Pastoralist societies in flux: A conceptual framework analysis of herding and land use among the Mukugodo Maasai of Kenya
This article (PDF) in the journal Pastoralism illustrates the relationship between globalization and apparent transformations in pastoralist behavior in recent years. The paper focuses specifically on the links among climate, land use, and herding in rural northern Kenya. Subsistence pastoralism, in isolation, no longer exists. It has declined as a practice because of increasingly erratic rainfall, dried out and dying grasslands, rapid population growth, and restrictions on household and herd mobility. Also, the emergence of globalized markets have forced many pastoralists to shift their economic strategies of production to accommodate these evolving markets. A novel conceptual framework was used that incorporates both traditional interactions between pastoral ecology and resource generation and modern opportunities by linking pastoral families via their pastoral production and other economic activities to the cash economy, modern diets and nutritional status (health), and public and private assistance and programs (such as food aid). This framework makes it possible to articulate the recent environmental and economic shifts leading pastoral families to move outside of the pastoral sector and tap into the global economy. It is found that poor pastoralist families are dependent on social welfare programs to feed their families, since neither milk production at home nor livestock sales alone can sustain these families. Ultimately, by fighting to maintain local resources under their immediate control, pastoralists seek reliability in an inherently unpredictable and competitive global world.