The crisis of pastoralism?

By Stephen Devereux and Ian Scoones
May 2008

part of discussions on the future of pastoral production systems in East Africa there have been a number of recent interventions arguing that something urgently needs to be done to deal with a Malthusian style crisis in pastoral areas. In short, the argument goes, there are too many people which, combined with a declining (or not increasing) productivity of the natural resource base, means that not enough livestock can be kept to sustain a viable pastoral system.

This argument has been most eloquently and effectively argued by Stephen Sandford in “Too many people, too few livestock: the crisis affecting pastoralists in the Greater Horn of Africa”. This is a response to this piece, aimed at sparking a wider discussion.and another focusing on the market potentials of a ‘livestock revolution’ What should we make of these positions? What should the practical and policy responses be?

Such a discussion is urgently needed. For at the same time as the pessimistic prognoses about pastoralist futures in the Greater Horn of Africa, there has been, for the first time in several decades, a revival of interest in pastoralism and livestock production. This takes two forms – one a celebration of the ‘pastoral way of life’ and the importance of indigenous systems of production and management

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