Cattle to Camels: Insights into adaptation, conflict and co-operation from Borana communities adapting to changing weather patterns in the Horn of Africa
Associated Organization: NR International and Community Initiative Facilitation and Assistance (CIFA)Climate change is giving rise to new scenarios requiring not only new coping mechanisms, but alternative livelihoods and most dramatically, refined social systems. This project is one of three related studies proposed to look at: Borana communities that have shifted from centuries old socio-cultural cattle pastoralism to new livelihoods dependent on the camel. The other two studies will look at: agro-pastoralist communities in Borana areas that are shifting to pastoralism; and how Borana peoples are negotiating peace around the principal of temporary, asymmetric and sustainable sharing of contested resources, and respect for the fundamental right of stricken people and their animals to survive. Borana cattle are an intrinsic part of the social organization of these pastoral communities who hold indigenous knowledge around a unique migration between the 500 year old deep tula well complexes on the Ethiopian plateau and seasonal grazing lands on the north Kenyan plains. Cattle value comprises: functions (e.g. traction power), outputs (e.g. manure, milk), services (e.g. dowry, status of wealth) associated with keeping cattle, and trade in markets. The Borana cattle are the predominant traditional breed on the semiarid Southern Borana plateau of Ethiopia and in the northern Kenyan lowlands. The Borana plateau is nowadays constantly in crisis due to pressure on the common rangelands. Significant changes in climate threaten the conservation of ecosystems and natural habitats necessary (as defined by the Convention On Biological Diversity) for the maintenance and recovery of viable populations of Borana cattle in their natural surroundings. Bush encroachment is diminishing availability of good pasture leading to a decline in cattle carrying capacity per unit grazing area. Whilst there are advantages in owning a variety of species so that, whatever climatic events occur, there will be survivors, maintaining such herds is a luxury that only the wealthier can afford. However, each represent a massive past investment in animal genetic resources which can provide insurance against unknown global future providing a chance for future generations to respond adequately to increasing food demand, environmental changes, diseases, and other associated challenges. This study features communities that have chosen to switch from their grazing cattle to camels, which are browsers and resilient in a drought (though camels will die in numbers after a critical point). Understanding this choice and the lessons its holds for those struggling with governance under this global ecological crisis as well as others facing climate change induced livelihood choices is critical.
Themes: Agriculture, fisheries and food security, Crosscutting Issues, Gender, Poverty and vulnerability, Water
Regions: East Africa
Countries: Ethiopia, Kenya
Followers: 6 people are following this project
Overview: This is a project proposal to be based in the highlands of southern Ethiopia and the bordering northern Kenyan lowlands where pastoralists have adopted new coping mechanisms in response to climate change.
Our project goals are to:
- Facilitate the sharing and build recognition of the unique knowledge and expertise of pastoralists in northern Kenya and Southern Ethiopia, providing essential insights from communities adapting their livelihoods to changing weather patterns.
- Highlight how, when competition over resources and natural services intensifies, environmental, social and economic pressures can conspire to deny some groups access to the means to survive.
- Draw international attention to changing climate in arid and semi-arid lands, and how a relatively small change in climate such as a decline or shift in the pattern of precipitation can bring people and livestock to the brink of disaster.
- Provide an opportunity for communities to voice their observations, experiences and concerns around recurring droughts, unpredictable rainfall patterns, seasonal floods, food insecurity, conflict and disease, and how these have depleted assets and capabilities.
- Identify where changing climate patterns are too severe for traditional coping strategies such as pastoralist migration routes and local temporary resources sharing agreements with neighbours to accommodate.
- Support community-level educational activities related to livestock pastoralism and climate change, highlighting the role of local knowledge, practices and coping strategies, facilitating sharing and exchange of these with other communities.