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Contested narratives of pastoral vulnerability and risk in Ethiopia's Afar region


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This paper emphasises the role of local knowledge, risk perceptions and decision patterns in analyzing changing pastoral livelihood strategies. Based on an intensive empirical case study within the Middle Awash Basin of Ethiopia's Afar region it is argued that the main concern for Afar pastoralists are political risks evolving from recurrent violent confl icts and increasing governmental development interventions, while drought plays only a minor role within local narratives of risk. Special atten-tion is drawn to the strategic instrumentalization of heterogeneous governmental and pastoral risk narratives and the impact of confl icting narratives on the current pastoral livelihood crisis, shaped by an increasing vulnerability and an ongoing political and economic marginalization of pastoralists in Ethiopia.
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July 2010 Pastoralism Vol. 1 No. 2
Dr Simone Rettberg (e-mail: is currently senior lecturer and
research associate at the Department of Geography, Free University Berlin, Germany
© Practical Action Publishing, 2010,
doi: 10.3362/2041-7136.2010.014, ISSN: 2041-7128 (print) ISSN 2041-7136 (online)
Contested narratives of pastoral
vulnerability and risk in Ethiopia’s
Afar region
This paper emphasises the role of local knowledge, risk perceptions and decision
patterns in analyzing changing pastoral livelihood strategies. Based on an intensive
empirical case study within the Middle Awash Basin of Ethiopia’s Afar region it is
argued that the main concern for Afar pastoralists are political risks evolving from
recurrent violent con icts and increasing governmental development interventions,
while drought plays only a minor role within local narratives of risk. Special atten-
tion is drawn to the strategic instrumentalization of heterogeneous governmental
and pastoral risk narratives and the impact of con icting narratives on the current
pastoral livelihood crisis, shaped by an increasing vulnerability and an ongoing
political and economic marginalization of pastoralists in Ethiopia.
Keywords: pastoralism, Ethiopia, risk, vulnerability
Since the middle of the 20th century pastoralists in the drylands of Ethiopia
have been faced with an increasing number of critical challenges that fuel the
debate of the decline of pastoralism (Markakis, 1993, 2003; Scholz, 2008) and
its potential for adaptation (Davies and Bennett, 2007; Mortimore 2009; UN
OCHA 2007). In addition to high climate variability and recurrent droughts
and oods, pastoral livelihood systems have been severely constrained
by multiple violent con icts over natural resources and contested politi-
cal claims, as well as increasing governmental development interventions
such as the expansion of irrigation agriculture and sedentarization projects
(Ayalew, 2001; Gamaledin, 1993; Hogg, 1997; Said, 1997). Due to the mas-
sive loss of communally-held grazing areas and mobility under conditions of
a generally growing population, processes of impoverishment and increasing
vulnerability have become characteristic for large parts of the pastoral popu-
lation who inhabit 60 per cent of the Ethiopian territory (Devereux, 2006;
Müller-Mahn and Rettberg, 2007). Although a network of national and inter-
national aid and development organizations have developed, and early warn-
ing systems were re ned in the aftermath of the severe droughts of the 1970s
and 1980s, food insecurity and destitution increased, questioning the ability
Pastoralism Vol. 1 No. 2 July 2010
of the humanitarian system and its mainly technocratic solutions to protect
livelihoods in a sustainable way (Devereux, 2009; Hammond and Maxwell,
2002). Over the last decades many communities moved from situations of
temporary drought-triggered food insecurity to chronic livelihood insecurity
and dependency on food aid, while this process was most extreme among
pastoral and agropastoral communities (Lautze and Maxwell, 2007).
The structural changes destabilize traditional pastoral livelihood strate-
gies and undermine the internalized collective patterns of interpretation
within a rapidly changing social-ecological environment. Pastoralists are
challenged to adapt their livelihood pathways in order to maintain their
adaptive capacities and resilience to shocks and stresses. This also involves
learning by a recon guration of local knowledge. So far local perceptions
and knowledge systems have not been suf ciently considered in risk and
vulnerability analyses. Although a lot of vulnerability studies have dealt
with the question of how people cope with risks and crisis situations, little
attention has been paid to the meanings and signi cance of risk to local
actors (Heijmanns, 2001; Krüger and Macamo, 2003; Bankoff, 2004). This
paper argues that changes in socio-spatial patterns of coping and adapta-
tion need to be linked to underlying motivations, beliefs and perceptions
in order to be fully understood. Further attention will be drawn to the im-
portance of including the broader macro-level perspective in the analysis of
local patterns of risk and vulnerability. Pastoralists and the state in uence
each other in their different activities of managing risk. The governmental
risk discourse and state interventions are of utmost importance in recon-
guring pastoral risk scenarios. Therefore political-economic questions that
de ne power relations in pastoral settings need to be considered.
Risk as a social and political construct
In contrast to realist conceptions of risk that see risks as objective, measurable
and controllable threats, constructivist perspectives acknowledge that humans
perceive risks in different ways based on particular knowledge systems that
are bound to socio-cultural and historical contexts. This paper takes a weak
constructionist position and conceptualizes risks as objective threats that are
mediated through social and cultural processes (Lupton, 1999: 35). Risk per-
ception is linked to processes of identity construction and group formation
by the distinction between Self and Others (Douglas and Wildavsky, 1982;
Douglas, 1992). Douglas (1992) stresses the role of culturally shared notions of
risk that are based on social expectations and responsibilities.
The discursive construction of risk refers to speci c communicative prac-
tices of the (re-) production of collectively-held risk knowledge. A discourse
represents a speci c interpretation of reality in form of a narrative (Strydom,
2002: 110). It is ‘a bounded body of knowledge and associated practices, a
particular identi able way of giving meaning to reality via words or imagery’
(Lupton, 1999: 15). The discursive repertoire for the interpretation of the
July 2010 Pastoralism Vol. 1 No. 2
surrounding natural and social environment is constituted by typical narra-
tive patterns that derive their inner discursive coherence through a storyline,
a plot that integrates elements of the repertoire of interpretation.
The selection of discursive contents depends on the available knowledge,
interests and expectations towards the other, distrust and ignorance, socio-
cultural rules and power relations. The interface between external and local
risk discourses can be conceived as the arena where con ictive knowledge
systems, values and interests meet (Long and Long, 1992; Long, 2000). There-
fore, risk is a political concept, and risks are constantly contested concerning
their nature, their control and who is to blame for their creation (Tulloch and
Lupton, 2003; Strydom, 2002).
This last point will be taken up in the paper while contrasting governmental
and pastoral risk discourses. Three analytic categories will be distinguished:
1) Phenomena and causal relations: who de nes what as a risk? What are the
causal factors for the existence of these risks? How do power relations, trust
and interests of the actors in uence the selected risk phenomena?; 2) Respon-
sibility and blame: Who is given the responsibility for the containment of risks
and who is blamed for the existence of unacceptable risks?; 3) Evaluation and
decisions: How are risks evaluated and how do they shape decisions for risk
management (risk taking and/or risk prevention)?
Study area and methods
This analysis is based on an original empirical case study (Rettberg, 2009)
conducted during several eld trips from 2005–2007 among pastoral Afar
clans of Baadu, a wetland area within the middle Awash basin with an ap-
proximate size of 50 x 30 km and home to more than 20 clans (Figure 1). The
total period of eld work amounted to 12 months in which mainly quali-
tative methods were applied. Narrative and biographical interviews, group
discussions, selected tools of participatory rural appraisal (PRA) and ethno-
graphical methods of observation were combined in order to reveal the mul-
tiple realities of subjective risk perceptions as well as certain storylines within
collective discourses. The selection of interviewees aimed at a comprehensive
reconstruction of the social eld and followed the methodological approach
of theoretical sampling (Glaser and Strauss, 1967). The decisive criterion for
the selection of interviewees in this approach is the relevance for additional
ndings, not representativeness. Finally 53 interviews were transcribed and
analysed in terms of discursive patterns. The interviewees involved men and
women of different Afar clans as well as governmental representatives located
in Addis Ababa. A quantitative survey complemented the qualitative meth-
ods in order to validate the qualitative ndings and to come up with addi-
tional numeric information on the structural basic livelihood conditions.
Before heterogeneous risk narratives of Afar pastoralists and governmental
actors are expounded, the following section gives an overview of structural
changes in the Afar region of Ethiopia that threaten pastoral livelihoods.
