Document Type


Journal/Book Title

Global Livestock Collaborative Research Support Program


University of California at Davis

Publication Date



While economic development has proven elusive in African pastoral systems, change is pervasive. The Kajiado Maasai, for example, have endured declines in terms of per capita livestock holdings and other aspects of human welfare over the past 50 years. Activity diversification has occurred in Maasailand as the population copes with pressure from human population growth. We surveyed up to 317 Borana households during the late 1990s to see if similar patterns occurred in southern Ethiopia. Once viewed as an example of sustainable pastoralism, the Borana system now confronts numerous challenges. Decline in per capita cattle holdings has spurred household-level diversification to include maize cultivation (emergent agropastoralism) and camel husbandry in some areas. Resource pressure has encouraged annexation of some formerly common- access grazing areas. Strong economic links between pastoral households and local towns, in the form of wage employment or petty trade, however, appear very limited and reflect the general isolation of the Borana pastoralists from development processes. Our findings suggest that patterns of internally induced change due to population pressure in pastoral systems are broadly predictable. Development intervention priorities should reflect system change. A focus on improving risk management by facilitating access of pastoralists to education, encouraging appropriate economic diversification, and assisting in restoration of key ecological resources may be the most appropriate development options for southern Ethiopia at this time. Shifts to increasing reliance on maize production makes these populations more at risk and more likely to require food aid in the future.