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Title: Complexity in the spatial utilization of rangelands: Pastoral mobility in the horn of Africa

item LIAO, CHUAN - Cornell University
item Clark, Pat
item DEGLORIA, STEVEN - Cornell University
item BARRETT, CHRISTOPHER - Cornell University

Submitted to: 19th Annual Applied Geography
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/9/2017
Publication Date: 8/28/2017
Citation: Liao, C., Clark, P., DeGloria, S., Barrett, C. 2017. Complexity in the spatial utilization of rangelands: Pastoral mobility in the horn of Africa. Applied Geography. 86:208-219.

Interpretive Summary: Pastoral mobility is motived by a variety of factors thus yielding a complexity which is still poorly understood and underappreciated by researchers, resource managers, and policy makers alike. We used GPS tracking collars to investigate the rangeland utilization patterns of pastoralist cattle herds from five study sites distributed across the Borana Zone of southern Ethiopia. Herds of sedentarized pastoralists displayed clear evidence of heavy recursive use, which generally has adverse environmental impact, while herds of more mobile pastoralists moved in patterns of increasing complexity with much reduced or little recursive use of rangelands. Three conceptual models of pastoral mobility are proposed which are intended to provide policy-makers and others with both, a better understanding of the complexity of pastoralism on the Horn of Africa and informed counterpoints to calls for sedentarization of mobile peoples.

Technical Abstract: Extensive movement is a key strategy for pastoralists to ensure adequate forage intake for livestock while distributing grazing pressure throughout the landscape. However, the complexity of pastoral mobility was overgeneralized in previous research, which often leads to sedentarization-oriented policy-making. We investigated spatial rangeland utilization patterns by pastoralists based on GPS-tracking of cattle movement over seven months in five study sites across the Borana Zone of southern Ethiopia. By quantifying the extent of movement, density of utilization and recursive use of rangelands, we found highly diverse pastoral mobility patterns and resource-use strategies even within a single study region. Rather than the central-place model, pastoral mobility patterns in Borana can be characterized using restricted, semi-extensive, or extensive herding models. The research findings suggest that sedentarization largely results in compromised mobility and recursive use of rangelands. Thus, we recommend coordinated rotational grazing at the community level to reduce recursive use of rangelands and mitigate degradation.