Pastoralism Vol. 1 No. 2 July 2010
The Afar region: Changing context of insecurity
The Afar region is one of nine administrative regions of Ethiopia located
within the north-eastern lowlands, bordering Djibouti to the east and Eritrea
to the north (Figure 1). The area is characterized by a harsh climate with
temperatures up to 40°C, highly variable average precipitation between 5 and
600 mm annually, and recurrent droughts and oods. Under these condi-
tions mobile pastoralism is the dominant type of land use due to its high
adaptive capacity which is based on spatial mobility and exible use of dis-
persed pasture and water resources over space and time (Lewis, 1969; Kassa,
2001a). Most of the 1.4 million Afar who are the main inhabitants of the
region (Central Statistical Authority, 2008) depend on mixed stocks of cam-
els, cattle, sheep and goats. In the past only the Afar of the northern Aussa
sultanate were involved in irrigated agriculture along the Awash river which
Figure 1. Location of the case study area
July 2010 Pastoralism Vol. 1 No. 2
is one of the longest rivers of Ethiopia (1,200 km) originating in the humid
Ethiopian Highlands.
Since the middle of the 20th century the Afar region has become an arena of
diverse internal and international con icts due to increasing interventions of
external actors (Cossins, 1972; Bondestam, 1974; Said, 1997). These con icts
were mainly about the power to control land and water resources and to en-
force (geo-) political claims. While the Afar of Ethiopia wanted to maintain
their political autonomy, the state intended to consolidate its monopoly of
power in integrating peripheral regions like Afar into its state-building process
(Adou, 1993; Gebre-Mariam, 1994; Shehim, 1985). Taxes were levied and lo-
cal elites were co-opted so that local institutions were increasingly weakened.
In particular the fertile lands along the Awash became a bone of contention
between Afar clans and the state. With the establishment of large-scale cot-
ton farms by successive Ethiopian governments since the 1960s, traditional
communal grazing areas were transformed for commercialized irrigation ag-
riculture and pastoralists were increasingly displaced (Harbeson, 1978; Kassa,
2001a, b; Kloos, 1982a). At the same time roads were built, opening up the
region, and migrants from drought-stricken highland regions moved to the
lowland farms and road settlements in order to nd labour (Kloos, 1982b).
After the closing of the Ethiopian-Eritrean border in 2000 the main road be-
tween Addis Ababa and Djibouti port, which cuts across Afar region, became
the lifeline for the Ethiopian economy. Since the export trade of Ethiopia
depends almost exclusively on safe access to this road, military and police
forces have been deployed along the road (Figure 2).
As a border region between Djibouti, Eritrea and Somalia, Afar is also in the
middle of contested geopolitics. Its southern territories were and are claimed
by nationalists from Somalia to be part of the pan-Somalian state of a ‘greater
Somalia’ (Lewis, 1989); part of the northern territory of Afar was claimed by
Eritrea (Figure 2). These con icts erupted in several wars that resulted in a
massive in ux of small arms and a militarization of regional con icts. The
geopolitical con ict with Somalia is re ected in the internal violent con ict
between the Afar and the neighboring pastoral Issa-Somali clan group who
evicted the Afar from a large part of their grazing lands with minor interfer-
ence from the state (Hagmann and Mulugeta, 2008; Markakis, 2003).
In the past the study area of Baadu was an important agro-ecological
area due the constant availability of water and abundant fertile grasslands
(Nesbitt, 1934; Thesiger, 1935; Buxton, 1967) which served as dry season pas-
tures as well as drought retreats for pastoralists. The preferential resource base
sustained large cattle and camel herds, and the Afar from Baadu were known
to be among the wealthiest clans all over Afar. During the rainy season, when
large parts of Baadu were ooded, the pastoralists used to move with their
animals to the higher plateaus further east, the so called Alta-areas.
Since the 1970s several critical changes disturbed the traditional mi-
gration pattern and destabilized the socio-ecological system of Baadu. As
the most recent drought of 2002/2003 proved, the pastoralists of Baadu
Pastoralism Vol. 1 No. 2 July 2010
Figure 2. The Afar triangle as geopolitical hotspot
(Figure 3 and 4) have become extremely vulnerable to drought and the
decimated herds of cattle and camels, the livelihood base of the Afar, lack
currently the capacity to recover (Müller-Mahn and Rettberg, 2007). A sur-
vey in 2007 showed that only 9 per cent of all households in Baadu owned
more than 10 cattle while in the past households with less than 40 cattle
July 2010 Pastoralism Vol. 1 No. 2
were considered as poor (Rettberg, 2009). As to the internal wealth strati-
cation, most pastoralists in Baadu now belong to the poor (Tudagoyta) or
the destitute (Maskintu) who are affected by chronic food insecurity and
impoverishment. Against this background they have to reinterpret the
changing socioeconomic and ecological context in order to deal with the
new risk scenario and to adapt their livelihood system.
Figure 4. Camel pastoralists on rainy season pastures
Figure 3. Watering of cattle from shallow wells in Baadu
Pastoralism Vol. 1 No. 2 July 2010
Local risk discourse towards outsiders: ‘surrounded by enemies’
The dominant narrative presented towards outsiders, that is towards people
who are not Afar and who are not trusted by pastoral communities, focuses
on multiple external enemies that substantially threaten their key resources,
land and mobility. The following quotations represent the general storyline
of massive impoverishment and create the image of a ‘paradise lost’:
If you had seen how beautiful Baadu looked like before, we never
thought there were people who were better off than us. We were pour-
ing milk into the river because there was too much. (Afar Elder, 2005)
Baadu is in problem…. There is no more Baadu. The Woyane tree is
destroying Baadu. And now there is the ooding of Awash. We are be-
ing killed in all directions. The military kills us, the Issa kill us, and
then there is the government. There is nowhere to turn to. Baadu is
destroyed…There is no place to hide; there is no place to go. We can’t
go to the sky; we can’t go into the ground, unless we die. (Afar woman,
The use of metaphors like killing and destruction stresses the severity of
the livelihood crisis. During the last decades Afar clans have experienced
an enormous loss of land which they attribute to three ‘enemies’: the Issa-
Somali pastoralists, the invasive plant species Prosopis juli ora (Woyane) and
the government.
Confl ict and displacement
We are dying of hunger, we have no land. Old, wise men today, they are
crying. Their heart is bleeding in pain when they know how far they
have come from. (Elder, 2006)
Within the last 70 years the Afar clans from Baadu have been pushed about
150 km westwards by the Issa from their traditional rainy season pastures.
Currently they move with their animals all year long within a small radius
in and around their dry season rangelands in Baadu (Figure 5). Although
the con ict with the Issa involves further risks like the loss of human life in
clashes and the loss of animals in raids, the loss of land plays a prominent
role in the local perception, due to its economic as well as symbolic function.
Although all pastoralists lost family members in the con ict it is not names
of killed people but of lost territories that pastoralists repeatedly named in
interviews, places that symbolize their social identity.
The violent con ict with the Issa-Somali pastoralists has shaped the
centuries-old collective memory and everyday life of Afar pastoralists. The
narratives on the history of the con ict stress that, with the involvement
of international actors, the con ict intensi ed and changed from a resource
con ict towards a political-territorial con ict. The Afar elders perceive the
July 2010 Pastoralism Vol. 1 No. 2
invasion of Ethiopia by Italian colonial troops in 1936 as a rst turning point
in the history of the con ict which shifted the military power signi cantly
towards the Issa. In order to invade into Ethiopian territory the Italians used
the Issa as guides and foot soldiers and supported them with weapons and
military training. At the same the Italians started to attack the Afar who had
refused to collaborate (Markakis, 2003). Elders of Baadu recount the execu-
tion of clan leaders, the bombing of settlements and con scation of their
weapons by the Italians. A further intensi cation of the con ict followed
the independence of Somalia in 1960. With the intention to pursue their ir-
redentist interests to establish a ‘greater Somalia’ the Somalian government
strengthened the military capacity of the Issa who again served as foot sol-
diers during the Ogaden war 1977/78. Around that time the Afar sustained
massive territorial losses and towns like Mieso and important grazing areas
like Mulu had to be given up. Afar elders argue that since the failure of the
Somalian state at the beginning of the 1990s Issa have received their main
support from the Issa-governed Djibouti.
The discursive storyline focuses on the continuous support of the Issa by
several international governments while the Afar lack international as well as
national support. Elders contrast previous governmental border demarcation
efforts like the Erer River treaty during the imperial regime of Haile Selassie,
or the delineation and the enforcement of a border between Afar and Issa
30 km east of the main Addis Ababa-Djibouti road during the Derg military
regime, with the current inactivity of the EPRDF (Ethiopian Peoples Revolu-
tionary Democratic Front) regime. They are blamed for their indifference in
recognizing the political dimension of the con ict.
