Published by the Sustainable Agriculture Programme of the
International Institute for Environment and Development
The Role of Mobility
Within the Risk
GATEKEEPER SERIES No. 47
The Gatekeeper Series of the Sustainable Agriculture Programme is produced by the
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Brent Swallow is an Agricultural Economist working at International Livestock Centrefor
Africa, PO Box 46847, Nairobi, Kenya. A previous version of this paper was circulated at the
Research Workshop on "New Directions in African Range Management and Policy",
Woburn, United Kingdom, 31 May-4 June 1993, organised by the Commonwealth Secretariat,
International Institute for Environment and Development and Overseas Development Insti-
GATEKEEPER SERIES NO. SA47
2 GATEKEEPER SERIES NO. SA47
THE ROLE OF MOBILITY WITHIN THE
RISK MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES OF
PASTORALISTS AND AGRO-
African livestock owners pursue their livelihoods in a dynamic and risky environment. The
external dynamic processes that affect livestock keeping include population growth and
migration, changes in exchange relations, intensification of crop cultivation, expansion of
crop cultivation, and changes in property rights to croplands, natural pastures, watering points
and transhumance routes. There are also a number of dynamic, and stochastic, processes that
influence livestock keeping in the shorter-term, such as fluctuations in rainfall and market
conditions. Together these long-term and short-term processes shape the production and
investment strategies of individual livestock keepers and the institutional arrangements that
define property arrangements among livestock keepers and their neighbours.
These dynamic and risky processes affect human welfare and environmental quality, some
of which were discussed in detail at the Woburn and Matopos Workshops hosted by the
Commonwealth Secretariat in 1990 and 1992 (Behnke et al, 1993; Behnke, 1992). Attention
focused on the short-term dynamics of rainfall, forage availability and livestock production,
and on the dynamic relationships between ecological change and livestock numbers. The
evidence supports four propositions:
1. The greater the average annual rainfall received by an area of natural pasture, the lower
the coefficient of variation in spatial and temporal variability of both rainfall and primary
2. Spatial variation in soil types and topography results in pastures that are very patchy.
Certain patches may be utilised 10 or 20 times as heavily as other areas. In dry areas,
patches of high production are most likely to be found along rivers or run-on areas;
3. Natural pastures receiving lower amounts of rainfall tend to be dominated by annual
species of grasses. Livestock grazing tends to have little impact on grasses in such
environments. Variations in climatic conditions are so frequent and large that they drive
the livestock-rangeland system;
4. Natural pastures receiving higher amounts of rainfall tend to be dominated by perennial
species of grasses. These pastures are more susceptible to grazing pressure and less
susceptible to fluctuations in climatic conditions.
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The workshops explored the implications for pasture management based on these proposi-
tions. Utilisation of arid pastures requires herd mobility and tracking strategies that allow
livestock keepers to adjust animal numbers to match available feed resources. The main
objective of individual herd managers and policy makers in such circumstances is to make
optimal use of the periodically available forage with minimum wastage of the animals that
convert that forage into valuable products. Utilisation of natural pastures in wetter areas with
perennial grass species generally requires less herd mobility and changes in animal numbers
but more careful attention to the overall stocking rate. Because livestock can have negative
impacts on the vegetation, policy makers need to consider carefully the possible tradeoffs
between short-term welfare and long-term productivity of the pasture.
This paper considers the role of mobility within the overall strategies available to livestock
owners and the property rights institutions that govern access to and control of land resources.
Key questions related to risk and risk management are:
1. What risk factors affect rural residents in different production environments?
2. What strategies do livestock owners adopt to deal with those risks?
3. What is the co-variation between different sources of risk?
4. Could increased mobility expose livestock owners to higher levels of other risks?
5. Are other strategies complementary or competitive with mobility and tracking?
6. Under what conditions might other strategies be preferable to mobility and tracking?
These questions are dealt with first, leading to a series of propositions. Once the role of
mobility within the risk management strategies of livestock keepers is established, this paper
considers the property rights institutions that determine whether or not such strategies can be
implemented. Theory and case study evidence will support several propositions related to
property institutions. The paper ends by drawing on the propositions to discuss the likely
impacts of several policy options.
Household and Group Strategies for Risk Management
Discussions of African range management and policy tend to focus on the strategies and
welfare of pastoralists. Swift (1988) defines pastoral households as those in which at least half
of household gross revenue comes from livestock or livestock-related activities. Bonfiglioli
(1992) estimates that there are 22.5 million pastoralists in 17 of the African countries with the
largest populations of pastoralists. The total number of patoralists in Sub-Saharan Africa is
thus in the region of 25 million. Bonfiglioli (1992) notes, however, that there are very few
'pure' pastoralists who derive all their gross revenue from livestock. Most pastoral households
also engage in activities such as the cultivation of cereal or vegetable crops, gathering,
hunting, fishing or wage labour, which form important components of their survival and risk
Most of the livestock in Africa are kept by agro-pastoralists, people who derive more than half
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of their gross revenue from agriculture and at least 10 percent of their gross revenue from
livestock (Swift, 1988). I estimate that in Sub-Saharan Africa there are about 240 million agro-
pastoralists, 216 million of whom reside in households that derive significant quantities of
feed from natural pastures and fallow lands. Therefore only about 12% of those who depend
on natural pastures are pastoralists while 88% are agro-pastoralists. To different degrees,
therefore, livestock keepers in Sub-Saharan Africa face many of the same risks and utilise
many of the same strategies. Perhaps more important than the pastoralist/agro-pastoralist
distinction is the distinction between livestock owners with less/more access to markets for
livestock, cereals and wage labour.
