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Pastoralism in Africa

Pastoralism in Africa: Past, Present and Future

Michael Bollig
Michael Schnegg
Hans-Peter Wotzka
Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 544
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  • Book Info
    Pastoralism in Africa
    Book Description:

    Pastoralism has shaped livelihoods and landscapes on the African continent for millennia. Mobile livestock husbandry has generally been portrayed as an economic strategy that successfully met the challenges of low biomass productivity and environmental variability in arid and semi-arid environments. This volume focuses on the emergence, diversity, and inherent dynamics of pastoralism in Africa based on research during a twelve-year period on the southwest and northeast regions. Unraveling the complex prehistory, history, and contemporary political ecology of African pastoralism, results in insight into the ingenuity and flexibility of historical and contemporary herders.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-909-1
    Subjects: Anthropology, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Archaeology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vii)
  3. List of Figures and Tables
    (pp. viii-xii)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  6. Introduction Specialisation and Diversification among African Pastoral Societies
    (pp. 1-28)
    Michael Bollig and Michael Schnegg

    In 1995 the collaborative research centre Arid Climate, Adaptation and Cultural Innovation in Africa (ACACIA) started research on the complex inter-relationship between ecology, politics and culture in Africa’s arid environments (Bubenzer, Bollig and Riemer 2006; Bollig et al. 2007; Bolten et al. 2009).¹ According to the original hypothesis of the ACACIA programme, the emergence of pastoralism in Africa as well as its spread were intricately connected to major climatic changes in the earlier part of the Holocene (Kuper and Kröpelin 2006). Once developed as a successful form of adaptation to arid and semi-arid environments, pastoralism made its way across the...

  7. Part I: The Prehistory of Pastoralism in Africa

    • Chapter 1 Herders before Pastoralism: Prehistoric Prelude in the Eastern Sahara
      (pp. 31-65)
      Rudolph Kuper and Heiko Riemer

      Looking at the stunning assemblage of hundreds of cattle skulls around the second millennium BC tombs at Kerma (see Figure 1.2) (Chaix 2001; Bonnet 2004) or the early Dynastic bucrania from Saqqara (Emery 1954), and feeling the pride of intimate relations between humans and cattle expressed by countless much older rock paintings from all over the Sahara, it becomes evident that cattle pastoralism with its related ideological background must have played an important role in arid North-east Africa for thousands of years. To turn this general observation into a more anthropologically founded statement it should be useful at the outset...

    • Chapter 2 ‘I Hope Your Cattle Are Well’: Archaeological Evidence for Early Cattle-centred Behaviour in the Eastern Sahara of Sudan and Chad
      (pp. 66-103)
      Friederike Jesse, Birgit Keding, Tilman Lenssen-Erz and Nadja Pöllath

      ‘I hope your cattle are well’ (abere chemegi tuga chekug) is the greeting phrase of pastoral Kalenjin in Kenya, and reflects their special relationship with cattle.¹ In many African societies cattle are not only of great economic importance but also play an important role in the social and ritual domains. They are prestige items and ‘companions for life’, often occupying central positions in ritual and mythology. The use of animals as a medium for complex symbolism is a widespread phenomenon, probably above all since ‘natural species are chosen not because they are “good to eat” but because they are “good...

    • Chapter 3 Trajectories of Pastoralism in Northern and Central Kenya: An Overview of the Archaeological and Environmental Evidence
      (pp. 104-144)
      Paul Lane

      This chapter offers a review of the archaeological, environmental and related evidence concerning the introduction of and transition to pastoralism in northern and central Kenya (see Figure 3.1), from the earliest evidence for livestock husbandry in the north of the region to the recent past. The chapter also aims to examine how these landscapes were transformed over millennia in terms of their material and ecological characteristics. In order to situate these events and processes, the chapter begins with an outline sketch of the origins and expansion of cattle, camel and small stock pastoralism in the region, drawing on a combination...

    • Chapter 4 From the First Stock Keepers to Specialised Pastoralists in the West African Savannah
      (pp. 145-170)
      Veerle Linseele

      The present chapter deals with the emergence and spread of pastoralism in the western parts of Africa (see Figure 4.1). In its simplest and most general sense, ‘pastoralism’ is synonymous with domestic stock keeping. Except perhaps for guineafowl, and for very recent experiments with the domestication of local wild species, none of the domestic animals kept in western Africa nowadays are indigenous to the region. A major part in any study of the history of stock keeping in the West African savannah therefore concerns the date and mode of introduction of each of the domesticated animal species, and its adaptation...