Figure 5. Change of migration patterns due to Issa-Somali expansion
Pastoralism Vol. 1 No. 2 July 2010
Environmental destruction: ‘Woyane’ and the river
While most rainy season pastures have been lost to the Issa, the dry sea-
son rangelands around the Awash river in Baadu have been largely invaded
by an exotic mimosa plant species, Prosopis juli ora, locally named Woyane.
The thorny drought- and salt-tolerant plant was introduced by the Ethiopian
government in the late 1980s around state farms and settlements in order to
improve the microclimate and give shade. After the collapse of state farms at
the beginning of the 1990s its spread grew totally out of control. From 2001–
2005 the area in Baadu covered by dense Prosopis juli ora forests more than
doubled and amounted to 83 km² (Romanciewicz, 2007). The infestation of
large areas of land had a massive detrimental effect on pastoral livelihoods
since Prosopis juli ora replaced native grass species, the main fodder resource
for cattle. Pastoralists partly explain the collapse and failed recovery of cattle
herds after the drought 2002/2003 by the expansion of Prosopis.
Local denominations of the plant are ‘Woyane Harar’ or ‘Deta Harar’.
While the latter is the Afar translation for ‘black tree’ due to its dark ever-
green appearance, ‘Woyane’ refers to the Tigrinean liberation movement
during the Derg and members of the Tigrinean Peoples Liberation Front
(TPLF) who are nowadays largely absorbed in the governing party of EPRDF.
This denomination might disclose the negative local perception of govern-
mental interventions. Both the plant and the state are perceived as invaders
into pastoral areas and threatening pastoral livelihood systems.
Next to the expansion of Prosopis juli ora pastoralists attribute the environ-
mental destruction of dry season pastures in Baadu to hydrological changes
(Figure 6). Seasonal oods are essential for pastoralists since they ensure the
Figure 6. Flooded Afar settlement surrounded by Prosopis julifl ora
July 2010 Pastoralism Vol. 1 No. 2
fertilization and regeneration of the grasslands along the Awash, but the es-
tablishment of irrigated state farms in Baadu in the 1970s accompanied by
infrastructural interventions to control and regulate the water distribution
disturbed the ood regime massively (Kloos, 1982a). Dams, dykes and irri-
gation channels changed temporal ooding patterns and reduced seasonal
ooding in some areas, while in other areas ooding increased exceptionally.
Local knowledge for dealing with oods became increasingly obsolete.
Currently, many of the dams and dykes are not maintained due to the
abandonment of most state farms after the fall of the Derg regime in 1991.
Due to recurrent dam breaks since the mid-1990s, the river changed its bed
and branched out, threatening Afar and migrants who had settled down be-
hind the dykes. The branching out was linked to a general decrease of water
discharge in the main river course while the total wetland area increased.
This increased the agricultural risk for Afar agro-pastoralists who had started
to grow maize along the main river after the drought of 2002/2003 and who
depend on irrigation by gravity. At the same time some areas are now perma-
nently covered by ood waters, increasing the risk for water-bourne diseases
and malaria and hampering the access to edible wild fruits of the swamp like
Orge, Furra and Burre, important drought foods in the past. Pastoralists argue
that the cumulative impact of a changed ood regime and the expansion
of ‘Woyane’ at the beginning of the 1990s marked a tipping point towards
chronic food security and impoverishment (Rettberg 2009).
Every time there is a famine, at the end of the drought animals used to
recover and we always had milk. But once this Deta Harar started cov-
ering the land things started getting worse and worse – some time ago
there was this ood water which covered a large area. What remained
and recovered after Matalea (drought 1983/84) started dying again with
this ood water. The number of animals that died in Baadu, except for
God, nobody could count the number. This ood water burned the veg-
etation, then Deta Harar started growing, covering the area even more.
Since then animals never stopped dying and they stopped giving milk.
(Afar woman, 2005)
Health risks for humans and animal herds have increased greatly due to the
worsening of the water quality in combination with the loss of access to drier
places further east during the rainy season. The environmental changes are
discursively translated into images of destruction and death indicating the
environmental collapse that is taking place.
The signifi cance of drought risk
Droughts as such are not mentioned when pastoralists talk to outsiders about
the reasons for their livelihood crises. Still, several observations of internal
routines indicate that drought poses a serious risk for pastoralists. The avail-
ability of rains and pastures are a main topic of Daagu, the institutionalized
Pastoralism Vol. 1 No. 2 July 2010
form of everyday communication between Afar from all over the region
that serves as a fast and reliable informal early warning system. Further-
more traditional soothsayers (Ginille) and astrologers (Hutuk-Beya) predict
the coming rains and con icts with Issa based on reading the stars or their
spiritual connection with ghosts. Although during a PRA risk ranking exer-
cise drought was similarly ranked to the risk of Issa (Rettberg, 2009), Afar
show no interest in including the obvious concern about the risk of drought
in their communication when talking to outsiders. Droughts are perceived
as the will of God, as an unavoidable part in the cycle of life from growth
to death. For time immemorial there have always been droughts and suf-
fering, followed by periods of recovery. But droughts never threatened the
collective survival of the clan whereas the recent socio-ecological changes
do. In narratives about the history of droughts, pastoralists emphasize that
current droughts are neither more severe nor more frequent than in the
past. Instead, they explain their impoverishment as due to the impact of
external ‘enemies’ like Prosopis juli ora and Issa:
Today the Issas brought us here to the side of the river. Here, once you
loose your animals, there is nothing to eat. You have nowhere to take
your remaining animals. … It is not because the famines in the past
were less intense, it is just we had more land for pasture. … There have
always been famines in the past but there were places to go to for ref-
uge. (Afar Elder, 2006)
Responsibility and blame: the state as enemy
Responsibility for the current livelihood crisis and increasing pastoral vul-
nerability is mainly directed at the state. Pastoralists construct an image of
governments that misuse their power, ignore pastoral rights, disturb pastoral
livelihoods and lack any form of legitimacy.
‘The government is killing us’ was a typical comment made by Afar pas-
toralists. This refers to recurrent violent clashes over political control and
power between the governmental forces and pastoralists, as well as to the
everyday experience of governmental violence that has shaped the collective
memory of the Afar from Baadu during the 20th century. Combats and fatal
casualties were mostly triggered by governmental efforts to con scate weap-
ons. A case in point is a ght during 1991 in and near Gewane town in which
several soldiers and up to 30 Afar were killed. Due to repeated incidences of
armed raids on trucks along the main road, a bill was passed in 2003 prohib-
iting the wearing of guns along both sides of the road, and military forces
were stationed there to enforce the new law. This resulted in repeated clashes
between soldiers and armed Afar herders who tried to cross the road with
their animals in order to reach the Alta-pastures further east. The defence
capacity of the herders is essential for the collective survival of the clan. With-
out machineguns they become an easy target for attacks by Issa pastoralists.
While the government tried to contain the risk of raids and of disturbance of
July 2010 Pastoralism Vol. 1 No. 2
foreign trade, new risks for Afar pastoralists were created. Now they take the
risk of clashing with the soldiers when crossing the road in order to minimize
the risk of fatal casualties and animal losses due to Issa.
Furthermore, the pastoralists perceive themselves as ‘forgotten people’
and distrust governmental interventions due to the past experiences of
socio-political marginalization and expropriation of land. A mixture of
disappointment and anger characterizes this discursive storyline which
argues that governmental interventions have ignored and still ignore pas-
toral interests. Governmental interventions are perceived as unjust since
they do not support but instead marginalize pastoral livelihoods. This
point plays an increasingly big role in the local risk perception due to the
experience of a growing powerlessness, vulnerability and dependence on
external actors. The allegation of injustice refers especially to the govern-
ment’s general non-intervention into the Afar-Issa con ict which is inter-
preted as indirect support of the Issa:
Looking at the history of governments we feel they have always been on
the side of the Issa. We have good reasons to say this. The government
knows the Issa is killing us in our own territory. It is in our own homes
that he comes and kills us, takes our animals. When the government sees
this they could tell the Issa to stop killing us and stop raiding our animals
in our own homes. So, the government seems to say whoever is power ful
should win and the government just keeps quiet and does nothing to
protect us. (Afar clan leader, 2005)
From the perspective of the Afar pastoralists the governmental establish-
ment of Afar-Issa Peace committees only encourages corruption of the par-
ticipating clan elders and Woreda (district) of cials who receive per diems
and the popular social drug chat on attending the committee meetings,
without tackling the root causes of the con ict (Hagmann and Mulugeta,
2008). Government of cials at local and regional levels are blamed for an
illegitimate appropriation of funds and food aid, increasing the risk of food
insecurity for large parts of the clans, while only some clan members, gener-
ally the clan leaders and some elders, pro t due to patron-client networks.