As mentioned, spatial and temporal variations in rainfall result in corresponding variations
in the quantity and quality of forage available from natural pastures and fallow lands.
Variations in rainfall also cause variations in the production of planted crops. Binswanger and
McIntire (1987) hypothesis that in low rainfall areas sedentary crop production is more risky
than mobile livestock production. Crop risks pose risks for livestock which feed significantly
on crop residues.
Other environmental risks are due to temperature changes, interactions with wildlife, and
livestock and crop diseases. The level and variability of temperature determines both the
suitability of different species and breeds of livestock and the potential benefits of herd
movement. Domesticated livestock and wildlife interact through grazing, disease transmis-
sion and predation. Interactions through the forage base may have a negative impact on
livestock production if the wild and domesticated species have similar foraging patterns and
a positive impact if the foraging patterns are markedly different. Most livestock disease risks
increase with the amount of rainfall.
Property is an expectation to a stream of future benefits and a property risk is a risk that a
household or group will lose their access to or control over the resources from which they
expect to derive future benefits. The most important resources for (agro)pastoralists are their
animals, natural pastures, fallow lands and crop land. Livestock owners face property risks
to their animals as a result of severe environmental conditions (eg drought, lightning),
diseases, changes in social relations (eg changes in livestock sharing and tenancy arrange-
ments) and theft.
The risks of theft are closely related to overall security and the risk of violence. Security in
pastoral areas in the horn of Africa and across the Sahel is particularly problematic at the
present time. For example, over a two-week period in late January and early February of 1993,
at least 700 cattle and 10,000 sheep and goats were stolen during raids in northern Kenya and
at least 59 people were killed in the raids (Daily Nation, January 26-February 11, 1993). At
a workshop on East African pastoralism held in December 1988 it was noted that as much as
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half of the Turkana highland grazing areas had been declared to be "no-go areas" by the
Kenyan authorities (Lane and Swift, 1989).
Livestock owners also risk losing access and/or control to grazing areas to absentee herd
owners, commercial ranchers, state farms, wildlife conservation areas or small-holder
agriculturalists. Over the last 50 years the Maasai and Barabaig pastoralists of northern
Tanzania have lost grazing rights to large areas of pasture as a result of government policies
that support private and state wheat farms, support the villagisation of transhumant pastoralists
and the demarcation of national parks and conservation areas (Lane, 1991). The 11 Chamus
pastoralists of Kenya's Baringo district have lost property rights to dry-season grazing areas
through the encroachment of Tugen agriculturalists and the use of dry-season grazing areas
by absentee and part-time herd owners (Little, 1987). In Somalia small-scale pastoralists have
lost access to wet-season grazing areas through the introduction of new water techniques by
commercial livestock producers (Swift, 1977). And across the Sahel population pressures and
the advent of new crops and production practices are causing a northward expansion of
cultivated areas so that crops (e.g. millet) are now regularly cultivated in areas where average
annual rainfall is between 200 and 300 millimetres. As a result, dry-season grazing areas have
been converted into croplands. Increased settlement has also increased the pressure on trees
for fuelwood and timber.
Other risks are associated with the markets through which rural households obtain, or don't
obtain, credit, insurance, production inputs, subsistence and luxury products in exchange for
their labour and any surplus agricultural products. The degree of market dependence varies
for different (agro)pastoral groups, with pastoralists particularly reliant on those markets. For
example, revenue from milk sales comprised only 5 percent of average income among the
pastoral Maasai of Kenya (Grandin, 1988) but 40-45 percent of average income among Fulani
and Baggara pastoralists in the South Darfur region of Sudan (Kerven, 1987). Agro-
pastoralists in a remote mountain village in Lesotho receive an average of 73 percent of their
gross household income in the form of cash from the sale of labour and livestock products and
obtain most of their consumption needs through local markets (Lawry, 1988).
Variability in the prices and availability of inputs, outputs and consumer goods create market
risks. Market risks depend on the size of the transactions domain and the type of exchange
mechanism. Producers who compete for markets with international competitors eg. producers
of live animals in the Sahel who compete in West African urban markets with imports from
Europe and South America are exposed to the vagaries of world markets, international
disputes and currency fluctuations. On the other hand, producers operating in markets that are
exclusively served by local production are protected from international market conditions but
more exposed to variations in local market conditions. Variations in local market conditions
may be dampened by the presence of reciprocal exchange mechanisms. Deterioration of the
bases of those mechanisms exposes individual households to more market risk.
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Correlation Between Environmental and Market Risks
Environmental risks and market risks are correlated in ways that change over time. For
example, where most rainfall normally falls during a four month rainy season, livestock
owners may initially react to an extended dry season by reducing discretionary expenditures
and withholding animals from the market. Farmers may also hold cereal products from the
market. The result is likely to be increases in the prices of both livestock and crop products,
and relatively little change in the terms of trade between livestock and cereal products.
If rainfall conditions improve, animals will continue to be withheld to fatten on the newly
available fodder. Livestock prices will continue to rise, then fall as fattened animals are
released onto the market. Prices of cereal products would fall as new production becomes
available. If, however, drought conditions persist, livestock owners may try to sell animals
that would otherwise die. Large numbers of poor quality animals on the market will reduce
the price quite drastically at the same time as cereal prices would continue to rise. The terms
of trade would move dramatically against livestock producers until environmental conditions
improve. Webb et al. (1992) document movements in the terms of trade between sheep and
maize in Wollo before, during and after the Ethiopian famine of 1984. The sheep/maize price
ratio fell by 75 percent between April 1983 and December 1984, then gradually rose to twice
the pre-famine level by February of 1987.
