Pastoral mobility: a review

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Pastoral mobility: a review
   NOMADIC PEOPLES NS (2005) VOLUME 9, ISSUES 1& 2, pp. 207-214 1 PASTORAL MOBILITY: A REVIEW  Hanne Kirstine Adriansen Introduction Mobility is often regarded an important characteristic of pastoral societies and their ways of  production in Africa. However, the interpretation of the rationale and importance of pastoral mobility changes along with the various discourses, and  –   just as important  –   the interpretation varies with the professional background of the researcher. While the positive  perception of mobility is relatively new among researchers of drylands, this is not a new line of thought among social scientists studying pastoralists (e.g. Dyson-Hudson and Dyson-Hudson 1980, Stenning 1957). Especially anthropologists (e.g. Dyson-Hudson 1966, Evans-Pritchard 1940, Nicolaisen 1963, Stenning 1959) and others studying pastoral societies (e.g. Gallais 1967, Johnson 1969) have pointed to the flexible strategies employed by pastoralists. In the late 1980s, a new understanding of drylands dynamic gained importance and led to the so-called „ new rangeland paradigm ‟, which has been called the „state -and- transition‟  paradigm (Westoby et al. 1989) or „instability -but-per  sistence‟ para digm (Warren 1995). The first papers concerned dryland functioning, but soon implications for pastoral management and hence pastoral mobility were included (e.g. Ellis and Swift 1988). This meant that concepts such as degradation and desertification have been reinterpreted and it has been shown that „sustainable resource management‟ is far from e quivocal. First, this review will show how pastoral mobility is understood in the context of range ecology; then it is discussed how pastoralists‟ perceptions can add to this understanding.   Pastoral mobility within the new rangeland paradigm The „new rangeland paradigm‟ has been thoroughly analysed in the three seminal books  Range ecology at disequilibrium  (Behnke, Scoones and Kerven 1993),  Living with uncertainty  (Scoones 1995a), and  Managing mobility in African rangelands (Niamir-Fuller, 1999a). While the first book mainly concerns the ecological aspects of dryland ecosystems, the second one elaborates on management implications for pastoral production systems, and the last one emphasises one aspect of pastoral systems, namely mobility. Author  ‟ s version  –   pages numbers not correct    2 According to the new rangeland paradigm, drylands are considered disequilibrial (changing from one state to another) due to strong external controls e.g. droughts, fires, or insect attacks. These external controls strongly affect primary production and thus livestock density. Hence, dryland productivity is controlled mainly by the highly variable preci- pitation; because livestock seldom reaches densities high enough to influence vegetation  productivity, precipitation is the principal factor controlling inter annual vegetation dy-namics (Coppock 1993). The perception of pastoral mobility within the new rangeland  paradigm can be summarised as follows: Pastoral mobility is highly appropriate in variable and unpredictable environments. An important characteristic of tropical drylands is the heterogeneity of natural resources. Pastoral mobility implies that pastoralists can move to areas with pasture for their livestock. Moreover, pastoral mobility means that the effect of unforeseen events, e.g. outbreak of disease, bush fire, locust attack, can be mitigated. Finally, migration between different agro-ecological zones means that more animals can be kept than in each of the zones (Niamir-Fuller 1998, Scoones 1995b). In the book on pastoral mobility (  Managing mobility in African rangelands ), the so-called „mobility paradigm‟ is developed. When analysed in the light of disequilibrium ecology, management practices, institutions, etc. that previously have been characterised as destructive, are now seen as ecologically rational. Hence, the „mobility paradigm‟  provides a framework for understanding pastoral mobility based on the findings of the new rangeland  paradigm and examines the various aspects of mobility. Here, the m ain arguments of the „mobility paradigm‟  will be discussed. In the second chapter of the book, Niamir-Fuller and Turner (1999) develop an analytical framework that should act as a checklist for understanding pastoral mobility. The authors aim to ensure appropriate measures that can „allow self  -evolution of pastoralism towards an economically, socially and environmentally sustain able livelihood system‟ (1999: 31). They find the following four aspects salient for understanding mobility: the resource base , the resource users , their adaptive strategies , and their common property regimes  (Niamir-Fuller and Turner 1999: 32-45). For each aspect, key words are mentioned. These will be discussed briefly in the following.   NOMADIC PEOPLES NS (2005) VOLUME 9, ISSUES 1& 2, pp. 207-214 3 The key words for the resource base  are high variability and uncertainty, non-equilibrium theory, ecological resilience, and socio-ecological pasture units. Hence, these are the elements of the „new rangeland paradigm‟ , which have been outlined above. The key words for the resource users  are heterogeneity, indigenous technical knowledge system, social capital, reciprocity, interdependence, and political alliance. Indigenous knowledge will be discussed in the next section. Here only a few words on social capital. The concept, which was developed in a Western context, became popular in development work in the late 1990s. Niamir-Fuller and Turner use social capital similarly to the term „culture‟ to denote „shared norms…cultural and religious mores and values… knowledge systems…conflict -management m echanisms‟ (1999: 35). Unfortunately, it is left to the reader to imagine how social capital is „built‟ and „lost‟, and how it fu nctions in the interaction between people and relates to individual behaviour. Adaptive strategies  of the resource users concern the types of mobility as well as the decision-making and management aspects of mobility. The key words include: opportunistic mobility, tracking, micro-mobility, macro-mobility, negotiation, indigenous communication, and safety nets. Besides the rejection of carrying capacity and sedentary ranching, the authors point to the importance of micro-mobility; an aspect that is often overlooked. In