It can be summarized that a two-sided image of governmental mismanage-
ment is constructed: On the one hand the corrupt and violent interventions
of governmental actors like the military are seen as posing signi cant direct
risks to the livelihood security of Afar clans. On the other hand the govern-
ment is made accountable for the existence and creation of risks like the
territorial expansion of Issa. A storyline is created by the pastoralists in which
irresponsible governments did not and do not support the Afar in their ght
against their external enemies, instead they themselves turn out to be an
In the risk discourse towards outsiders a powerful image is created in which
the livelihood system of pastoralism is threatened by a total collapse due to
forces beyond their capacity:
Pastoralism Vol. 1 No. 2 July 2010
Unless the Afar start growing something out of the ground, there is
no hope for the people. There is a threat of extinction of these people
due to hunger. We will probably only be found in history books in the
future, saying‚ there used to exist people called Afar. … Here, as you
can see, every where is covered by Woyane tree, over there the area is
occupied by the Issas, so, where can the livestock graze? They can’t
eat stones. Thousands upon thousands of livestock have perished three
years ago. (Afar clan leader, 2006)
Socio-spatial differences in risk evaluation
Despite the strong collectivity of the risk discourse towards outsiders that
stresses Issa, ‘Woyane’, health risks and bad governance, risk evaluations are
not always homogenous. These differences are mainly linked to factors like
age, gender, livelihood strategies and geographical exposition. Wealth as a
differentiating factor plays currently only a minor role due to the widespread
impoverishment of pastoralists in Baadu.
The gendered formation of risk discourses results mainly out of differences
in institutionalized division of labour, speci c roles and responsibilities as
well as different entitlements to access resources. Gender relations in Afar are
highly asymmetric as can be seen for example in ownership rights, laws, and
decision patterns which favour men. In this unequal context women gener-
ally depend on the economic support of husbands or male relatives. Since
the main responsibility of women is the feeding of the family, they are much
more concerned than men about the risk of food insecurity and health risks
due to polluted water. Based on this different evaluation of risks, it is primar-
ily women who are engaged in income-generating activities like picking cot-
ton in order to substitute milk de cits through the sale of grain. Men tend
to stress factors like the threat of Issa since their life is directly threatened in
the con icts. A speci c risk factor for women is the increasing consumption
of chat, a mild narcotic leaf, which became a common habit in Afar in the
1970s. Men are spending large amounts of money on its consumption, so
that less money remains for the necessary purchase of food items:
For as long as we remember, it is always women who face more hardship
and do more work. ... Men, all they worry about is where they are going
to get the money to buy chat. … Women on the other hand, everything
they sell, they bring money for their family. (Afar woman, 2005)
A further physical threat results from the harmful practice of female geni-
tal mutilation (FGM) which is performed all over Afar region as part of Afar
culture (Afar Aada). Although the mortality of women during childbirth is
extremely high, while many suffer from infections and anaemia, women do
not broach the issue of FGM in their narratives of risk and vulnerability.
Instead they defend FGM due to the cultural embeddedness of this practice
and its social bene t. Physical risks are evaluated as less threatening that the
risk of social exclusion and dishonour.
July 2010 Pastoralism Vol. 1 No. 2
While differences in risk evaluation at the household level arise especially
from demographic factors like sex and age, different livelihood strategies are
major reasons for differences in risk evaluation at the village level, as can
be seen in a comparison between Maheisara clan members living as agro-
pastoralists in a sedentary settlement along the Awash river (Inti-Adoyta) and
mobile pastoralists living in a settlement 3 km distant from the river (Leas)
(Figure 7).
The agro-pastoralists are not as directly exposed to the threat by Issa, com-
pared to the mobile pastoralists who are in the frontline when they move
with their camels and cattle to pastures in Alta areas. Agro-pastoralists instead
are dominantly concerned with the expansion of Prosopis juli ora along the
Awash which requires a constantly high input of human labour in order to
clear the land and prevent a quick regrowth. The high dependency on regu-
lar seasonal oods makes them extremely vulnerable to changes in the ood
regime. Another threat consists in warthogs that browse on the maize and
destroy much of the yields. These factors are of no concern for pastoralists
who are mainly concerned with strategies to access pastures, despite the risk
of Issa and military forces.
The internal local risk discourse: erosion of local institutions
The prophet asked: Who will be the rst to enter to paradise? The lead-
ers and the judges. Then he asked: And who will be the rst to go to
hell? The leaders and the judges. (Afar Elder, 2005)
The way risks are conceptualized in casual conversations within the clan soci-
ety shows additional discursive elements and different storylines which deal
far more with processes of social fragmentation and loss of social resilience
due to the weakening of local institutions.
Figure 7. Socio-spatial differences in risk evaluation
1. Prosopis
2. Warthogs
3. Water
4. Issa
Increasing significance
1. Issa
2. Prosopis
3. Military
4. Chat
Pastoralism Vol. 1 No. 2 July 2010
After the collapse of the Derg military regime in the 1991, the state cotton
farms and cooperative farms in Baadu were abandoned. A few years later some
Afar clans claimed their traditional customary land rights and started to lease
out their clan land to private agricultural investors, mostly from the Ethio-
pian highlands. This process was fuelled by the increased scarcity of pasture
land along the Awash due to ecological changes and processes of impoverish-
ment. While pastoralism became less feasible, the importance of non-pastoral
income sources increased. Land was not only perceived as a common pasture
resource anymore, but had acquired a monetary value. This process of land
commodi cation and monetarization radically altered traditional common
property regimes. Exclusive forms of land tenure appeared next to common
grazing areas, and territorial claims became a highly contested topic among
Afar clans (Kassa, 2001a, b; Rettberg, 2009) leading to a signi cant increase in
violent clan con icts over land along the river (Figure 8).
Clans legitimize exclusive lease contracts with investors through their
traditional land rights and the differentiation between indigenous clans
and newcomers:
In the old good days there was plenty for everybody and everybody
lived and shared together. Today there seem to be divisions and dif-
ferences between those who have and those who have not. Everyone
wants his own clan to get something and doesn’t care about the other
clan. We didn’t have such things before. It is a new phenomenon. …
And those clans who are remaining they ask: ‘So, why aren’t we includ-
ed in this agreement? This is our land to which I am native. You came
later than me, so how can you give the land without my knowledge?’
Those things make con ict. (Clan leader, 2005)
These con icts threaten the social cohesion of the pastoral clan society
and play a major role within the internal risk discourse. New values and prac-
tices focusing on the exclusive acquisition of monetary pro t are currently
con icting with the egalitarian ‘culture of sharing’ supported by traditional
values like solidarity, cooperation, reciprocal arrangements and collective
wealth. At the same time, wealth differences within the clans increase, since
only the clan leaders and a few elders bene t. They make the lease contracts
with the investors, and they receive monthly salaries (300–600 Ethiopian
Birr, equivalent to USD $27–55) from investors in order to prevent unrest
within the clan which could threaten agricultural production. The increasing
in ow of nancial capital and the growth of pro t-oriented behaviour give
rise to a social differentiation between few winners and many losers. There-
fore, the majority of impoverished pastoralists have a negative perception of
the commodi cation process and the current change of values.
A further reduction of social capital, a key factor for collective coping
capacity in order to buffer crisis situations, threatens not only their economic
survival but also the symbolic-cultural basis of their collective clan identity.
This situation of eroding values is especially troubling for the older generation
July 2010 Pastoralism Vol. 1 No. 2
who is unsettled by an increasing loss of orientation. The elders complain
rst of all about the ‘weakness and irresponsibility’ of the clan leaders who
are blamed for the loss of social unity and solidarity, and secondly about the
young herders who are not carrying out their traditional duties.
The clan leaders are considered to be sel sh, greedy and co-opted since they
are highly enmeshed with investors and the regional government of Afar
from whom they receive salaries. Therefore, the clan questions the leaders’
capacity and willingness to act for their collective welfare and feels threatened
that they are not being fairly represented anymore. In this context Mablo, the
local institution for con ict resolution and jurisdiction based on customary
Figure 8. Violent confl icts within Baadu
Pastoralism Vol. 1 No. 2 July 2010
law (Afar Maada), becomes increasingly ineffective and incapable of solving
the current land con icts. Mablo judgements by clan leaders and elders of
different clans are shaped by mutual distrust and suspiciousness among the
judges who are themselves involved in the con icts: ‘Now Mablo is not done
anymore in the same way it used to be. Some Makabans (clan leaders) are tied
with some groups; the others are tied with interest with others. So they can’t
give justice, and in the middle people are suffering’. (Sheik, 2005)
A case in point is the land con ict between the Mesara and Galaela clans
that peaked in March 2005 when heavily armed Mesara ambushed Igille
(Figure 8), a Galaela settlement, early in the morning and killed and wound-
ed more than 10 people. The pastoral interpretation of the con ict causes
expounded the strong nexus between clan politics and economic interests.
