Drought. Its impacts on pastoral societies

Seminar Paper, 2017

23 Pages, Grade: A


Table of Contents



Table of Contents



1 Background
1.2 Objective

2. Literature review
2.1 Concept and definition of drought
Meteorological droughts
Agricultural droughts;
Hydrological droughts
Socio-economic droughts;
2.2 Concept of pastoralism
Ranching/enclosed livestock production
2.3 Livelihood system of pastoral society
2.4 Impact of drought on pastoral societies




ACTED Agency For Technical Corporation And Development

ASAL Association For The Study Of Australian Literature

FAO Food And Agricultural Organization

GDP Growth Domestic Product

ISDR International Strategies For Disaster Risk Reduction

NRC Nuclear Regulatory Commission

UNDP United Nation Development Program

WISP World International For Sustainable Pastoralism

WMO World Methodological Organization


First and foremost, praises and thanks to the God, the Almighty, for His Showers of blessings throughout my seminar work to complete the paper successfully. Next I would like to thank my advisor misganawTeshager (MSc) for the patient guidance, encouragement and advice he has provided throughout my time as his student. I have been extremely lucky because of his great advice from the beginning until the end of my seminar. In addition to this he gives direction how I can work this seminar and avoid the mistakes which are done during my work. Also I would like to thank my friends for their great advice from the beginning to the end of my work.


This senior seminar reviews the impact of drought on pastoral societies in their livelihood system. Livestock mortalities and morbidity, human morbidity, conflicts, food insecurity, reduction of livestock prices, and increase in food prices were among the socioeconomic impacts of drought experienced. Drought have also a great impact in pastoral society’s interms of decreasing livestock trade and marketing, increasing conflict and insecurity, decrease the education and increase destitution among the societies. Drought is a major cause of poverty in pastoral communities. It results in low stocking rate and livestock deaths, which leads to reduction of assets (Illius et al., 1998). Moreover, drought depletes water sources and reduces quantity and quality of forage for livestock (Orindi et al, 2007).

The impacts of drought are felt in large geographical scope than impacts that result from othernatural hazards such as floods, earthquakes and hurricanes (WMO, 2006). Wilhite (2000) arguesthat wide spatial coverage and non-structural nature of impacts make it difficult for planners anddecision makers to quantify impacts and provide disaster relief in the event of drought than forother natural hazards. Emergency workers, for instance, can easily respond to impacts of floodssince they are structural and localized. They respond to such other natural hazards by restoringphysical infrastructure, providing emergency medical supplies, shelter and supplying potable water amongst other intervention.

Economic impacts of drought to pastoralists are demonstrated by deteriorating livestock bodyconditions and massive livestock deaths, which lead to decline in livestock prices (Huho et al.,2011). Pastoralists experience decline in levels of productivity from their herds following lossesin livestock capital from deaths, low calving rates, low milk production and weight loss, whichconsequently reduce the market value of livestock. It is therefore a fact that drought results in destruction and collapse of pastoralists livelihoods, dependence on food aid and long-term destitution. Furthermore, reduction of pastoralists’ purchasing power is one of the important economic effects of recurrent droughts. To cater for their nutritional and energy needs, pastoralcommunities purchase cereals and other foods with the proceeds from sales of livestock andlivestock products (Morton & Barton, 2002).


1 Background

Drought have a great impact in pastoral area of the societies in the world , Africa and Ethiopia by reducing forage production and water resources. The impact is very high in Africa and Ethiopia because the capacity to minimize the impact is very low. The impacts include, destitution(poverty), socioeconomic impacts of drought on Pastoral area, impacts on livestock trade and marketing and impacts on Education. Drought occurrence among the pastoral communities is not new. In the past, pastoralcommunities in Eastern Africa have suffered numerous drought events (Oba &Lusigi, 1987).These have lead to human, economic and environmental costs, which are mostly borne bypastoral communities who exclusively depend on livestock for their survival and livelihood(Barton et al., 2001). While drought affects both farmers and pastoralists, the impacts aregreatest amongst the pastoralists, since they constitute the majority of human population in aridlands where there is frequent occurrence (Orindi et al., 2007).Drought is a major cause of poverty in pastoral communities. It results in low stocking rate and livestock deaths, which leads to reduction of assets (Illius et al., 1998). Moreover, drought depletes water sources and reduces quantity and quality of forage for livestock (Orindi et al, 2007). Furthermore, drought renders pastoralists helpless and vulnerable to food shortage. Pastoralists over the years combated drought impacts through different strategies (Fratkin, 2001).Pastoral communities’ vulnerability to drought is not just linked to natural factors, but also a function of political, socioeconomic and institutional constraints (Pavanello, 2009).

