be considered a problem or an asset; and therefore whether development should be about making pastoralists stronger (development of pastoralism), or rather to help them find means of subsistence other than pastoralism. This paper argues that a people-led-development perspective (building on existing resources and locally driven processes) allows only for a straightforward answer: Pastoral development means supporting people in their livelihood strategies as pastoralists. Especially, it means supporting their efforts to embed flexible/variable interfaces between production and environment. Even beside the people-led-development framework, the approach that sees pastoral development as development out of pastoralism is at odds with history. The assumption that pastoral systems in Ethiopia are inherently unproductive and unsustainable (therefore no development can stem from them) has too often been taken as self-evident. The available evidence, albeit fragmentary, points in the opposite direction. An assessment of productivity (output over input) depends on what is taken into consideration when considering input and output. The performance of individual animals in pastoral systems is low when measured by standard parameters, which are designed assuming optimal uniformity and stability in the environment. When productivity is assessed at a scale higher than the individual animal, and in ways that allow to account for the highly variable pastoral environment, the result changes. Available records indicate long-term stability, or even increase, in the aggregated livestock holdings in Ethiopian pastoral systems (despite the periodical fluctuations). Livestock exports, almost entirely supplied by pastoral systems, are also believed to have increased substantially over the years. In light of the historical underinvestment in pastoral systems, and indeed the sustained and severe reduction in rangeland suffered by these systems over the last forty years, the recorded stability or possibly increase in production — i.e. stability or increase in output from reduced input — would suggest that overall the productivity of pastoral systems in Ethiopia has indeed increased quite substantially, and is increasing. Therefore the assumption that productivity cannot increase within pastoralism is incorrect.