Pastoralists were convinced that powerful Afar politicians of the regional gov-
ernment had instrumentalized their rural clan relatives in Baadu in order to
pursue their own economic interest, which was control over the valuable
land resources. This incident resulted in massive uncertainty among pastoral-
ists in Baadu, since it threatened the unity of the clans in Baadu, a unity that
is essential to cooperate during pasture migrations and ghts with the Issa.
Distrust among the clan leaders led to protraction of the following Mablo ne-
gotiations over several weeks so that no nal decision could be made. Finally
the con ict could only be resolved through external interference of a highly
respected Afar from the northern sultanate of Aussa, who was considered to
be neutral. He resolved the con ict in replacing the some of the clan leaders
in Mablo with clan leaders from the north of Afar. He states:
The reason the people before me could not solve this problem is be-
cause the person who was given this responsibility is also the bene -
ciary of the investors, and some of the elders who were in the Mablo
get salary from the investors as well. So when I realized that those who
were leading this Mablo had their hands up to this with the interest
they get from the investors I decided a neutral group should look into
these problems. … To me, the Elders in Baadu have either tasted money
or at least they smelled it, and so do the government of cials who were
in charge of this Mablo. (Elder, 2005)
Another aspect of the institutional destabilization refers to increasing in-
cidences of young herders (Figure 9) not protecting the animals on distant
pastures, steering a generational con ict between the elders and the young.
The elders blame the young for breaking the rules and preferring individual
pleasures like the consumption of chat in urban areas over the rough life on
the pastures:
Today we are facing problems, not speaking with one voice, not respect-
ing each other, disobeying each other. So, the Afars today are confused.
They don’t know why things are the way they are. Is it for fear of Issa,
is it because of addiction to chewing chat by many? ... Today the Afars
have become weak. We don’t know whether they are scared of Issas or
July 2010 Pastoralism Vol. 1 No. 2
they no longer like their animals. They keep going to towns, leaving
the animals on their own. The reason the Issa keeps taking our animals
is because there are no young men protecting our animals. They are all
in towns. (Leader of Fiima, 2006)
The leader of the Fiima, the local institution for the control and imple-
mentation of traditional Afar rules and the preservation of collective values
and norms, stresses the erosion of traditional values like solidarity, mutual
sharing and respect that prioritize the clan’s collective welfare over individual
interests. The absence of young herders decreases the clan’s capacity to pro-
tect its collective wealth of animals against Issa and threatens the livelihood
insecurity of the whole clan.
Governmental risk discourse: drought, degradation and
From the perspective of governmental institutions, pastoralists threaten
national security and integrity since they question the governmental legiti-
macy and monopoly of power. Afar region is perceived as a political trouble
spot, a perception which is rooted in the historic experiences of the Ethiopian
state that was continuously challenged by the Afars’ violent resistance against
political subordination.
The current federal risk management is mainly in uenced by the Disaster
Prevention and Preparedness Agency (DPPA) as coordinator of the drought
Figure 9. Young Afar warriors
Pastoralism Vol. 1 No. 2 July 2010
early warning system and the distribution of food aid, the Ministry of Agri-
culture and Rural Development (MoARD) responsible for the implementa-
tion of development activities and the Ministry of Federal Affairs (MoFA)
as coordinator of development activities in the so-called emerging regions
(Afar, Somali, Benishangul-Gumuz, Gambella). In the shared discourse of
these governmental actors, Afar region is generally perceived as a culturally
and economically backward region, characterized by an inef cient way of
production and an archaic way of life, which needs to be developed:
The main problem is now in Afar in terms of development, the pas-
toral community is dependent on its livestock. I feel the production
technology that our pastoral communities use is very backward, and
when drought comes it doesn’t have a secured amount of food at stock
which came from the last year cropping season. And also the family
size is not small … a husband can marry some two or three, and maybe
that also created the population size beyond the capacity of the house-
hold. So because of this the population is not able to withstand any
drought. … If you see Afar, most of the people they are not educated
and because of that they are under the in uence of their cultural way
of living. They can’t take new technologies, new improved ways of life,
of production as easily as any educated population. … A serious food
shortage happens mainly because of some times drought and the effect
of the production system by itself. It is backward production; we don’t
have improved varieties, improved technologies. So these are the main
constraints in the region. (a State Minister MoFA, 2005)
The explanation of famine crises by the State Minister builds on neomal-
thusian chains of argumentation in which famines are traced back to
droughts coupled with high population growth and maladapted pastoral
land use systems, leading to overgrazing and hunger. In stressing natural
factors like drought and soil degradation due to pastoral mismanagement
of land, political causal factors and political responsibility are downplayed.
The discursive emphasis on natural hazards like drought assures massive
nancial grants from international donors that account for a substantial
part of the Ethiopian budget. It legitimizes food aid as well as climate
change adaptation interventions like the National Adaptation Programme
of Action (NAPA) that aims at strengthening adaptation capacities in or-
der to deal with the projected increase of climate variability (droughts and
oods) in pastoral areas (FDRE, 2007). In arguing that pastoralists are back-
ward and lack autonomous adaptation capacities, due to low education
and conservative attitudes, governmental actors claim the responsibility to
take decisions for the bene t of the pastoralists. In this storyline, notions
of modernity and civilization serve as positive opposite poles and devel-
opment objectives. References to pastoral backwardness are tightly linked
to the governmental technocratic development discourse that focuses on
modernization and improved technologies. Against this background the
July 2010 Pastoralism Vol. 1 No. 2
socio-spatial polarization between uncivilized pastoralists and modern,
civilized highland citizens can be understood as a strategy to legitimize
paternalistic interventions that enforce state control, consolidate state
power and disempower pastoral groups. Eventually the discourse justi es
policies that seek to transform nomadic pastoralists into civilized settled
agro-pastoralists who are submissive to governmental law and order.
The analyses of papers that guide governmental development strategies like
the Poverty Reduction Strategy (FDRE, 2006) or the Food Security Strategy
(FDRE, 2002) indicate that the preservation of mobile pastoral livelihood sys-
tems is undesirable:
58. The goals of agricultural activities in pastoral areas are: increasing
livestock farm productivity and improving the welfare of the people
through voluntary and non-coercive settlement in consultation with
local communities. This necessitates integrated intervention programs
and setting up a culturally acceptable mechanism to oversee the utiliza-
tion and manage ment of resources …
61. Though livestock is a primary focus for pastoral communities,
diversi cation into sedentary agriculture and off-farm activities is
necessary for sustainable livelihoods. Thus due consideration will
be given to mobilize local communities to develop small-scale irri-
gation schemes in order to create a sedentary life and engage them in
crop farming and hence ensure that the area is conducive enough to
encourage settlement. (FDRE 2002: 18 f)
While current policy papers indicate the new attention given to pastoral
areas and criticize the previous pastoral development approaches for their
repressive top-down interventions, a strategic reorientation is missing. The
overarching vision of the federal government is still a transformation of no-
madic pastoral societies into settled agro-pastoralists through sedentarization
along the banks of the rivers (FDRE, 2002; FDRE, 2006).
Narratives of risk and vulnerability: discursive strategies
Concerning selected risk phenomena and questions of responsibility and
blame, a comparison between governmental and local narratives of risk and
vulnerability shows signi cant differences as well as similarities. First of all,
local and governmental perceptions and evaluations of risk differ a lot. The
main governmental narrative stresses drought and pastoral backwardness,
factors which are not perceived as key risks by locals. A tendency to natural-
ize the nature of risks by external actors is confronted with a strong political
discourse by local actors. Discursive commonalities are limited to risk fac-
tors like the signi cance of health risks, problems of water provision and
food scarcity. It can be assumed that this is not enough to nd a common
language that enables the development of adequate solutions for the current
Pastoralism Vol. 1 No. 2 July 2010
problem scenario. Governmental actors rarely communicate the root causes
of collective pastoral impoverishment and increased vulnerability to the out-
side. This does not mean that they are not aware of the signi cance of the
Afar-Issa con ict or the expansion of Prosopis juli ora, but they omit these
factors in order not to deal with their own responsibility for the generation
and control of these risks. An intervention into the Afar-Issa con ict threat-
ens the national security and unity since it would probably cause additional
political con icts with the Issa-governed state of Djibouti and the regional
government of Somali. Instead, in de ning certain risks which seem to be
natural and unaccountable, the governmental stakeholders stabilize their
power position and legitimize authoritarian development interventions in
the pastoral lowlands.