Pastoral communities are differentiated in certain aspects, for example, by their geographical location and ethnic backgrounds. Internal differentiation is also explicit in pastoral settings. Cop pock (1994) argued that ‘African pastoral communities are diverse and therefore the concept of average household is less significant in understanding the dynamics of pastoralist system or in stipulating blanket intervention approaches’. Pastoralists have assets to which they have access to including natural resources, skills, knowledge, sources of credit, education and social networks. The extent of their access to assets is influenced by the vulnerability context. This takes account of shocks (e.g. droughts, epidemics), trends (e.g. economical and political) and seasonality (e.g. prices). Access is also influenced by the prevailing social, institutional and policy environment, which affects the ways in which pastoralists relate and use their assets to achieve their livelihood goals. Trends in the spatial distribution of water, population size, demand and competing uses all gain heightened significance and increased stress at times of drought (Von Braun &Teklu, 1999).

Drought is largely considered to be a natural event. However, as argued by Wilhite (2000), it srisks for any given region are a product of both the regions’ exposure and the vulnerability of societies to the drought event. Wilhite and Svoboda (2000) further expounded that, exposure to drought varies spatially and there is absolutely nothing that can be done to alter its occurrence, while vulnerability is determined by social, economic and cultural factors. These factors include population growth, demographic characteristics, technology, policy, social behavior, land use patterns, water use, economic development, diversity of economic base and cultural composition. Moreover, it is important to note that drought per se is not a disaster. Whether drought becomes a disaster depends on its impacts on local people, economies and environment, and their ability to cope with and recover from its impacts. Therefore, the key to understanding drought is to know the impact that is faced by the communities. Although there are numerous definitions of drought as alluded in this text, the US based National Research Council (NRC) provided a concrete conceptual delineation of drought which was used in this study. NRC (2007) states that, ‘drought is a deficiency of precipitation from expected or normal conditions that extends over a season or longer periods of time.

Drought can also result’s in many negative impacts on pastoral communities in Ethiopia including: loss of lawns and cracked foundations; Property damage or depreciation; losses to businesses such as marinas and landscapers; losses to industrial businesses using processed or non-potable water; Partial or complete shutdown of utilities relying on water for cooling; crop, pasture, livestock, and forest damage; increased fire hazard, including wildfires; loss of wildlife and threats to habitat; Increased water demand; reduced water supplies; reduced water quality; reduced population due to migration and health effects from airborne part [http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/reports/billionz.html].

1.2 Objective

1.2.1 General objective

The general objective of this senior seminar is to review impacts of drought on pastoral societies.

1.2.2 Specific Objectives

- To review the socioeconomic impact of drought on pastoral area.
- To review the impact of drought on livestock trade and marketing.
- To review the impact of drought on education in pastoral societies.
- To review the direct impact of drought on pastoral societies.

2. Literature review

2.1 Concept and definition of drought

Drought is a deficiency in precipitation over an extended period, usually a season or more, resulting in a water shortage causing adverse impacts on vegetation, animals, and/or people. It is a normal, recurrent feature of climate that occurs in virtually all climate zones, from very wet to very dry. Drought is a temporary aberration from normal climatic conditions, thus it can vary significantly from one region to another. Drought is different than aridity, which is a permanent feature of climate in regions where low precipitation is the norm, as in a desert. Human factors, such as water demand and water management, can exacerbate the impact that drought has on a region. Because of the interplay between a natural drought event and various human factors, drought means different things to different people.