Risk Management Strategies for Households
To survive in their risky environment, livestock-owning households adopt production and risk
management strategies including mobility and migration, asset accumulation, diversification
of domesticated animals, diversification of income and subsistence sources, migrant wage
income, and adoption of new technologies. As Reardon et al. (1992) discuss, the virtual
absence of credit and insurance markets in Sub-Saharan Africa makes these self-insurance
Mobility and Migration. Mobility is part and parcel of extensive livestock production in Sub-
Saharan Africa. Livestock owners undertake mobility, ranging from daily herd movement to
seasonal transhumance or migration. For agro-pastoral households and an increasing number
of pastoral households, herd mobility usually does not imply household mobility. Normally
many agro-pastoralists only undertake daily herd movement. If the areas around villages are
used for crop production and livestock foraging, herders may move to cattle posts or cattle
camps during the crop growing season and return to the village area after the harvests. For
example in Lesotho, households have grazing rights in their village areas and in specified
cattle post areas where they own permanent corrals and huts. The animals are taken from the
corrals to graze each day and returned at night (Shoup, 1987). Migration of the household unit
is usually seen as a last resort measure for agro-pastoral households.
Efficient use of the variable and patchy forage resources produced in arid areas usually
requires more frequent and flexible herd movement than is consistent with sedentary agro-
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pastoral production systems. Stenning (1957) described three types of extended herd
movement that are undertaken by nomadic pastoralists: transhumance is regular seasonal
movement; migratory drift is the gradual displacement of transhumance orbits; and migration
is the assumption of new transhumance orbits by a sudden and often lengthy movement.
Pastoralists who adopt any of these strategies over long periods develop specialised
knowledge about the environments that they exploit which is very costly for non-pastoralists
to acquire. Pastoralists also develop working relationships with other pastoralists and
agriculturalists that they encounter. In arid areas, differences in these transaction costs makes
pastoral production strategies considerably cheaper than agro-pastoral strategies, and sup-
ports the continued specialisation of livestock and crop production systems (McIntire et al,
Migration patterns are affected by environmental conditions, government policies, new
technologies, and public services. In West Africa there has been large-scale drought-related
migration from the Sahel into the Sudan and Guinea areas. While much of this migration has
been internal, some has been international. Policies and technologies have caused pastoralists
in general to migrate permanently from tsetse-free areas in the semi-arid zone to tsetse-
affected areas in the sub-humid zone. For example, the government of C6te d'Ivoire has
encouraged migrants from the Sahel to settle more permanently in northern COte d'Ivoire
following the droughts of the 1970s and 1980s. Drug therapy and tsetse control techniques and
the improvement of roads and communications systems is also fostering a permanent
migration into tsetse-affected areas of Tanzania (Galaty, 1986) and Nigeria (Jabbar et al,
1990). The improvement of education, health and water services in towns have prompted
pastoralists to settle closer to towns in drought-affected areas.
Asset accumulation and depletion. One of the main methods for self-insuring'against risk
is to accumulate food stocks and marketable assets. Due to the limited durability and storage
costs of cereal crops, livestock are the major form of wealth and insurance substitute across
much of Sub-Saharan Africa. Accumulation, depletion and replenishment of livestock
inventories is also consistent with the "opportunistic" grazing strategies discussed by
Livestock owners tend to respond to drought or crisis conditions in steps. Webb et al (1992)
discuss three stages that Ethiopian households went through during the famine of the mid-
1980s: risk minimisation; risk absorption; and risk-taking to survive. Livestock were
important in all three stages. During the risk minimisation stage, livestock owners tried to
accumulate livestock and to minimise the risk of losing any. During the risk absorption stage,
livestock keepers undertook measures to sustain their most valuable animals and marketed
less valuable animals to buy food. In the stage of risk-taking to survive, households sold their
most valued animals and/or migrated from their home areas.
Diversification of livestock species and breeds. By keeping more than one species of
livestock, (agro)pastoralists are able to generate a wider variety of livestock products, harvest
more of the available forage, use different environmental niches, and generate livestock
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output in different seasons. For example, in Lesotho, livestock keepers graze their mixed herds
of cattle, sheep, goats, donkeys and horses on different patches of mountain and lowland
grazing areas during different seasons of the year (Lawry, 1988).
Different breeds of livestock have different production characteristics and abilities to handle
stresses of nutritional deprivation, climate and disease. For example, the East African Zebu
cattle are able to lower their metabolic rates under heat stress and quickly regain weight with
improvements in nutrition (Western and Finch, 1986). The West African taurine breeds of
cattle like the N'Dama, Baoul6 and Muturu are tolerant to trypanosomiasis and apparently
resistant to other diseases prevalent in the humid and sub-humid areas of West Africa.
Diversity and flexibility in crop cultivation. As noted above, most livestock-owning
households engage in some agricultural production. For example, while the Dinka of southern
Sudan consider livestock production their most important economic activity, they also
cultivate crops including: sorghum (92% of households), tobacco (80%), pumpkins (71%),
maize (39%), okra (36%), beans (29%), groundnuts (20%) and sesame (13%) (Lako, 1985).
Agro-pastoralists in Ethiopia intercrop sorghum with chat or barley with lentils and wheat,
stagger the planting of crops with different maturation periods, and disperse their plots up and
down hill slopes (Webb et al., 1992).