A joint strategic element of local and external actors refers to the discursive
externalization of risks, whereas the actors’ own contribution to the genera-
tion and existence of pastoral livelihood risks is ignored. While the state holds
the backwardness of Afar pastoralists responsible for the pastoral livelihood
crisis, pastoralists blame the state for its ignorance and policy of marginaliza-
tion. State and pastoralists use this discursive strategy of blaming external
actors as a political instrument to gain social control. The pastoral discourse
towards outsiders emphasizes the threat that the clan society will become
extinct due to forces beyond their capacity. This strategy of constructing a
common victimization and the strong dissociation from ‘the others’ serves to
strengthen the collective identity and mutual loyalty, pastoral values which
are severely endangered by recently experienced processes of social and insti-
tutional disintegration.
In this light, the risk discourse towards outsiders can also be seen as a
communicative strategy to deal with internal risks. On the other hand,
external actors blame the pastoralists in order to gain greater control over
the pastoralists who ‘mismanage and destroy their environment in an in-
ef cient way’ so that external interventions have greater legitimacy. Strat-
egies of mutual blaming are connected to a discursive social polarization
between highlanders and pastoralists that reproduces the existing asym-
metric relations of power. While pastoralists are polarized between victims
and perpetrators, governmental actors make the distinction between un-
civilized savages and civilized citizens. The social polarization is support-
ed by heterogeneous spatial representations. While pastoralists perceive
Afar region as a ‘region at risk’, external actors create an image of a ‘region
of risk’. In a context of mutual blaming, stereotypes and distrust between
the state and the pastoralists, the question of accountability and the im-
plications for necessary agency are severely contested. In order to manage
future livelihood risks and food insecurity, the governmental discourse
stresses the necessity for the ‘backward’ pastoralists to change and adapt,
while the pastoralists require a change in governmental interventions
and attitude. Neither external nor local actors take responsibility for the
creation of risk, its control and containment.
July 2010 Pastoralism Vol. 1 No. 2
Narratives of risk and vulnerability are not simply representations of
perceived threats, but they are also representations of asymmetric power
relations between the agents of communication. Therefore, the local risk
discourse towards outsiders and the internal discourse differ signi cantly.
The pastoralists’ emphasis of collective suffering and being at risk of mul-
tiple external enemies also is also intended to attract support from more
powerful outsiders. While factors of internal social destabilization like the
increasing con icts among clans, the widening social differentiation and
the weakening of local institutions are not mentioned in this context,
they are of major importance within the clan-internal discourse which
is embedded in egalitarian structures of communication characterized by
mutual trust and balanced power relations. The common interest of inter-
nal routine communication consists in social risk management, aimed at
the reproduction of internal resources of livelihood security, especially the
generation of social capital and collective knowledge.
This article has argued that local agency can only be understood against the
background of a highly complex risk scenario, where pastoralists constantly
interpret, evaluate and weigh multiple risks in order to take decisions that
inform their social practices. In the process of coping and adaptation, risk
trade-offs take place, some risks are avoided while others are taken. Local risk
management is geared at securing access to pasture resources, income and
food as well as to strengthen local institutions. In this respect, the con icts
with Issa and the state have proved to be of major signi cance for the local
constitution of risk, while drought plays only a minor role in local discourses.
In 2006 food aid was partly sold by responsible clan elders in order to buy
weapons and increase the defense capacity of the young herders.
The fundamental discursive differences between the state and pastoralists
are re ected in different risk management strategies that show no coherence
and are even partly contradictory. The state’s discursive risk construction of
‘pastoral backwardness’ in cultural and economic terms legitimizes authoritari-
an interventions that intend to transform mobile pastoralists into sedentarized
and urbanized agro-pastoralists and wage-labourers. In 2009 two large dams
(Tendaho and Kessem) were established by the government in order to grow
sugarcane on 80,000 ha, evicting pastoralists from their prime grazing land
along the Awash river. Furthermore, the governmental con scation of weap-
ons through military and police forces along the road to Djibouti originated
from the objective to guarantee security and to reduce the risk of ambushes
on trucks. Again, this intervention resulted in additional risks for pastoralists
who depend on their weapons in order to protect their animals from attacks
by Issa-Somali. It can be concluded that the general failure of governmental
interventions for disaster prevention and poverty reduction can be attributed
Pastoralism Vol. 1 No. 2 July 2010
to a lack of understanding of the current risk scenario complexity, especially
its political dimension, and the socio-spatial differentiation of risks that Afar
pastoralists face in their everyday life. Instead, as a side effect of governmental
interventions, new risks are produced that gradually undermine pastoral cop-
ing capacities and resilience. The negative costs of modernization and national
food security have to be paid by the pastoralists. Against this background the
pastoralists in Baadu perceive the state as illegitimate and ignorant since its
interventions do not re ect their needs and interests. Although the govern-
mental promotion of small-scale irrigated agriculture, the provision of food aid
or infrastructural measures like the establishment of schools and health posts
may result in isolated improvements for some pastoralists, they are not ad-
equate to tackle the root causes of pastoral vulnerability and marginalization.
From this perspective also the current governmental climate change initiatives
appear to be quite ambivalent.
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UN OCHA (United Nations Of ce for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) (2007)
The future of Pastoralism in Ethiopia. Addis Ababa.
... In addition, frequent and severe droughts were perceived to be responsible for the reduction in water level in Lake Baringo as well as intermittency of most rivers which had been permanent in the past. Vulnerability of most pastoralists has been made worse by the fact that their livelihood systems have been constrained by frequent conflicts over natural resources (Rettberg, 2010). Climate variability and change has heavily impacted on livestock production which is the main source of livelihood to most of the pastoralists. ...
... In Ethiopia, the Afar clans from Baadu have been pushed 150km westwards by the Issa from their traditional rainy season pastures (Rettberg, 2010). Further exacerbating the lost rainy season pastures is the invasion of the pasturelands by exotic species, for ...
... instance Prosopis juliflora (Rettberg, 2010). This is a drought and salt tolerant plant which was introduced in 1980s to give cover to bare lands but instead have grew totally out of control. ...
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The expected global temperature increase, more intense rainfall and more frequent droughts will have devastating effects on pastoral livelihoods. The economy of the affected areas also dwindle in the event of these calamities considering that droughts and diseases resulting from floods affect the health of livestock which is the major source of livelihood for the pastoralists. The aim of this study was to investigate the impacts of climate variability and the resulting vector-borne diseases on pastoral livelihoods from 1971 to 2010 in Marigat district, Baringo County. The study hypothesized that there is no relationship between rainfall patterns and number of cases of selected vector-borne diseases over the study period. The study adopted both descriptive and explanatory research design while data sampling involved stratified random sampling procedure (Stratum 1 being Marigat division and stratum 2 being Mukutani division). This study utilized household structured questionnaires administered through pure random sampling with 136 households participating in the study, institutional questionnaires as well as collection of secondary data from various sources as methods of data collection. A number of bivariate comparisons of variables related to pastoral livelihoods were done. These includes t-test to compare means of variable on pastoralists demographic such as age between the two strata, ANOVA analysis to compare for significant differences in the cases of Rift Valley Fever (RVF) disease between the four sub- locations, correlation analysis to test the relationship between rainfall amounts with number of cases of vector-borne diseases, and Chi-square test (χ2) to test cross-tabulated data on variables such as perception of pastoralists on trends of climatic variables and socio-economic variables between the 2 strata. The Chi-square test was used to assess for homogeneity or similarity on categorical response variables between the study strata. The correlation results of this study indicated that apart from Heartwater (p=-0.403, sig=0.012 and N=38), other veterinary diseases had no relationship with the rainfall amount {Trypanosomiasis (p=-0.224, sig=0.189 and N=36), Babesiosis (p=-0.124, sig=0.457 and N=38), Anaplasmosis (p=-0.156, sig=0.351 and N=38) and East Coast Fever (p=-0.224, sig=0.176 and N=38)}. However, graphical plots depict the existence of relationships with disease cases either increasing or decreasing in frequency with a corresponding increase or decrease in rainfall amount. Chi-square results showed a strong statistically significant difference between the responses in strata 1 and 2 on the perceived trend of rainfall and floods towards the future (rainfall: χ2= 41.230, df= 3, p= 0.000 and floods: χ2= 24.903, df= 3, p= 0.000). Also, there was no statistically significant difference between the perception of the respondents in Strata 1 and 2 on the trend of tsetse flies (χ2= 0.115, df= 3, p= 0.990) and Stomoxys (χ2= 6.677. df= 3, p= 0.83) while significant difference were observed on the trend of Tabanids (χ2= 20.240, df= 3, p= 0.000) , Culicoides (χ2= 23.863, df=3, p= 0.000) and Sand flies (χ2= 15.429, df= 3, p= 0.001). Increase in disease cases could be attributed to climate variability. The study recommends the need to put in place contingency measures for reccurrence of diseases, floods and droughts and strengthening local institutions to be able to deal with climatic disasters resulting from climate variability and change. Regular monitoring of weather, vectors and diseases are also recommended.