continuation of this, it is important to distinguish between mobility of humans and livestock. This important aspect is pointed at in the first chapter of the book, where the editor mentions that „livestock movements can be considered separately from movements by humans‟ (Niamir-Fuller 1999b: 1) and elaborated in the conclusion. It could be argued that commercialisation should have been included as a key word. As pointed out by Swift (2000), commercialisation may well be of outmost importance for future pastoralists. Moreover, commercialisation influences other aspects of pastoral strategies such as safety nets and risk spreading, which have a tendency to disappear under increased commercialisation (see e.g. Batterbury and Warren 2001, Sutter 1987, Swallow 1994). Finally, common property regimes  have these key words: common-pool resources, nested  property, fluid boundaries, inclusive rights, transboundary resources, informal institutions, co-management, conflict management, and popular enforcement. This is the most extensive section, where each key word is discussed at length. When reading the individual papers in the volume, this makes sense as most of the papers concern tenure regimes and management    4 in some way. The section relates to the „classic‟ discussion of „the tragedy of the commons‟ (Hardin 1968) as well as to the concern for institutional issues seen in environmental research in the mid-1990s (Rhoades 1989). To sum up, with the „new rangeland paradigm‟ a comprehensive understanding of drylands has been provided, and it is shown that mobility is an appropriate strategy in dryland environments. However, the arguments are based on the „needs of nature‟, not on the voices of African pastoralists. This means that  pastoralists‟ actions and  mobility practice are explained using a scientific understanding of drylands and not their own explanations or conceptualisations of „nature‟. The absence of pastoralist perspectives means that the importance of mobility for the wider social and cultural life is left unsolved. For instance, how does the importance of mobility manifest itself in the cultural construction of identity? Without this knowledge, it is difficult to understand the pastoral practices shaping the future  pastoral way of life. Past oralists’ perceptions   According to Milton (1997), the focus on people‟s own views and understanding began in the 1960s, when researchers, mainly anthropologists, „became increasingly interested in understanding people‟s own perceptions and interpretations of the world… because they form the appropriate context in which to analyse people‟s actions and decision -making  process‟ (1997: 484). It is fair to say that the focus on local perception is not new nor in the context of pastoralism. However, there are a number of different ways to approach this as the following five examples show. The papers have been published within the past five years, i.e. after the new rangeland paradigm. They have been selected on basis of their titles, which all include words suc h as „perception‟, „conceptualisation‟, „knowledge construction‟, and „narratives‟. The collection is meant to be a mere illustration of recent tendencies in pastoral research; it is neither in- nor exclusive. Although perceptions, knowledge constructions, etc. are discussed in several publications on pastoral resource management, the tendency to have an explicit focus on these issues, which can be observed by the explicit use of these words in the title, is something new.   NOMADIC PEOPLES NS (2005) VOLUME 9, ISSUES 1& 2, pp. 207-214 5 The five papers discussed here are:  No space for participation: Pastoralist narratives and etiology of park-herder conflict in southeastern Niger  by Turner (1999),  Representations of nature on the Mongolian steppe: An investigation of scientific knowledge constructions  by Willams (2000),  Environmental change and pastoral perceptions: Degradation and indigenous knowledge in two African pastoral communities  by Bollig and Schulte (1999),  Herders’ perceptions, practice, and problems of night grazing in the Sahel: Case studies  from Niger   by Ayantunde et al. (2000), and Where my cord is buried: WoDaaBe use and conceptualization of land   by Loftsdóttir (2001). The first two concern the scientific construction of knowledge, while the latter three deal with pastoralists‟ perceptions. Turner (1999) and Williams (2000) both study with knowledge constructions. While Turner shows how so-called development narratives have influenced on park-herder conflicts in  Niger, Williams is interested in the different scales at which knowledge about the Mongolian rangelands are constructed. Turner  ‟s paper concerns conflicts over resources that are being solved using participatory methods. He shows that the development narratives depicting Fulani as tradition-bound, nomadic pastoralists narrow the space for negotiation. This has important implications for the way conflicts over rangeland resources are solved. In contrast to Turner‟s characteristic of subtle and often unconscious processes, Williams argue that rangeland science is used as a tool for social control over pastoralists of the Mongolian steppe. He provides examples of how Chinese scientists (of Han ethnicity) incorporate „evidence‟ of rangeland degradation in the political ideology by showing how ethnic  minorities abuse the land, while state run property is not degraded. Besides the national and the local scale, Williams also consider the international scale. For instance when Western researchers visit Mongolian rangelands, they „naively consider their hosts to be the “local experts,” even though Han scientis ts see themselves as outsiders who work in an alien environments among alien people ‟  (2000: 513). In this way the two papers contribute to our understanding of how our own (Western/scientific) knowledge constructions affect the way we perceive others and their way of dealing with e.g. „ nature ‟ . In regard to pastoralists‟ perceptions, two poles can be outlined with respect to their approach towards local knowledge and perceptions. At the one pole, there is a tendency to incorporate information on local knowledge in the scientific construction of knowledge, for instance by employing the ecosystem approach (e.g. Berkes et al. 2000, Kimmerer 2000, Ruttan and Borgerhoff Mulder 1999) and to rely on a positivist way of analysing, while the
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