1: Debating pastoral development

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In the opening lecture, Prof Ian Scoones offers a broad, introductory overview of debates about pastoralism (livelihood systems primarily reliant on livestock), and the links to big questions in development.

Pastoralism involves living with and from uncertainty. It makes use of highly variable environments, subject to climate change. This requires making the most of the diversity (of rangelands, animals and their products), using mobility as a strategy to respond to seasonal and inter-annual variation in resources, alongside open forms of tenure and flexible governance arrangements. Living in often resource-poor areas on the margins of state power, pastoralists frequently have conflictual relations with both national and local states and neighbouring groups.


But pastoralism is changing, and new dynamics are emerging.

Increasing pressure on land through investments in agriculture, energy or conservation, as well as the expansion of settled, agricultural populations and the growth of towns, means that access to resources and services (including settled housing, education, health) is changing.

Changing markets, including the growth of demand for livestock markets, have opened up new opportunities for livestock and their products, while also attracting new investors in livestock and changes in labour relations.

What does this mean for the future of pastoralism, and what are possible future scenarios?

Watch the lecture


  • What are the different narratives about pastoral development where you work?
  • What does a living with/from uncertainty paradigm imply for policy and practice?
  • What scenarios for the future of pastoralism are evident where you work?
  • How can a study of pastoralism challenge development thinking and practice?
  • What are the implications for policy and practice?


Abbink, J., Askew, K., Feyissa Dori, D., Fratkin, E., Gabbert, E.C., Galaty, J. LaTosky, S., Lydall, J., Mahmoud, H.A., Markakis, J., Schlee, G., Strecker, I. and Turton, D. (2014) Lands of the Future: Transforming Pastoral Lands and Livelihoods in Eastern Africa. Working Paper 154. Halle: Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology.

Catley, A. (2017) Pathways to Resilience in Pastoralist Areas: A Synthesis of Research in the Horn of Africa, report. Boston: Feinstein International Center, Tufts University.

Catley, A. Lind J. and Scoones I. (2012) eds. Pastoralism and Development in Africa: Dynamic Change at the Margins. London: Earthscan/Routledge. See also: The futures of pastoralism in the Horn of Africa: pathways of growth and change. Rev Sci Tech. 2016, 35(2):389-403

Krätli, S. and Schareika, N. (2010) Living off uncertainty: the intelligent animal production of dryland pastoralists. The European Journal of Development Research, 22(5): .605-622. See also: Kratli, S. et al. (2015) A House Full of Trap Doors. IIED Discussion Paper. London: IIED.

Moritz, M., Kyle, B. R., Nolan, K., Patrick, S., Shaffer, M. F. and Thampy, G (2009) Too Many People and Too Few Livestock in West Africa? An Evaluation of Sandford’s Thesis, Journal of Development Studies, 45: 7, 1113 — 1133.

Nori, M. (2019) Herding Through Uncertainties: Principles and Practices. EUI Global Governance Programme Working Paper. Florence: EUI

Reid, R.S., Fernández-Giménez, M.E. and Galvin, K.A. (2014) Dynamics and resilience of rangelands and pastoral peoples around the globe. Annual Review of Environment and Resources, vol 39, pp.217-242.

Sandford, S. (2006) Too Many People, Too Few Livestock: The Crisis Affecting Pastoralists in the Greater Horn of Africa. Future Agricultures Consortium e-debate. Brighton: Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex. See also the responses to this paper.

Scoones, I. ed. (1995). Living with Uncertainty: New Directions in pastoralist Development in Africa. London: Intermediate Technology Publications (Chapter 1)

Turner, M.D. and Schlect, E. (2019) Livestock mobility in sub-Saharan Africa: A critical review. Pastoralism 9: 13.

Photo credit: Greta Semplici

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