2: Herding through uncertainties

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In this lecture, Michele Nori explains some principles that emerge across different pastoral systems in responding to uncertainty, exploring these through six cases around the globe.

Uncertainty is a pervasive part of pastoral life. By looking at responses to uncertainty across pastoral regions, what principles of pastoralist practice emerge? Responding to environmental factors – variable rainfall patterns, extreme climatic events, animal disease etc. – is important. So are the consequences of the integration of pastoral economies into wider market dynamics; and the impacts of state interventions, including infrastructure development, sedentarisation, conservation programmes and so on. Problems of insecurity at local, regional and international levels affect pastoralism, as do technological developments connecting people, markets and resources.

The contexts can vary widely, but there are some common principles in how pastoralists around the world use to respond to these uncertainties in practice.

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  • How do dynamics of uncertainty differ across regional contexts?
  • How are pastoralists reconfiguring and adapting their livelihood practices and strategies?
  • What are the principles underpinning these dynamics?
  • What are the implications for development interventions and policy?


Two PASTRES Working Papers are the core readings for this lecture. Further references, including on regional cases, can be found in both.

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

Nori, M. 2019. Herding Through Uncertainties: Regional Perspectives. EUI Global Governance Programme Working Paper. Florence: EUI

For discussions on the politics of uncertainty across a huge range of fields – from banking to insurance, disease control, migration, security and religion, among others – please see the open access book edited by Ian Scoones and Andy Stirling, The Politics of Uncertainty: Challenges of Transformation (digital version available from July/August 2020).

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