Avoiding Disaster: Diversification and Risk Management Among East African Herders

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Development and Change

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This article addresses processes of livelihood diversification among pastoralists in the rangelands of northern Kenya and southern Ethiopia. The objectives of the article are threefold: (1) to suggest a theoretical framework for addressing income diversification among pastoralists with reference to current literature and databases; (2) to present a case study on pastoral income diversification based on preliminary field research in northern Kenya and southern Ethiopia; and (3) to summarize current understandings of pastoral diversification while pointing to additional empirical research needs. By showing how comparative analyses in the region have been constrained by theoretical and data deficiencies, the article explores ways in which income diversification differs by what are termed conditional, opportunity, and local response variables. Climate, distance to market towns, gender, wealth, and education are attributes covered by these variables and discussed in the article. The conceptualization and case study provide useful bases for conducting comparative research on pastoral diversification in East Africa specifically, and in sub-Saharan Africa generally.

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