Change and challenge for Pastoralists
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CTA. 1992. Change and challenge for Pastoralists. Spore 39. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/45746
A ten-year study by ILCA of the Borana rangelands of southern Ethiopia has revealed 8 system under pressure, with increasing resource degradation and worsening food security for the people. Profound changes are taking place in what was once a...
A ten-year study by ILCA of the Borana rangelands of southern Ethiopia has revealed 8 system under pressure, with increasing resource degradation and worsening food security for the people. Profound changes are taking place in what was once a purely pastoral society as its human population grows at 2.5% a year, while cattle numbers grow much more slowly and erratically due to drought. Yet the study also challenges the commonly held view that pastoral people are reactionary and unwilling to change. As the ratio of cattle to people has fallen, the Borana's ability to subsist on animal products alone has also decreased. As recently as 1959 milk may have met all the Borana's food energy needs but by 1983 it provided only 60%. ILCA projections suggest that by the end of the century milk is likely to provide less than 40% of Borana food needs. The Borana have responded to the falling milk supply by spending more of their time cultivating crops and by selling their milk Selling milk when it is insufficient even for household needs may seem illogical but, at 1990 prices, the amount of make that can be bought by selling a litre of milk provides 18 times as much energy as does the milk. It is probable that this milk-for-grain trade will become increasingly important in Borana society. However, increased cropping and milk sales have implications for women and their role in the production system. As young men increasingly migrate to urban centres in search of employment, additional work in the rural areas will almost inevitably fall to women and older children. Two labour-intensive tasks that women already perform are calf-rearing and fetching water for household needs. Both have been studied by ILCA in collaboration with CARE, a non-govemmental relief and development agency working in southern Ethiopia. Traditionally, women collect dry grass during the dry season to feed to calves. CARE proposed haymaking during the long rainy season as a way of easing the women's workload. It was thought originally that making hay in the wet season would take less time than collecting grass in the dry season, but in fact it did not markedly reduce the amount of work that the women did. The lack of effect was in part related to an unusually good dry season during the study period with scattered showers resulting in ready supplies of feed. Also the women may have exaggerated the amount of time spent collecting dry season feed. But the trials did show that hay-making was technically feasible and that calves fed hay were able to maintain their weight during the dry season, whereas traditionally calves lost weight. Easing the task of fetching water was addressed I by installing 100,000 litre cement cisterns, which fill during the rains and provide dry-season water supplies, near homesteads. The time spent fetching water has not been reduced because women spend more time talking to other women. But although no time was saved, the task was more pleasant and it was shown that women with access to a cistern gave their calves more water than did those who had to use wells; and studies have shown that calves that receive more water grow faster than traditionally managed calves. Overall, the study shows that while pastoralists such as the Borana cannot resist changes brought about by population growth, climatic effects, the possibilities of urban employment and the influx of refugees from elsewhere, they are willing to adopt new attitudes and techniques in their strategy for survival.