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Re-stocking pastoralists in Kenya: A strategy for relief and rehabilitation

Research reports

The prevailing orthodoxy is that destitution in pastoral areas is the inevitable result of an overloaded pastoral system, caused by 1) human population increase 2) an vecologically unwise dependence on milk in a country where milk production should not be attempted" (Pratt & Gwynne 1977: 40) and 3) traditIonal range management practices. In this view the only solution to destitution Is for pastoralists to keep less livestock and to adopt new economic activities. In the following paper I adopt a different perspective. I argue 1) that destitution is the result of external interventions, In particular national incorporation and market Integration, 2) that poverty and dependence is becoming a permanent way of life to many pastoralists, 3) that many rangeland areas are under rather than over stocked, 4) that government initiated attempts to remove excess human population into alternative economic activities are often disastrous, 5) that nomadic pastoralism is the only viable way of utilising rangelands in semi-arid and arid areas, 6) that livestock are increasingly concentrated in the hands of the wealthy, many of whom are absentee herdowners, and 7) that re-stocking offers a cost-effective way not only of alleviating poverty but of achieving a more equitable distribution of pastoral resources.

To illustrate the argument I describe the background to and implementation of a pilot re-stocking programme funded by Oxfam and the World Food Programme In Northern Kenya in 1983-4.

Richard Hogg