Video: Tahira Mohamed on moral economies in Isiolo, Kenya

Tahira Mohamed has been working with pastoralists in Isiolo County, Northern Kenya, during her doctoral research with the PASTRES programme. In this short video, she explains her findings and why they challenge assumptions about how pastoralists live and work.

Tahira’s research explores the changes in the area since 1975 – the year of Gudrun Dahl’s book Suffering Grass. Politics, markets, governance, urbanisation, transport links and ecologies have changed the conditions for pastoralists over the decades.

Why does moral economy matter?

Despite many challenges, pastoralism continues to thrive as a livelihood for many people. This is partly due to the ‘moral economy’ that helps pastoralists to respond to uncertainty.

Moral economies allow pastoralists to negotiate and exchange information, resources, labour and support, based on shared values and expectations. This might involve ideas about how resources like livestock or water should be shared in common, or what help is available in a crisis.

Moral economies aren’t the same everywhere: Tahira’s research found that they vary according to wealth, gender, age and the places where people live and work.

The research focused on two sites in Isiolo – one more urban, and other more rural and remote – finding out how moral economies vary between different social groups and places. Participatory methods, including photovoice and event mapping, helped to highlight the views and understandings of pastoralists themselves.

Find out more

Tahira’s work in Isiolo is highlighted in the exhibition Seeing Pastoralism, including photographs taken by Tahira and the pastoralists she worked with.

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