Wage labour and self-employment. In many areas of Africa, wage labour and self-
employment in non-agricultural activities are becoming increasingly important for rural
households. Wage labour is particular important as a risk absorption strategy during times of
stress. For example, Fleuret (1989) compared wage labour in Taita households (Kenya) during
normal and drought years. She found that 39 percent of households engaged in migrant wage
labour in a normal year and 53 percent in a drought year. During the stress period, households
with access to wage labour also employed more destitute people as casual employees.
Wage labour can also be important for pastoralists. Among the Samburu pastoralists of
northern Kenya, the income from wage labour allows relatively wealthy households to
maintain and expand their livestock holdings and relatively poor households to remain viable
(Sperling, 1987). Young unmarried Dinka men who undertake labour migration and stock
trading are able to use their earnings to accumulate animals more quickly than would
otherwise be possible (Ring, 1990). Compared to agro-pastoralists, however, pastoralists may
have less access to non-agricultural employment because they live in relatively sparsely
populated areas (Webb et al, 1992). The main disadvantage of labour migration is the labour
shortages that result. For the WoDaaBe of central Niger, White (1990) noted that labour
migration led to shorter herd movements, less herd splitting, poorer disease management, and
greater reliance on boreholes rather than dug wells.
In some densely populated regions, however, the opportunities for non-agricultural employ-
ment are severely constrained even for agro-pastoralists. In a survey in the Wollo area of
Ethiopia, for example, Alemneh Dejene (1990) found that only 3% of households participated
in any non-agricultural income-earning activities. Wollo was the most severely affected area
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in the Ethiopian famine of the mid-1980s.
New livestock production techniques. The new production techniques that have been
adopted most widely are water provision and disease control techniques. In the arid areas of
Somalia and Senegal, new boreholes have extended the grazing season and thus caused
increased resource pressure in areas that were previously used only for wet-season grazing
(Swift, 1977; Tour6, 1990). Relatively wealthy livestock owners who can afford to pay for
water are most able to benefit from such techniques. Trypanosomiasis control techniques,
especially drug therapy and tsetse control, have allowed pastoralists in Tanzania and Nigeria
to make greater use of natural pastures in the tsetse-affected areas (Galaty, 1986; Jabbar et
al, 1990). Trypanosomiasis control appears to be prompting a large in-migration into the
Ghibe Valley of south-west Ethiopia (preliminary results of own research).
A variety of feeding techniques (strategic feeding of agro-industrial bi-products, herbaceous
legumes, multipurpose trees and improved fallows) have been developed but adopted less
widely. McIntire et al (1992) note that the adoption of planted forages are affected by: 1.
mobility, with the more mobile production strategies providing fewer possibilities for forage
production; 2. labour supply, as forage production and feeding are labour intensive; and 3.
overall supply of feed from other sources. Because they are consistent with mobility and
labour constraints, agro-industrial by-products have been adopted most widely and appear to
raise production successfully. Temporary tenure, insecure tenure, and multiple ownership of
land and trees may constrain the adoption of feed production techniques like multipurpose
trees that require relatively long-term investments.
Risk Management Strategies for Groups
Besides these 'self-insurance' mechanisms, groups of pastoral households also adopt 'group-
insurance' mechanisms, including group inheritance of livestock, multiple-ownership claims
to livestock and crops, livestock tenancy arrangements, and bridewealth. Many of these group
insurance mechanisms are under pressure from new economic and political circumstances.
Sharing and hospitality. The sharing of food and productive assets generally appears to
increase during initial periods of stress, then diminish under prolonged stress. Households
suffering prolonged stress may rely on family members elsewhere who are not subject to the
same stresses. Pastoral communities generally have stronger sharing institutions than agro-
pastoral communities (Webb et al, 1992, Messer, 1989)
Group ownership and inheritance. Matrilineal group inheritance of productive resources,
especially cattle, date palms, gardens and salt pans ('living milk') has been an important
mechanism for inter-generational and inter-household sharing of assets among the Twareg of
Niger. The demise of the institution in recent years has had negative impacts on the
entitlements of women (Oxby, 1990).
Bridewealth. Bridewealth is an important mechanism for sharing livestock wealth. Ring
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(1990) argues that the bridewealth practised by the Dinka has helped to maintain kinship
relations and share livestock wealth across kinship lines and between generations. However,
the increased purchase of animals with the proceeds of stock trading and wage labour is
reducing the basis of the joint ownership that is central to wealth sharing.
Livestock tenancy arrangements. There are four types of arrangements by which African
livestock owners share the management responsibilities and products generated by their
livestock: 1. tenancy arrangements in which mobile pastoralists care for animals entrusted to
them on annual or seasonal bases by sedentary agro-pastoralists in exchange for some of the
products generated by the animals and the right to graze animals on the agro-pastoralists'
harvested fields; 2. 'stock friend' arrangements in which pastoralists or agro-pastoralists will
herd and manage others' animals on a reciprocal basis; 3. contract herding arrangements in
which pastoralists herd and manage animals owned by settled agro-pastoralists in exchange
for milk produced by the cows and/or cash; and 4. contract herding arrangements in which
pastoralists herd animals owned by absentee investors. McIntire et al (1992) argue that
livestock tenancy arrangements are an efficient solution to the problem of pastoralists wanting
to expand their herds without a functional credit market and for settled agro-pastoralists to take
advantage of the superior information and cost advantages of pastoralists' mobile production
Patron-client relationships. Circulation of group property from richer to poorer households
and from one generation to the other has been crucial to the recuperative power of WoDaaBe
households in central Niger. However, since the drought of 1974, there has been a change in
animal ownership with a sharp increase in the proportion of animals owned by farmers,
merchants and civil servants. These investors have been able to take advantage of changing
relative prices that have made livestock relatively inexpensive (White, 1990).