    • Chapter 5 A Short History of Early Herding in Southern Africa
      (pp. 171-198)
      Karim Sadr

      Over five hundred years ago, Portuguese seafarers encountered domesticated livestock on the coast of southernmost Africa (Raven-Hart 1967). Cattle, sheep and goats, which are not native to sub-Saharan Africa, must have been brought from farther north (Mitchell 2002: 231; Phillipson 2005: 272). One episode of cattle domestication may have taken place some 10,000 to 11,000 calendar years ago in what is now the Eastern Sahara (Wendorf and Schild 1998; cf. Riemer 2007), but sheep and goats are of West Asian origin (Zeder and Hesse 2000; MacHugh and Bradley 2001). Key questions in the history of Southern African herding thus have...

  8. Part II: Historical and Contemporary Dynamics of Pastoralism

    • Chapter 6 Establishing a Precolonial ‘Modern’ Cattle-and-Gun Society: (Re-)Pastoralisation, Mercantile Capitalism and Power amongst Herero in Nineteenth-century Central Namibia
      (pp. 201-229)
      Dag Henrichsen

      The history of the Herero is generally perceived as being the history of cattle pastoralists. In the Southern African context, Herero have been considered archetypal pastoralists and historians and anthropologists have in general focussed their interest on a people ‘with cattle’ and living in a specific ‘cattle culture’ (see Hagolani 1967; Vivelo 1977).¹ The literature attests to cattle in Herero society being what Jean and John Comaroff have called ‘the medium of transformation, in atotaleconomy of signs and practices, between a material economy of things and a moral economy of persons’ (Comaroff and Comaroff 1992: 128). Such a view...

    • Chapter 7 The Emergence of Commercial Ranching under State Control and the Encapsulation of Pastoralism in African Reserves
      (pp. 230-256)
      Christo Botha

      An environmentalist recently argued that colonialism in Namibia did not only result in Apartheid and skewed development objectives, it left behind ‘a vast environmental debt’. This debt is revealed in a stark history of environmental neglect: the collapse of Namibia’s marine fisheries, mainly through overfishing, and a steady decline in the productivity of the country’s agricultural rangeland as a result of environmental degradation, ‘evidenced by a loss of biotic diversity, bush-encroachment, deforestation, overgrazing, soil erosion and loss of fertility of croplands. Many of Namibia’s limited wetlands and water resources have been over-exploited’ (Brown 1999: 15, 17). In stark contrast to...

    • Chapter 8 Land, Boreholes and Fences: The Development of Commercial Livestock Farming in the Outjo District, Namibia
      (pp. 257-288)
      Ute Dieckmann

      This chapter explores the history of commercial agriculture in the Outjo district of northern-central Namibia from the onset of colonisation until the independence of the country in 1990. This is foremost a history of European – or white – livestock farming.¹

      After a short description of the methodology and the field site, I will sketch the progressive European occupation of the land. The economic strategies employed by farmers during the colonial period will be analysed, as well as major challenges, risks and crises.² Special attention will be paid to two aspects vital to the history of colonial farming in Namibia: state support...

    • Chapter 9 The Political Ecology of Specialisation and Diversification: Long-term Dynamics of Pastoralism in East Pokot District, Kenya;
      (pp. 289-315)
      Michael Bollig and Matthias Österle

      Highly specialised livestock herders shaped the pastoral economies and societies of East Africa in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Spatial mobility, subsistence orientation, egalitarian relations between household units, common property resource management, age sets and/or generation set organisation, extensive networks of stock loans and gerontocratic political organisation have been key elements of East African pastoral livelihoods (Dyson-Hudson and Dyson-Hudson 1980; Fratkin 1997; Spencer 1998). High degrees of spatial mobility, subsistence mainly dependent on livestock, the symbolically prominent role of livestock-based food ways, and the dominant position of livestock, namely cattle, in all social exchanges and rituals were deemed as essential...

    • Chapter 10 Social-ecological Change and Institutional Development in a Pastoral Community in North-western Namibia
      (pp. 316-340)
      Michael Bollig

      Changing Land Tenure in North-western Namibia

      Pastoral nomadism in north-western Namibia has been depicted as well-adapted to the hazards of an arid environment (Malan 1972, 1995; Steyn 1977). Society and culture have been often interpreted as being determined by the vicissitudes of seasonal and inter-annual resource scarcity.¹ Drought is generally conceptualised as the major risk within this semi-arid environment (Malan 1995). However, accounts which argue this glance over the fact that human–environment relations in north-west Namibia have changed rapidly throughout the past one hundred years due to governmental measures. Herding in north-western Namibia was formed by and impacted on by...