In practice, drought is defined in a number of ways that reflect various perspectives and interests.Wilhite (2002), described drought as a normal, recurring phenomenon of climate that practicallyoccur in all regions of the world. It is different from aridity, since, while aridity is a permanentphenomenon restricted to low rainfall areas, drought is a temporary aberration that occur in bothlow and high rainfall areas (Wilhite& Svoboda, 2000). Drought is an outcome of the reductionof precipitation received over an extended temporal scope, which can be one season or more(Wilhite&Glantz, 1985; Wilhite& Svoboda, 2000). High temperatures, high winds and lowrelative humidity can aggravate severity of drought (Byun&Wilhite, 1999).

Classification of drought

Scientific literature has traditionally classified droughts into four main categories (Wilhite and Glanz, 1985; Tallaksen and Van Lanen, 2004; Mishra and Singh, 2010) including:

Meteorological droughts; defined as abnormally low precipitation over a region for a period of time.

Agricultural droughts; occur when there is a moisture deficit in the soil to meet the growing needs of a particular crop at any stage of growth.

Hydrological droughts; related to the decrease in water flows and storages, including also artificial reservoirs, and groundwater, so they are not adequate to provide water resources to established water uses.

Socio-economic droughts; occur when the water shortage affects people and economic activities.

2.2 Concept of pastoralism

The word pastoral comes from the Latin word pastor which means shepherd. Someone who living in pastoral society is called pastoralist. Pastoralism is an economic activity and land use system. It is a way of life for people earn from keeping domestic livestock. Pastoralists are people who live in dry, remote areas. Also Poastoralists are a nomadic group of people who travel with a herd of domesticated animals.

Classification of Pastoralism

Pastoralism is categorized according to the degree of mobility. The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) identifies four broadcategories of extensive livestock production systems: nomadism, transhumance and agro-pastoralism and enclosedpastoralism/ranching


Nomads follow seasonal migratory patterns which are largely determined by the need for pasture and water for livestock. Nomads do not create permanent settlements but rather live in temporary shelters.


Transhumance is the seasonal movement of herds among fixed points in order to exploit the seasonal availability of pastures for feeding their livestock. They have permanent settlement in their area.

Agro pastoralism

FAO describes agro-pastoralists as settled communities who cultivate sufficient areas to feed their families from their own crop production (http://www.fao.org). They hold land rights and keep smaller herds of livestock.

Ranching/enclosed livestock production This is an extensive livestock production system under which land is individually owned and usually fenced.


Involves keeping livestock near farms and villages all year-round (Weber and Horst, 2011) without moving to distant locations.

2.3 Livelihood system of pastoral society

Livestock is the most important asset for pastoralison. This means the livelihood system of pastoralism is mostly depend on livestock. The predominant livestock used by pastoral societies include; cattle, goat, sheep and camel. In the world there are 200 million pastoralist. From those Africa have a great contribution in number of livestock and pastoral’s. Pastoralism provides a major contribution to many economies in arid and semi-arid lands. For Africa it is estimated that there were147 million cattle, and 230 million sheep and goats in the early 1980s. The annual output as a whole for livestock in Africa was estimated in 1984 to be worth US$10 billion, compared with total cereal production, valued at US$8.4 billion (see Kilby,1993:92).

Pastoralism makes a significant contribution to gross domestic product (GDP) in many East African countries (around ten per cent in Kenya); it provides the majority of meat consumed in those countries; and provides a livelihood for tens of millions of people who live there. Pastoralists are the custodians of dryland environments, providing services through good rangeland management including biodiversity conservation, and wildlife tourism.Pastoral nomadism is a livelihood source for over 200 million Households around the world who are producing some 10% of the meat used for human consumption (Blench 2001).

Pastoral communities rely on livestock for most of their needs. They get milk, meat and blood for domestic consumption. The income earned from the sale of pastoral products (meat, Milk, skins and hides) enables pastoralists to afford other activities that are necessary for their life.Pastoralism extensive livestock production in the rangelands is one of the most sustainable food systems on the planet. It plays a major role in safeguarding natural capital across a quarter of the world’s land area, although in many developing countries this stewardship has been eroded by decades of underinvestment and misdirected development. On the other hand, a number of industrialized countries are demonstrating ways to invest in pastoralism as a multifunctional livestock management system which provides ecosystem services that extend well beyond the boundaries of the rangelands.