Rotating credit societies. Savings clubs in which members contribute equal amounts of cash
to a rotating pool are ubiquitous across Sub-Saharan Africa. They take the place of savings
and credit institutions and often are used to finance lumpy purchases of building supplies or
agricultural assets. Of all of the group strategies for risk management mentioned in this
section, rotating credit societies are the only strategy that appears to be gaining popularity.
They are quite consistent with the more atomistic and commercialised economies that are
developing in rural Africa.
Propositions about Mobility, Risk and Risk Management
The above discussion supports several propositions:
P1. The most important sources of risk for (agro)pastoral production are: 1. the risks of
nutritional stress that are negatively correlated with rainfall; 2. the risks of livestock
disease that are positively correlated with rainfall; 3. the risks of reduced crop
production that are negatively correlated with rainfall; 4. the risks of low livestock
prices that are negatively correlated with rainfall; and 5. the risks of high crop prices
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that are negatively correlated with rainfall for households with recurrent crop deficits.
The correlation between risks is strongest and most positive for pastoralists who are
relatively immobile and dependent on purchased grains.
P2. Property risks are one of the greatest constraints to pastoralists' mobility and
production in the horn of Africa and the Sahel. The risks of banditry, theft and loss of
life means that people stay closer to towns and keep their animals in larger herds. They
are less mobile across wet-season grazing areas and more likely to over-exploit
resources near towns.
P3. The risks of expropriation of grazing rights are positively correlated with the suitability
of the land for agriculture and wildlife conservation. The households that are most
vulnerable to expropriation of grazing rights are those with the least cultivated land and
those with the most mobile livestock production strategies.
P4. The livestock and crop sectors are both complementary and contradictory. Increased
crop production reduces mobility for households that raise crops and others who lose
rights to dry-season grazing areas and transhumance routes. On the other hand, crop
production can make new feeds available. Increased livestock production can improve
crop production through the transfer of nutrients from pastures to crop lands and by
providing animal traction. However, increased livestock production can also disturb
standing crops and remove nutrients from crop lands.
P5. Most new livestock production techniques affect mobility. For example, the use of
trypanocidal drugs may enhance mobility by allowing livestock to go deeper into
trypanosomiasis risk areas, while most feed production and water provision techniques
P6. In many areas of Africa, local non-agricultural employment provide the most attractive
alternatives for (agro)pastoral households to become established or to survive unfa-
vourable production conditions. However, because labour is removed from the
household, migrant labour is inconsistent with labour-using mobility strategies.
P7. The general deterioration of group risk management strategies is increasing the risks
faced by agro-pastoral households. One way to counter this is to expand the transaction
domain in which livestock owners exchange inputs, outputs and consumer products to
include larger regional and international markets (Bromley and Chavas, 1989).
P8. More active and efficient credit and livestock markets would reduce the need for asset
accumulation as a risk management strategy.
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Property Rights Institutions
After 25 years of debate between the proponents of privatization (cf. Hardin, 1968) and the
defenders of common property (cf. Bromley and Cernea, 1989), and 25 years of interventions
designed to transform tenure institutions, most analysts now accept that there is no single
property rights regime (private property, common property, state property, or open access)
that suits all of Africa's natural resources. Participants at the Matopos Workshop noted that
an important criteria for evaluating the performance of property rights institutions is the extent
to which they accommodate herd mobility and tracking. 'Focal point management', in which
key and limiting resources are managed by groups of livestock owners, was recommended as
an appropriate management concept (Behnke, 1992). It is important to recognize, however,
that focal point management may not be appropriate for all circumstances and that there are
other factors to be considered when contemplating tenure policies. Anthropological evidence
and theoretical findings are reviewed here to support several propositions about the institu-
tions governing resource access and control.
Indigenous Common Property Institutions
Research on specific situations has pointed out that collectively-used natural resources are
governed by regimes that approach the conceptual essence of common property; that is, a set
of ordered institutional arrangements that define the conditions of access to, and control over,
a stream of benefits arising from collectively-used natural resources. Common property is
quite distinct from the "free-for-all" of open access in which everyone has the privilege to
access the benefits derived from a resource and no one has the right to take control of or manage
those benefits. Examples from Lesotho (Box 1) and Ethiopia (Box 2) serve to illustrate several
points about indigenous common property regimes.
Box 1. Seasonal grazing rights in Lesotho
Since the beginning of the twentieth century, livestock owners in Lesotho have practised
a system of seasonal transhumance in which animals are kept in village grazing areas
and harvested fields during the winter months and moved to mountain pastures during
the summer. A system of seasonal grazing rights was established in the 1920s to
coordinate this transhumance, to protect the mountain rangelands from over-exploitation,
and to protect crops from wandering cattle. The regime was enforced by the Paramount
Chief and the Principal Chiefs. One of the main roles of the chief was to set the opening
and closing dates (Sheddick, 1954).
Common Property Innovations
Most African countries have had experiences with pastoral or grazing associations, or group
ranches that have been designed and implemented with the assistance of government and/or
donors. Theoretical analyses suggest that common property innovations are most likely to be
successful when a well-defined group of resource users holds effective property rights to a
defined set of resources and there are effective mechanisms for group governance. The
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Box 2. Seasonal focal point management
The Borana of Southern Ethiopia regulate the use of rangeland resources through the
limited number of wells located at relatively wide intervals across the rangeland. Each
well is considered to be the property of a particular Borana clan. The difficulty and
expense involved in constructing and utilising new wells limits their numbers. Each well
has a council of well-users and a 'father of the well' who overseas the daily operations.
