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The new pastoralism: poverty and dependency in northern Kenya

Opening Paragraph

Recent studies of African pastoralism have come more and more to concentrate on its political economy and to note the increasing social and economic differentiation occurring within pastoral societies. As Swift and Maliki write of West Africa: ‘Since the 1973 drought, there has been an increasing process of proletarianization in the countryside which has particularly affected herders, who are in many places being transformed from independent rural producers into cowboys herding other people's animals on land they no longer control’ (1984: 2). In Kenya this process has become increasingly apparent since independence, as pastoralism has become dominated by a town-based elite (see Dahl, 1979a; Little, 1983, 1985a and b; Ensminger, 1984). In this article I trace the origins of a new kind of pastoralism in northern Kenya, and argue that poverty and dependence is becoming a permanent way of life to many pastoralists.


Le nouveau pastoralisme: pauvreté et dépendance au Kenya du Nord

L'article retrace les origines d'une nouvelle forme de pastoralisme au Kenya du Nord, à partir de ses origines durant la période coloniale jusqu'à nos jours. La pauvreté et la dèpendance d'une aide extérieure et d'un travail nomade sont en train de devenir les caractéristiques permanentes de la vie pastorale. Les projets d'irrigation et autres plans de développement se sont révélés de coûteux fiascos. Des études de cas particuliers et une accumulation d'observations générales sont analysées pour documenter l'émergence d'un petit nombre de families riches qui peuvent vivre relativement bien et peuvent également augmenter les revenus qu'elles tirent de leurs troupeaux grâce aux salaries et au commerce de détail. Ces quelques gens relativement riches contrastent avec la masse des families pauvres qui dépendent d'un travail nomade mal payé et d'aumônes et qui se trouvent également forcées de quitter cette économie pastorale. D'autres inégalités progressives reposent sur ces inégalités et les pauvres se retrouvent de plus en plus pris au piège de leur pauvreté. Si on veut aider les pauvres pastoraux, il faut alors réorienter les priorités de recherche pour examiner l'économie politique du pastoralisme et les processus sociaux et économiques qui sont à la base de la réduction à l'indigence progressive des populations pastorales.

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This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

R. S. Hogg 1980. ‘Pastoralism and improvement: the case of the Isiolo Boran of northern Kenya’, Disasters, 4 (3), 299310.

R. S. Hogg 1982. ‘Destitution and development: the Turkana of north-west Kenya’, Disasters, 6 (3), 164–8.

R. S. Hogg 1985. ‘The politics of drought: the pauperization of Isiolo Boran’, Disasters, 9 (1), 3943.

P. Little 1985b. ‘Absentee herd owners and part-time pastoralists: the political economy of resource use in northern Kenya’, Human Ecology, 13 (2), 131–51.

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  • ISSN: 0001-9720
  • EISSN: 1750-0184
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