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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Boise, Idaho » Northwest Watershed Research Center » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #390229

Research Project: Assessment and Mitigation of Disturbed Sagebrush-Steppe Ecosystems

Location: Northwest Watershed Research Center

Title: Sedentarization as an adaptation to socio-environmental changes? Everyday herding practices in pastoralist communities in southern Ethiopia

Author
item WANG, XIN - Arizona State University
item LIAO, CHUAN - Arizona State University
item BRANDHORST, SIDNEY - Arizona State University
item Clark, Pat

Submitted to: Ecology and Society
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/26/2022
Publication Date: 9/15/2022
Citation: Wang, X., Liao, C., Brandhorst, S., Clark, P. 2022. Sedentarization as an adaptation to socio-environmental changes? Everyday herding practices in pastoralist communities in southern Ethiopia. Ecology and Society. 27(3):39. https://doi.org/10.5751/ES-13503-270339.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.5751/ES-13503-270339

Interpretive Summary: While substantial effort and resources have been spent devising broad-scale, regional, national and global strategies in response to climate change and associated socio-economic challenges, the nature and efficacy of adaptation mechanisms employed by individuals and households in ordinary, daily life remain quite poorly understood. We evaluated the everyday adaptation strategies of smallholder pastoralists who are on the frontlines of changing socio-economic regimes in East African drylands. Sedentarization was found to be a rather constrained adaptation strategy at the best, as it increases the recursive pastoral use of rangeland and risk of environmental degradation on one hand, and forces livestock to move more intensively on a daily and seasonal basis thus impacting productivity on the other hand. Results here raise questions relevant to land and socio-economic policies that would constrain pastoral mobility, particularly, as a sponsored adaptation to climate change.

Technical Abstract: As humanity is faced with various changes in social-environmental systems, adaptation efforts have become increasingly important. Significant effort and resources have been spent on devising overarching, large-scale strategies in response to climate change and associated socio-economic challenges. However, the mechanisms of adaptation employed by individuals and households in ordinary, daily life have received insufficient scholarly examination. This research aims to demonstrate the significance of everyday adaptation strategies of smallholder pastoralists who are on the frontlines of changing socio-economic regimes in East African drylands. We analyze the everyday spatiotemporal patterns of livestock behavior to understand everyday adaptation practices. Two different pastoralist communities in the Borana Zone of southern Ethiopia are compared, one of which keeps the traditional mobile pastoralism livelihood, while the other has been sedentarized due to socio-environmental changes and policy incentives. The mobile pastoralists have more vast grazing areas, and their cattle spend more time on foraging and resting. In contrast, the sedentarized pastoralists utilize the land near their settlements intensively and the cattle travel longer distances on average. Our findings suggest that sedentarization is a constrained adaptation strategy at the best, as it increases the recursive use of rangeland and its fragmentation on the one hand, and forces livestock to move more intensively on a daily and seasonal basis.