The limited supply of well water places an upper limit on the number of livestock that can
be grazed on Borana pastures and the amount of labour available to the household
restricts the number of livestock that any household can provide with water (Helland,
definition and enforcement of those property rights may require a central authority that can
arbitrate between.the interests of broad groups of the population and enforce boundaries and
agreements between groups (Swallow, 1991). Informal governance mechanisms can be
sufficient if group size is small, if members can impose credible punishments on those who
violate implicit rules, or if there are financial, market or cultural restrictions that limit the
ability of potential deviants to take advantage of short-term profit opportunities (Swallow and
Bromley, 1994). Otherwise more formal governance mechanisms will be necessary. See
Boxes 3 and 4 for examples.
Box 3. Eastern Senegal Pastoral Units
One of the World Bank's most successful experiences with common property management
has been with the Eastern Senegal Livestock Development Project. During the first phase
of the project (1976-1983), 53 pastoral units were established in about 10,000 square
kilometres in eastern Senegal. The pastoral units collaborated with the project in the
delivery of supplemental feed and veterinary supplies and served as collective guarantors
of credit. Debt repayment was very high. During the second phase (1984-88), the pastoral
units began to assume common property management as a secondary activity. A
Protocol Agreement was passed in 1984 that permitted the pastoral units to register
legally-defensible communal rights to grazing lands and watering points (Vedeld, 1992).
The pastoral units began to administer grazing rotations to coordinate the grazing and
watering activities of their members as well as the agricultural and livestock activities in
the area (Associates in Rural Development, 1989; Bromley and Cernea, 1989).
Box 4. Grazing Associations in Lesotho
The Sehlabathebe Grazing Association was established in 1982 with support from the
USAID-funded Land Conservation and Range Development Project as a mechanism for
the residents of mountain areas in Lesotho to take greater control over local grazing
resources. The 300 km sq. area allocated to the grazing association includes village
grazing areas, cattle post grazing areas, and 11 villages. Village residents have been
granted exclusive grazing rights to the area, a concept that project personnel have
labelled 'controlled' communal grazing (Weaver, 1986). The enforcement of exclusive
use by local residents resulted in an immediate reduction in the number of livestock
grazed in the area. The consequent decrease in competition for forage has resulted in
a regeneration of the rangelands and improvement in the condition and productivity of
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The chief, the project manager, and the grazing association have been quite successful in
enforcing the regime's boundary. They have been far less effective, however, in enforcing
rules within the regime. Project frustration with the grazing association has resulted in the
project playing an increasing role in the active management of the association: As of August
1986, it was the project manager, not the executive committee, who directed the range riders,
set the dates for grazing rotation, and administered the finances of the association (Lawry,
State Property Regimes
In theory, a state property regime is a set of institutional arrangements in which the state retains
direct control of the benefits derived from a resource by determining access and use rules for
individuals (Bromley, 1991). In many African countries governments have proclaimed state
ownership over all land, but in very few cases has this dejure situation been consistent with
the de facto situation on the ground (Riddell and Dickerman, 1986). Several factors have
contributed to the many failures:
1. state agencies tend to be rigid in their application of rules;
2. state agencies usually ignore, or even attempt to undermine, indigenous political
structures and institutions;
3. state agencies often lack the power, authority and/or will to implement rules prescribed
at regional or national levels; and
4. state employees who are responsible for the enforcement of resources use rules are often
remunerated, legally or illegally, through the collection of fines;
However, a review of situations in which governments have attempted to manage public
domain rangelands in cooperation with local authorities suggests that governments can play
important roles in defining and protecting the 'boundaries' of common property regimes.
Local community groups can play important roles in making and enforcing rules on local
Private Property Regimes
A private property regime is a set of ordered institutional arrangements in which the state
protects the rights of certain individuals to access and control and manipulate resource benefit
steams. Others have a right to expect that only socially-acceptable uses will occur, and a duty
to refrain from preventing those uses. Economists note many advantages of private property
including efficient allocation of pasture resources and investment in resource improvements
(Hopcraft, 1981; Evangelou, 1984). Those arguments have been used to support the wholesale
imposition of private property zoning and registration schemes for natural pastures in
countries such as Botswana (White, 1992) and Kenya (Box 5). In other areas, such as the case
from Somalia (see Box 6), private property has emerged spontaneously for small pasture areas.
GATEKEEPER SERIES NO. SA47
Box 5. Private ranches in Kenya's Maasailand
Individual title to Maasai rangeland was first granted just before Kenyan independence
in 1963. After independence, the Kenyan government and donor agencies supported
group ranches and discouraged the development of individual ranches. Nevertheless, by
1981, 300 individual ranches had been adjudicated in Kajiado District. Adjudication of
more individual ranches and subdivision of group ranches is now the trend in Maasailand.
Solomon Bekure et al (1991) note that in many areas, group ranches now exist only in
name. As of 1988, 29 of the 52 group ranches in Kajiado had resolved to subdivide their
Individualisation of pasture lands is consistent with national individualisation of arable
land and with current economic and social trends in Maasailand. The decrease in average
settlement size, for instance from 6.2 households in the 1950s to 2.7 in the 1970s, reflects
more individualistic economic and social structures. The Maasai are also turning more
frequently to cultivation as a means of diversifying their income sources, a trend that is
consistent with their decreased mobility. The dispersion of domestic residences has
resulted in a deterioration of the linkages between households and settlements, so that
individual homesteads now generally maintain fewer, but closer relationships (Grandin,
Box 6. Semi-enclosed pastoralism in Somalia
The construction of deep wells in the Ceel Dheer District of central Somalia prompted
agro-pastoralists to expand their enclosures to include land for grazing and forage
production. These enclosures were supported by land law developed to protect cultivated
fields from livestock (Behnke, 1988).