2.4 Impact of drought on pastoral societies

Drought increased privatization of the rangelands which involves the transfer of ownership, authority and control over access as well use of the rangelands from communities and their institutions to individuals or groups of individuals organized as corporate entities.

The individuals or groups then have the exclusive rights to access and use of defined areas of the rangelands. It is often accompanied by some form of registration or titling and the establishment of new institutions for the governance of the rangelands. Pastoral communities has already borne the heavy hand of the effects of climate change i.e. prolonged droughts, floods, change in seasons and famine leading to food insecurity. Environmental degradation especially deforestation to satisfy the high demand for cooking fuel i.e. charcoal.Inadequate provision of services like healthcare, education, infrastructure. A number of laws and policies have been enacted supportive of the pastoralist livelihood system, however, the implementation of these laws remains lackluster. Increased population pressure on the land and fragmentation is a catalyst for conflict over resources.

Pastoralists suffer both from low investment and mal-investment, which have combined to weaken natural resource management and the pastoral economy and contribute to degradation of pastoral resources. Inappropriate development policies have often weakened traditional land tenure and natural resource governance systems and restricted the herd mobility that makes the system work, and denied pastoralists the basic services required for development, such as education, security and health. Where pastoral land management has become unsustainable it can often be attributed to structural changes, such as to resource governance or land rights, which constrain the way pastoralists use their knowledge of the environment. Pastoralism delivers a wide range of economic values from areas of low overall biomass productivity that are ill-suited to intensive management systems.

Pastoralism is uniquely adapted to utilize the great diversity and unpredictability of rangeland resources with utmost efficiency. Although pastoralism is considered a low-input low-output system, it makes intensive use of natural, human and social capital to produce an array of economic, environmental and social goods and services.The impacts of drought are felt in large geographical scope than impacts that result from othernatural hazards such as floods, earthquakes and hurricanes (WMO, 2006).

Human activities are linked to meteorological, hydrological, agricultural and socio-economicdroughts highlighting the vital relationships that exist between human society, environment andwater. Therefore, any disruptions to hydrological systems, such as those caused by drought,create a significant risk to human society and their social and economic systems (Wilhite et al,2007). Risk can be defined as the probability of harmful consequences, or expected lossesresulting from interactions between natural hazards and vulnerable conditions (ISDR, 2007).Thus, the magnitude and severity of drought impacts on social and economic systems of anyparticular human society will be dependent on the underlying vulnerability of the humanpopulation and particular region exposed to the event, as well as the underlying climate andweather patterns that determine the frequency and severity of the event (Wilhite et al, 2007).

2.4.1 Impact’s at global level

Droughts have a great impact in pastoral area of the world by reducing of forage production and water resource. In addition to this drought decrease quality and number of livesock in most part of the world. Because of the low capacity the impact is more adverse in developing countries. Mostly drought have the following major impacts in all area of the world including; Socioeconomic impacts, Impacts on Livestock Trade and Marketing, Escalation of Resource Conflicts and Insecurity, Impacts on Education and Destitution(poverty). Drought is a major cause of poverty in pastoral communities of the world. It results in low stocking rate and livestock deaths, which leads to reduction of assets. Moreover, drought depletes water sources and reduces quantity and quality of forage for livestock (Orindietal, 2007). Socioeconomic impacts of drought on Pastoral area

Direct impacts on pastoral communities’livelihood are the depletion of water resources and reduction of vegetation quality and quantity (Sommer, 1998). Constrained availability of water resources and pasture due to drought adversely affect livestock body and health conditions, milk production and eventually livelihood security for pastoral communities which principally depend on livestock and livestock products.During drought episodes, pastoral communities are faced with two processes that adversely affect their livelihood and survival (Toulmin, 1995; Sommer, 1998; Orindi et al, 2007).


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Drought. Its impacts on pastoral societies
Bahir Dar University  (Institute of Disaster Risk Management and Food security Studies)
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Bereket Assaye (Author), 2017, Drought. Its impacts on pastoral societies, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/592923


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