    • Chapter 11 Pastoral Belonging: Causes and Consequences of Part-time Pastoralism in North-western Namibia
      (pp. 341-362)
      Michael Schnegg, Julia Pauli and Clemens Greiner

      We are sitting in front of Elias’s hut in the hinterlands of Fransfontein, Namibia, awaiting the return of his cattle and goats to his kraal.¹ In the morning, Elias had made arrangements via mobile phone for a livestock trader to pick up two of his oxen. It is the beginning of the university year and Elias needs to pay N$ 2,500 in fees for two courses he wants to take with UNISA, South Africa’s largest distance-learning institution.² While we are sitting and waiting for the animals to return he reflects on the investment he is about to make, lamenting the...

  9. Part III: Violence, Trade, Conservation and Pastoralismin Africa

    • Chapter 12 Pastoralism, Conflict and the State in Contemporary Eastern Chad: The Case of Zaghawa—Tama Relationships
      (pp. 365-388)
      Babett Jánszky and Grit Jungstand

      Conflicts between pastoralists and farmers occur regularly in Sahelian Africa. In most cases, farmers emerge victorious from such encounters due to their closer relations with state institutions. Pastoralists often rely more on non-state violence to defend their interests and are thereby prone to get into conflict with the state. The case described here is especially interesting as it presents a counterexample. Zaghawa pastoralists are in command of the state as they have held the presidency in Chad since 1990 and have mastered the infiltration of state and economic institutions. In this chapter we trace the process of political, economic and...

    • Chapter 13 Unofficial Trade When States Are Weak: The Case of Cross-border Livestock Trade in the Horn of Africa
      (pp. 389-411)
      Peter D. Little

      In June 2001, Abdi and Dahir sit around a small hotel room in Garissa, a growing town of about 50,000 in north-eastern Kenya, discussing the pros and cons’ of the current cattle trade between stateless Somalia and Kenya. They lament the fact that they have to sell their animals quickly because there are not sufficient areas nearby to allow them to graze, and it is expensive to purchase fodder to sustain them. Corruption by local officials in Kenya is another issue and ‘everybody is looking to be paid a littlechai[tea, bribe] or they will make problems’. Abdi and Dahir...

    • Chapter 14 Pastoralism and Trans-Saharan Trade: The Transformation of a Historical Trade Route between Eastern Chad and Libya
      (pp. 412-439)
      Meike Meerpohl

      This chapter explores the relationship between pastoralism and trans-Saharan trade between Chad and Libya, with a focus on the importance of livestock husbandry for nomadic and semi-nomadic groups in the sub-Saharan regions of north-eastern Chad, with specific attention to the Zaghawa. Furthermore, it will outline how the Zaghawa have transformed from being semi-nomadic pastoralists to traders. This transformation has come about due to migration and wage labour stimulated by the affects of drought on their homeland with resulting extensive interregional networks used for trade links. Additionally, savings accumulated from wage labour have enabled many to send remittances back to the...

    • Chapter 15 Pastoralism and Nature Conservation in Southern Africa
      (pp. 440-470)
      Susanne Berzborn and Martin Solich

      Pastoralism in Southern Africa has been massively affected by various approaches to nature conservation that in their manifold organisational forms have created new chances but mainly taken away options for the Nama of the South African Richtersveld, the herders of Lesotho, for pastoralists in northern and southern Namibia as well as in western Botswana. While the impact of livestock keeping on the Southern African environment is well documented (e.g., Shackleton, von Maltitz and Evans 1998; Jürgens, Gotzmann and Cowling 1999; Hoffman and Ashwell 2001), the influence of nature conservation on livestock keepers plays a minor role in scientific discourse. In...

  10. Part IV: Pastoral Modernities in Africa

    • Chapter 16 The Indigenisation of Pastoral Modernity: Territoriality, Mobility and Poverty in Dryland Africa
      (pp. 473-510)
      John G. Galaty

      Pastoralism is one of the world’s great livelihood systems, one that allows humans to inhabit the enormous tracts of arid and semi-arid lands that stretch across the globe by living off the products of domestic herbivores that consume grass and shrubs. Up to one half of the world’s land is used as rangeland grazing, the proportion rising in the ‘arid continent’ of Africa. Nomadic or semi-nomadic pastoralists predominate across the dryland Sahelian and Saharan belt that transects West and North Africa and the Horn of Africa, where the belt of aridity turns southward to penetrate East Africa. Much of Southern...

  11. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 511-516)
  12. Index
    (pp. 517-526)