A Review of African Pastoral Production Systems: Approaches to Their Understanding and Development
Nyariki, D M
Ngugi, R K
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Pastoralism is a system that has been in existence for a long time. Scholars have come up with a cornucopia of definitions related to what entails this centuries old art. Many of these scholars agree, though, that pastoralism could be described as a production as well as a socio-cultural system consisting of an interaction between herders, animals and a given mode of resource management (see, for example, Salih, 1990; Swift, 1977; Widstrand, 1975). From this definition it may be said, therefore, that a pastoralist is any person whose means of livelihood principally is tending grazing animals.1 Pastoralism sets a unique relationship between people, livestock and land. The strong ties existing among the three make pastoralism different from other forms of livestock production. As the main components of land – grass, shrubs, water, etc. – vary both in time and space, mobility is an important aspect of pastoral production (Swift, 1977). The seasonal variation of resources necessitates relatively large land areas in which some parts may be set aside for use during seasons of optimality. Mobility does take place too to take advantage of other situations, such as exploitation of some specific resources (e.g., available water or salts) or because of increased incidences of disease. Pastoralists thus adapt nomadically to their environment when their adaptation requires movement beyond their home base or when alternatively there is a greater advantage in maximising mobility (Spooner, 1973). There is no reason to believe that pastoralists currently derive their livelihood entirely from livestock, as was the case many years ago. What is being implied here is that ‘pure’ pastoralism as we used to know it no longer exists. The evidence available suggests that pastoralists derive a considerable proportion of their subsistence from other sources besides animals. These activities which hitherto never featured among pastoralists include crop production, odd jobs, migration to towns in search of salaried employment, and even small businesses.