Restrictions on Herd Mobility and Its Implications on Pastoral Adaptation to Climate Change: Perspectives from Drylands of Borena in Ethiopia

Eyasu Elias


The paper is based on action research conducted in three districts of Borena zone (Yabello, Negelle and Moyalle) in Ethiopia. Field work was conducted with pastoral elders using key informant interviews, focused group discussion and participatory mapping exercise. Primary data were generated on local perceptions of climate change and traditional coping mechanisms based on herd mobility. Long-term climate data were analyzed for three weather stations and moving averages were plotted. The results provide strong evidence for climate change and its impacts on pastoral livelihoods particularly when herd mobility is restricted due to various reasons (e.g., agri-business projects, establishment of ranches). Analysis of climate data and local perceptions suggest that there has been a serious climatic and ecological deterioration rendering pastoralists vulnerable to shocks and abject poverty. Borena pastoralists have living memories of series of drought and famine episodes of various magnitudes over the past several decades. They claim that this is partly because their traditional mobility patterns have been disrupted and access to important grazing sites has been restricted. The most immediate policy message is the need to protect and promote herd mobility which proved to be the best response and adaptation to changing climatic conditions in the dryland environments. In view of the growing environmental and livelihood concerns subsequent to sedenterization of pastoralists, we tend to challenge the generally held view that pastoral production based on mobility is outmoded, archaic and needs modernization and replacement.

Keywords: Climate change, drylands, herd mobility, pastoralism

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ISSN (Paper)2224-3216 ISSN (Online)2225-0948

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