... Many people were not registered to residences, but were nevertheless highly mobile. A range of more qualitative work on nomadic and semi-nomadic populations confirm a widespread decline in nomadic lifestyles over the last century, particularly since the 1970s-from the Dasenech peoples who lived along the Omo River in Southern Ethiopia (Carr 1977) to the Somali pastoralists in the East (Devereux 2006) to the Afar peoples of the Northeastern drylands (Rettberg 2010; see also Lautze et al 2006;Hagmann and Mulugeta 2008;Piguet and Pankhurst 2019). These studies show how the rise of the modern Ethiopian state disrupted the traditional political and economic systems of pastoral or agro-pastoral communities. ...
... Some people are directly displaced and compensated by the government for their lost lands, while others are indirectly marginalized by such projects, excluded from resources that historically supported their livelihoods. The sedentarization of nomadic populations is one consequence, as land seizure for new economic projects or national parks make nomadic lifestyles less and less viable (seeRettberg 2010;Devereux, 2006;Lautze et al 2006; Haggman and Mulugeta 2008;Pankhurst and Piguet 2009).This and the previous section emphasize the drivers of displacement: political conflict, famine, resettlement schemes and other forms of development-induced displacement. However, each of Ethiopia's three regimes also pursued different visions for Ethiopia's economic development that fundamentally reshaped livelihood opportunities and constraints across the country and stimulated new forms of voluntary migration, both internal and international. ...
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This article examines the impact of Ethiopia’s historical development on the nature, volume, and direction of internal and international migration. We describe three important trends associated with an emerging ‘mobility transition’: the sedentarization of nomadic and semi-nomadic populations; the urbanization of internal migration trajectories; and the diversification of international migration. Within these overarching trends, we discuss periods of political conflict, resettlement, and famine that led to significant internal and international displacement. We then explore the drivers of these mobility shifts, evaluating the relative influence of various political, economic, cultural, and technological developments on migration patterns over time. Our analyses distinguish between the deep drivers of an emerging mobility transition (e.g. nation-state formation, rising educational attainment, infrastructure development, and industrialization) and the drivers of displacement (e.g. political conflict or resettlement programs) that can suddenly affect the movements of large population segments. This detailed case study contributes to a growing body of research on the ‘mobility transition’ by revealing how a society’s entire mobility complex changes—not only levels of international migration—as the social transformations associated with modern-day development proceed.
... The changes we are looking at is e.g., a shift from large to small ruminants to increase resilience in times of drought, and the impact on grazing and feed management caused by this shift. There are also other changes that have aggravated shortages of grazing lands making it harder for pastoralists to adapt accordingly (Rettberg, 2010;Schmidt and Pearson, 2016;Tilahun et al., 2017). 3. ...
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Participatory action research (PAR) puts high emphasis on the interaction of the research participants. However, with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020, the central role of researchers in participatory research processes had to be questioned and revisited. New modes of PAR developed dynamically under the new circumstances created by the pandemic. To better understand how Covid-19 changed the way PAR is applied, we analyzed PAR in agricultural research for development carried out in the Programme for Climate-Smart Livestock Systems (PCSL) implemented by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) at five research sites in Kenya, Ethiopia, and Uganda. To understand how PAR changed in a component on adaptation research in the PCSL we facilitated a reflexive study with livestock keepers and researchers to document their experiences of PAR during the Covid-19 pandemic. The analytical framework focuses on highlighting the core characteristics and the underlying ethos of PAR in this case study. The lessons learnt in the process of adapting to the realities of doing participatory research in the middle of a pandemic provide important arguments for further amalgamating the PAR philosophy into similar research designs. The onset of the pandemic has led to a further decentering of the researcher and a shift of the focus to the citizen, in this case the local livestock keeper, that made it more participatory in the stricter interpretation of the term. Letting go of controlling both narrative and implementation of the research will be challenging for researchers in many research fields. However, this shift of power and this transformation of research methodologies is inevitable if the research should remain relevant and impactful. Ultimately, the transition into a Covid-19 future and the awareness that similar pandemics could dramatically interrupt our lives any time, will have an impact on how projects are designed and funded. More long-term funding and less pressure on providing immediate results can build community trust and ownership for research at a local level.
... In addition, the "local" perspective is obscured by the images portrayed of extreme poverty among communities in need of external help from Western countries and NGOs, reinforced, following Bell (2013) and Straubhaar (2015), by the patronizing role that foreign aid organizations often play as donors. As Rettberg (2010) documented for a similar case in the Ethiopian Afar region: ...
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River modifications through hydropower dams and other infrastructure have far-reaching economic, ecological and social effects that are viewed in highly contrasting ways depending on underlying narratives. As part of a Euro-African research consortium funded by the European Commission we studied pathways for sustainable river basin management in the Omo-Turkana basins in Ethiopia and Kenya. Based on a literature review, stakeholder workshops, targeted interviews and considering our own positionality, we identified underlying narratives related to (a) economic transformation and modernization, (b) indigenous rights and (c) nature conservation, which were all connected through water, energy, food and ecosystems within a (d) landscape nexus. Yet, we also identified a (e) living museum narrative suggesting that international advocacy for indigenous rights and nature conservation is a means through which Western societies want to preserve African societies in an “undeveloped” state. National governments use this narrative to silence external critique, while the tourism industry promotes it to advertise visits to pastoralist tribes. This narrative reveals powerful, yet largely ignored hindrances for collaborative projects resulting from cultural and historical biases in Euro-African collaborations. Based on our analysis, we argue that international research projects in sustainability sciences need to increase the transparency of open and hidden narratives that influence research directions and power relationships between scientific partners, also those using mostly technically-driven approaches. We emphasize that African landscapes are not to be viewed as living museums, and collaborative research should be based on fairness, respect, care, and honesty to allow for multiple narratives that underlie research.
... In the Awash River Basin, conflicts over land date back at least to the foundation of large state farms in the 1960s and the establishment of the Awash National Park in 1969 (Gebre, 2001) Interviews 5, 17, 20). Kloos (1982) estimated that early irrigation schemes had displaced about 20,000 pastoralists, and communities would have lost two-thirds of their dry-season grazing land (Meuer & Moreaux, 2017;Müller-Mahn, Rettberg, & Getachew, 2010;Rettberg, 2010). Conversion of land use, and the preceding expropriation, remained a source of conflict in the late 1980s during the implementation of the Tendaho Dam and Irrigation Project (Kidane, Mekonnen, & Teketay, 2015;Kloos, 1982, Interview 15, 17). ...
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Interdependencies among the goals and targets make the 2030 Agenda indivisible and their integrated implementation requires coherent policies. Coordination across different sectors and levels is deemed as crucial for avoiding trade-offs and achieving synergies among multiple, interlinked policy goals, which depend on natural resources. However, there is insufficient evidence regarding the conditions under which coordination for integrated achievement of different water- and land-based Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) functions effectively. The paper investigates the land and water governance in the Ethiopian lower Awash River basin and identifies key interdependencies among related SDGs. It assesses in how far the interactions and coordination among various decision-making centres are effective in managing the interdependencies among different goals. Systems for using and managing water and land exhibit features of polycentric governance as this process involves decision-making centres across different sectors and at various levels. Key action situations for land and water governance in operational, collective and constitutional choice levels are interlinked/networked. Each action situation constitutes actions that deliver one of the functions of polycentric governance, such as production, provision, monitoring etc. as an outcome, which affects the choices of actors in an adjacent action situation. The study shows that the existing institutions and governance mechanisms for water and land in Ethiopia are not effective in managing the interdependencies. Non-recognition of traditional communal rights of pastoralists over land and water and ineffective policy instruments for ensuring environmental and social safeguards are leading to major trade-offs among goals of local food security and economic growth. The autocratic regime of Ethiopia has coordination mechanisms in place, which fulfil the role of dissemination of policies and raising awareness. However, they are not designed to build consensus and political will for designing and implementing national plans, by including the interests and aspirations of the local communities and local governments. The study recommends efforts to achieve SDGs in the Ethiopian Awash River basin to focus on strengthening the capacities of relevant actors, especially the district and river basin authorities in delivering the key governance functions such as water infrastructure maintenance, efficient use of water, and effective implementation of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). Further, urgent efforts for scaling up of recognition, certification and protection of communal land rights of pastoralists and clear definition of rules for awarding compensation upon expropriation, are required.