Evolution of Property Institutions
The regimes that govern the access to and control of pasture resources in sub-Saharan Africa
are changing in response to shifts in the of political and economic power of the regimes'
members, changes in production techniques, and changes in demand for the benefit streams
generated by the resources. Customary authorities have been weakened by the actions of both
colonial and post-colonial governments and by reductions in their economic power. Starr
(1987) and Swallow (1991) describe these processes for cases in Niger and Lesotho. The
economic and political bases for local collective action have also been reduced. Collectives
that share resources are becoming more heterogenous in terms of their access to new
techniques degree of commercialization and access to political power. In many cases, the
village economy is becoming more integrated into increasingly open regional or national
economies. This is enabling villagers to take greater advantage of external economic and
political opportunities and more non-residents to exploit village resources.
Many non-economists who have studied the evolution of resource management institutions
in intensifying crop-livestock production systems have focused on changes in power as the
primary force, and imposition and spontaneity as the main processes of regime change. For
GATEKEEPER SERIES NO. SA47
example, Lane (1991) argues that the main causes of the displacement of Barabaig pastoralists
from the Arusha-Ngorongoro area of northern Tanzania to more southerly areas are related
to power. Due to their greater political power, agriculturalists and conservationists have been
able to displace pastoralists from their former rangelands to make way for large and small-
scale farms and national parks. In those areas the Tanzanian government has imposed a new
tenure regime that is consistent with its policies of villagisation and wildlife conservation.
Economists tend to focus on changes in economic conditions as the main forces behind regime
changes. For example, Bromley (1991) argues that a change in economic conditions (eg.
factor prices, production technique, marketing technique) that makes a resource, or an
investment in a resource improvement, more valuable to the members of a collective will
prompt the collective to re-evaluate the appropriateness of the regime and possibly invest
funds to change it. Property rights theory suggests that the demand for individualised property
rights to a resource will be greater, the greater the potential to generate economic rents, the
lower the spatial and temporal variability, the lower the private costs associated with the
protection of boundaries, and the more efficient the public land tenure system (cf. Runge,
Propositions about Property Institutions and Mobility
P1. The management of key resources is most important in situations where certain
resources constrain production. Watering points are the most obvious candidates for
focal point resources.
P2. Institutions that regulate grazing rights need to be most formalised, rigid, and heavily-
enforced in areas that have high potential for alternative uses. The more formal and
rigid, the less the room for mobility.
P3. Local authorities are best equipped to enforce regulations affecting the type and timing
of resource use.
P4. African governments are rarely effective in directly managing public domain rangelands
but can be effective in defining the boundaries between rangelands. Boundaries clearly
define the domain for herd movement. Care must be taken to set boundaries to
encompass a variety of resources.
P5. There are complex relationships between property rights institutions and the adoption
of new techniques of water provision, disease control and feed production. On the one
hand, the provision of new production techniques can increase the demand for
individual property rights. Spontaneous tenure change can result. Alternatively,
livestock owners may choose to locate new investments only on land for which they
have secure and undivided tenure.
GATEKEEPER SERIES NO. SA47
Evaluation of Policy Instruments
Governments and donor agencies can be positive agents of change in Africa's extensive
livestock-natural pasture systems. Preservation and enhancement of mobility and tracking is
one policy objective for governments and donor agencies. Other policy objectives are to:
* increase the production of livestock products;
* increase the economic returns generated through the production of livestock products;
* diversify the sources of livestock owners' incomes;
* decrease the riskiness of livestock keeping as a livelihood option;
* diversify the sources of livestock owners' incomes; and
* maintain or enhance the productivity of natural pastures and fallows.
The ultimate goal of policy interventions is to enhance and stabilise the capabilities and
entitlements of pastoralists and agro-pastoralists. There are several policy instruments that
might advance that goal and are related to mobility.
Drought Recovery Instruments
Governments can assist livestock producers, particularly pastoralists who are exposed to the
greatest and most covariant risks, to recover from the effects of extended drought or other
sources of famine. One mechanism that has been used successfully in northern Kenya is
restocking. For example, drought-impoverished Turkana pastoralists have been provided
with sheep and goats, pack donkeys and maize (Hogg, 1987). Restocking can also help
pastoralists to re-initiate the mobile strategies over which they have a comparative advantage.
What needs to be worked out on a case-by-case basis for restocking programmes are: the
portion of loan versus grant (to be sustainable by African governments it must be mostly loan);
the need for veterinary inputs to accompany the capital assets; and the mechanisms for
repayment of loans. The East Senegal Livestock Development Project had success with
issuing loans to groups of livestock owners who were then jointly responsible for repayment
by individuals (Bromley and Cernea, 1989). Most pastoral groups have customary institutions
for livestock loans that can be used as models.
In many areas of Africa, especially in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel, governments have the
potential to improve people's welfare by increasing security for people and their property.
Improved security can support grazing patterns that are more mobile and take advantage of
a wider range of permanent pastures.
