Nomadic pastoralism in the Arabian Peninsula has undergone significant change over the past 150 years as a response to alterations in its relationship with central authority. Efforts to settle and transform pastoralists into settled farmers – a key policy of Post WWI neo-colonial and later newly emerging nation states – has largely disappeared. Instead, we see concentrated drives to label such communities as backward, economically irrational, and obsolete. More recently, a policy of ‘benign’ neglect has permitted pastoral communities in Arabia to adapt, resist and face new challenges from multinational extractive industry, global conservation organizations, and climate change. You can watch the video of this seminar organised by PASTRES at IDS on 11th June 2019 below.
All over pastoral regions, an increasing presence of hired herders or shepherds is reported. Hiring herding labour to take care of the livestock of wealthier households is not new; this phenomenon is, however, intensifying across pastoral settings. The shift from household labour to an external, salaried workforce in herding activities is reshaping pastoralists’ responses to uncertainties.
Mathilde Gingembre is an affiliate researcher with the ERC-funded PASTRES project and was at IDS on 19th March to deliver a seminar entitled, ‘Bringing Moral Economy into the Study of Land Deals: Reflections from Madagascar’.
This blog post presents an overview of activities covered in our recent newsletter. If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the bi-annual PASTRES newsletter.
By Mathilde Gingembre (Independent researcher, PASTRES affiliate)
An uncertain future
What can we learn from the way pastoralists deal with uncertainty? This powerful question, at the heart of PASTRES’ work, immediately resonated with me. Observing pastoral dynamics here in Jordan, where I currently live, I began asking myself: What are the conditions for pastoralists’ continuous adaptiveness? Is there not a point where we can say that there is simply no more space for adaptability?
A recent PASTRES seminar at the Robert Schuman Centre at the European University in Florence discussed mobility, and how lessons from pastoralists might be important for thinking about policy themes such as international migration and cross-border trade. The recording of the seminar and slides are below.
Tales of desertification across the world’s drylands are a recurrent theme in policy. This week’s blog reviews an excellent book that takes issue with many of the assumptions around desertification – The End of Desertification? Disputing Environmental Change in the Drylands. It was edited by Roy Behnke, an anthropologist with deep knowledge of pastoral areas in North and Southern Africa, West Asia and more, and Michael Mortimore, sadly now late, a development geographer, who knew a huge amount about the drylands of Africa, and particularly northern Nigeria.
Ann Waters-Bayer offers a short video commentary, reflecting on the PASTRES project. Since her work in West Africa, particularly on women’s roles in milk production, Ann has been a major supporter of pastoral development. Until her retirement, she worked for 25 years with the ETC Foundation, particularly around issues of farmer-led innovation, and was editor of the ILEIA magazine and a founder of Prolinnova (among many other things!). An important publication for PASTRES research was the manual ‘Planning with Pastoralists’, produced with Wolfgang Bayer, focusing on participatory methods.
Saverio Krätli is the convenor of the Commission on Nomadic Peoples of the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnographic Sciences and editor of the journal, Nomadic Peoples. He undertook his PhD research on animal breeding and husbandry strategies among the WoDaabe pastoralists in Niger. He has since worked on pastoralism with many agencies, including arguing how pastoralists make use of variability and live off uncertainty.
In this short video, filmed at the PASTRES launch in May last year, he makes the case that pastoral systems can be seen like a ‘machine’ for making use of variability as a resource. The ‘machine’ involves many interconnected components, with knowledge embedded in each – animals, rangelands, institutions and so on. Perfected over many years, the ‘machine’ is brilliant at converting variability into useful outputs.
Pastoralists´ integration into market dynamics is mostly addressed through the lens of trade in meat products, involving male traders. Pastoral milk, mostly traded by women, is often ignored. Good production of healthy milk is definitely the best way to ensure the efficiency and effectiveness of a pastoral system at whatever level. Milk is central in the livelihood of pastoral households. Its nutritional, social and economic roles have been comprehensively assessed.