... Prosopis species, locally referred to as 'woyane', have invaded the riverine areas of the Awash river and southern part of the Afar Region ( Fig. 1.2). In Afar Region the land is mainly used for livestock production and the spread of Prosopis has impacted negatively on the livelihoods of pastoralist people by reducing the amount of grass available for livestock (Rettberg 2010). Prosopis has been declared a noxious weed in Ethiopia and its cultivation is prohibited. ...
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Here, I studied the drivers of spread and the mechanisms underlying their invasion success, including hybridization, rapid evolution and plasticity.
The objective of this paper is to provide up-to-date empirical information on the expansion of P. juliflora, its environmental and livelihood impacts, and the performance of past and current management strategies in the Middle Awash Valley (MAV), Ethiopia. This study was based on data collected using focus group discussion, key informant interviews, and field observation. The results show that P. juliflora has expanded rapidly and invaded valuable grazing and croplands, and settlement areas. The rapid expansion of P. juliflora in the study area is attributed to climate change (increased temperature and declined rainfall), its ecological competition, spreading of seeds by wild animals and pastoral (mobile livestock) livelihood system, and recent occurrences of flood and drought-induced pasture scarcity that has forced livestock to eat more P. juliflora seed pods. Also, delays in the use of land cleared for farming activity have created good opportunities for Prosopis expansion. The perception and views of people on the benefits of P. juliflora and management options vary according to livelihood systems and stakeholder types (e.g., environmental managers and pastoralists). The attempted management strategies to eradicate P. juliflora (cutting, burning, and bulldozering or converting into economic utilization by making charcoal, fodder, and furniture) failed to achieve the intended outcomes. These management interventions failed due to many reasons. Some of these were the rapid rate of P. juliflora expansion triggered by the recurrent drought, severe scarcity of pasture that forced livestock to eat P. juliflora’s seed pods and travel into new areas, inadequate technologies to aid utilization and eradication, inability to collect sufficient quantity of pods to produce fodder for livestock, and absence of sufficient and satisfactory markets for the end-product (fodder). The results generally imply the need for urgent policy and management interventions. This study also highlights important issues that should be considered in introducing and implementing management strategies in the future.
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Abstract: Commercialization has been increasingly promoted for (agro) pastoral communities as an intervention to improve incomes and food access. Using households from rural Afar, this study examines the food security effects of the livestock commercial orientations of (agro) pastoralists by employing propensity score matching (PSM) procedures. The results show that, despite the fact that the market production of (agro) pastoralists is stressed by a broad range of factors, identified as cultural, infrastructural, and production risks, participation in livestock sales significantly decreased the severity of food insecurity in both the household food insecurity access score (HFIAS), and the reduced coping strategy index (rCSI) measures. However, the results failed to find consistently significant effects via the per capita consumption expenditure measure, in which case, the ‘subsistence’ and ‘commercially’ oriented groups are alike. Yet, given the factors depressing market production, properly addressed with policy measures, the income generated from livestock sales improved the welfare of (agro) pastoralists, at least by some (the HFIAS and rCSI) of the livelihood indicators. This highlights the importance of combining market infrastructure investments with culturally sensitive policy measures in order to sustain the traditional livestock husbandry of (agro) pastoralists. Therefore, in order to sustainably improve the food security situations in (agro) pastoral areas, the promotion of market production through the broadening of market access for both sales and purchases is important. Keywords: (agro) pastoralists; livestock marketing; commercialization; food security; Afar; Ethiopia
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Abstract: Commercialization has been increasingly promoted for (agro) pastoral communities as an intervention to improve incomes and food access. Using households from rural Afar, this study examines the food security effects of the livestock commercial orientations of (agro) pastoralists by employing propensity score matching (PSM) procedures. The results show that, despite the fact that the market production of (agro) pastoralists is stressed by a broad range of factors, identified as cultural, infrastructural, and production risks, participation in livestock sales significantly decreased the severity of food insecurity in both the household food insecurity access score (HFIAS), and the reduced coping strategy index (rCSI) measures. However, the results failed to find consistently significant effects via the per capita consumption expenditure measure, in which case, the ‘subsistence’ and ‘commercially’ oriented groups are alike. Yet, given the factors depressing market production, properly addressed with policy measures, the income generated from livestock sales improved the welfare of (agro) pastoralists, at least by some (the HFIAS and rCSI) of the livelihood indicators. This highlights the importance of combining market infrastructure investments with culturally sensitive policy measures in order to sustain the traditional livestock husbandry of (agro) pastoralists. Therefore, in order to sustainably improve the food security situations in (agro) pastoral areas, the promotion of market production through the broadening of market access for both sales and purchases is important. Keywords: (agro) pastoralists; livestock marketing; commercialization; food security; Afar; Ethiopia
Full-text available
Commercialization has been increasingly promoted for (agro) pastoral communities as an intervention to improve incomes and food access. Using households from rural Afar, this study examines the food security effects of the livestock commercial orientations of (agro) pastoralists by employing propensity score matching (PSM) procedures. The results show that, despite the fact that the market production of (agro) pastoralists is stressed by a broad range of factors, identified as cultural, infrastructural, and production risks, participation in livestock sales significantly decreased the severity of food insecurity in both the household food insecurity access score (HFIAS), and the reduced coping strategy index (rCSI) measures. However, the results failed to find consistently significant effects via the per capita consumption expenditure measure, in which case, the ‘subsistence’ and ‘commercially’ oriented groups are alike. Yet, given the factors depressing market production, properly addressed with policy measures, the income generated from livestock sales improved the welfare of (agro) pastoralists, at least by some (the HFIAS and rCSI) of the livelihood indicators. This highlights the importance of combining market infrastructure investments with culturally sensitive policy measures in order to sustain the traditional livestock husbandry of (agro) pastoralists. Therefore, in order to sustainably improve the food security situations in (agro) pastoral areas, the promotion of market production through the broadening of market access for both sales and purchases is important.
This study is concerned with determinants and macroforces in rural-rural migrations that relate to areal differentiation and temporal patterns. Patterns and causes of farm labor migrations from the Ethiopian highlands and some lowland districts to the Awash Valley irrigation schemes are traced, the results of revised economic policies.
Risk, Environment and Society is an innovative book offering a fresh approach to the risk society. It proceeds from an accessible reconstruction of the public debates about risk since the 1950s and 60s as well as of the concurrent social scientific theories. On that basis, it presents a penetrating analysis of the semantics, classification, societal production and discursive construction of risks, pursuing it to the point where the contours of the nascent twenty-first century society become visible. An analysis of currently emerging cultural, social and political forms highlights the basic option faced by society today in its further development. An important thread concerns the function of the social sciences in the risk discourse and thus in shaping the nascent society. For these purposes, Strydom puts forward a new synthetic cognitive sociology that presupposes a combination of realism and constructivism and a continuity between natural history and socio-cultural forms of life. Focusing on the variable cognitive structures and cultural models informing practices, it provides a basis for a concept of critique that answers to sociology’s role in public communication.
Bloodshed at Galalu 23 March 2002: Dawn came that day to find a group of about thirty Afar warriors lying in ambush alongside the road to Djibouti. Newly re-surfaced, Ethiopia's sole link to the sea cuts a straight dark line through the desiccated Alligedhi plain. No vehicles were on the road at that early hour. Lorry drivers avoid night travel, preferring to spend evenings in the shantytowns that dot the road, where they find food, drink and women for sale. A bridge nearby takes the road over the dry bed of the Galalu, a seasonal stream that brings rainwater from the Asebot Mountains to the south. Rain had not fallen in many months, and the emaciated animals on the plain were herded to the Awash River, the area's only permanent source of water some distance to the west. A single well on the Galalu streambed keeps water throughout the year, a precious resource for pastoralists in this parched land, and a bone of violent contention in times of drought.