Development and Extension of New Techniques and Inputs
International, national and regional research organizations are investing resources to find new
GATEKEEPER SERIES NO. SA47
techniques for disease control and feed production. Important questions for judging the
appropriateness of such techniques are:
1. Are the techniques labour-saving or labour-using? Labour-using techniques such as
improved fallows or alley farms are likely to compete directly with mobility, another
labour-using technique. Veterinary treatments are more labour-saving and consistent with
2. Do the techniques require fixed investments and inputs? For example, community-based
tsetse control programmes using the new traps and targets require investments and
maintenance inputs into particular areas of land, while trypanocidal drug treatments move
with the animals. Fixed investments mitigate against mobility.
3. Are there mechanisms in place for the consistent and timely provision of the necessary
inputs? My experience in a tsetse-infested area of Ethiopia shows that'people are prepared
to pay considerable cash for reliable supplies of veterinary inputs but that the black market
private sector is much more reliable than the public sector in delivering supplies.
4. What animal health services are most appropriately supplied by government veterinarians,
private veterinarians or veterinary auxiliaries?
Changes in Property Rights Institutions
The discussion of property rights institutions supports the concept of co-management in which
state agencies define and enforce group property rights and the boundaries between regimes,
while local groups of resource users define and enforce rules within the boundaries of the
regimes. In arid areas the boundaries may define the areas served by specific watering points,
while in more humid and highland areas the boundaries may be more associated with natural
boundaries between areas of natural pasture and fallow. The areas should be large enough to
permit mobility and flexible grazing patterns but small enough so that groups are relatively
homogenous and the costs of information, contracting and enforcement are relatively low. If
possible, boundaries should correspond to the jurisdictions of customary authorities. Once
such boundaries are accepted and maintained, there may be room for the development of
tenancy relationships or markets for trading grazing rights between groups.
In agro-pastoral areas, certain tenure innovations may be necessary to support the adoption
of improved feed production and feeding practices. This may often simply require the
elimination of government distortions, such as the forest codes of West Africa, or the
development of institutions for private ownership of land or trees.
One of the most important arenas in which governments can enhance and stabilise the
entitlements and capabilities of livestock owners is through market development. It was noted
above that major sources of risk for livestock producers are the markets in which they purchase
inputs, sell livestock and other agricultural products, and purchase consumer goods. For
households that are net producers of livestock products and net consumers of crop products,
GATEKEEPER SERIES NO. SA47
market risks amplify, rather than decrease environmental risks. The amount of amplification
depends on the size of the transaction domain in which livestock owners transact. The more
localised livestock and crop markets are, the greater the amplification. Governments can
reduce the co-variation between environmental risks and market risks by undertaking market
development initiatives. Such initiatives are more urgently needed where customary sharing
institutions are declining.
With appropriate developments and reforms, more rural people will come to regard markets
as reliable mechanisms for securing their subsistence. They will then become more adept at
using the market to their advantage. For example, the development of markets for live animals
can also reduce the need for individual households to accumulate livestock and attempt to hold
them through drought periods.
Governments have several policy instruments for fostering market development. They can
support the construction of general physical infrastructure, like roads, bridges and commu-
nications, or of specialised marketing infrastructure, like livestock sales pens and trek routes.
They can eliminate state monopolies and encourage fair competition in the markets for
agricultural inputs and outputs. They can reduce restrictions on inter-provincial or inter-
district movement and trade in livestock and agricultural products. And, perhaps most
importantly, they can adjust macro-economic and international trade policies to encourage
more trade between neighboring countries.
Income Diversification and Rural Economic Development
In the long term, governments and donor agencies can have the greatest impact on the welfare
of pastoralists by promoting labour intensive industries as part of a strategy of rural economic
development. Most of those industries will produce and process livestock and agricultural
products. For example, the dairy industry in Kenya employs large numbers of rural residents
in producing feed, producing milk, collecting and selling raw milk, processing dairy products,
and retailing. In other situations, cash crops such as pyrethrum or horticultural crops will be
more appropriate. No matter what the product, however, all rural-based industries will rely
on the infrastructure and institutions that support market transactions.
1 This paper draws heavily on another paper I wrote under the auspices of the programme
on "Tenure Issues in Natural Resource Management in Sub-Saharan Africa" at the Land
Tenure Centre, University of Wisconsin-Madison (Swallow, 1990). The International
Livestock Centre for Africa (ILCA) supported the preparation of the paper and the Common-
wealth Secretariat covered some of the costs of my attendance at the Workshop. Peter de
Leeuw, Robin Reid and Kimberly Swallow provided useful comments on a previous draft of
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Copies of these papers are available from the Sustainable Agriculture Programme, IIED, London
(3.00 each inc. p and p).
GATEKEEPER SERIES NO. SA 47
The Sustainable Agriculture Programme
The Sustainable Agriculture Programme of IIED promotes
and supports the development of socially and environ-
mentally aware agriculture through research, training,
advocacy, networking and information dissemination.
The Programme emphasises close collaboration and con-
sultation with a wide range of institutions in the South.
Collaborative research projects are aimed at identifying
the constraints and potentials of the livelihood strategies
of the Third World poor who are affected by ecological,
economic and social change. These initiatives focus on
indigenous knowledge and resource management; par-
ticipatory planning and development; and agroecology
and resource conserving agriculture.
The refinement and application of Participatory Rural
Appraisal methods is an area of special emphasis. The
Programme is a leader in the training of individuals from
government and non-government organizations in the
application of these methods.
The Programme supports the exchange of field experi-
ences and research through a range of formal and informal
publications, including RRA Notes, aimed at practitioners
of Rapid and Participatory Rural Appraisal, and the Gate-
keeper Series, briefing papers aimed at policy makers. It
receives funding from the Swedish International Develop-
ment Authority, the Ford Foundation, and other diverse
International Institute for
Environment and Development
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