Constraints to the Development of Extensive Livestock Systems: Experiences from Southern Ethiopia

Document Type

Conference Paper

Journal/Book Title

Animal Production in Developing Countries. Proceedings of a Symposium Organized by the British Society of Animal Production


British Society of Animal Production as Occasional Publication No. 16, Edinburgh

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This paper reviews pastoral research and development perspectives generated from the southern Ethiopian rangelands during the 1980s. This system was selected as a case study of constraints in African pastoral development because the experiences from both research and development are fairly well documented and integrated. Until recently, the Boran managed a production system that was fairly typical of semi-settled, traditional pastoralism in East Africa. However, the Boran today are in a state of considerable change that has been induced primarily by a long-term decline in the per capita supply of cow's milk, the traditional dietary staple. This imbalance has resulted from steady growth in the human population in combination with density-dependent fluctuations in cattle production. Other major changes in pastoral, social and economic attitudes have occurred as a result of population pressure and exposure to the inhabitants of small towns that have emerged as a result of development of rural infrastructure since the 1970s. Overall, this pressure has led to increased instability and vulnerability of the pastoral population, but also offers new windows of opportunity for the application of technical, but especially policy-oriented, interventions. It is suggested that constraints to implementing successful development activities here lie more in the limitations of external institutions and the national economy, rather than within the Boran system. Long-term population trends, and opportunities for development interventions over the short term, will also be obscured by inter-drought cycles of cattle production that produce complex system interactions. Greater appreciation of the effects of such cycles on the social and economic behaviour of pastoralists could facilitate more effective development planning.

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