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Better Marginalised than Incorporated? Pastoralist Livelihoods in Somali Region, Ethiopia

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  • Stephen Devereux

    (University of Sussex, Sussex)

Abstract

Recent droughts have revived debates about the viability of pastoralist livelihoods in the Horn of Africa. Responding to a perceived crisis of pastoralist reproduction, the Ethiopian government is advocating sedentarisation, but critics argue that this is an opportunistic attempt to extend the regime's control over an insubordinate minority. Pastoralists in Somali Region are in the paradoxical position of being wealthier than highland farmers but politically excluded, geographically isolated and intensely vulnerable to livelihood shocks – natural (droughts), economic (livestock import bans by the Gulf States, government crackdowns on ‘contraband’ trade) or socio-political (conflict between clans, or between militia groups and the state). In this highly politicised context, the voices of pastoralists themselves are often ignored. Based on fieldwork in Somali Region in 2005, this article argues that ‘living on the margins’ – excluded by and beyond the reach of the state, yet resisting incorporation – is the source of both pastoralist wealth and pastoralist vulnerability.Les sécheresses qui ont récemment frappé la Corne de l′Afrique ont relancé les débats sur la viabilité des modes de vie pastorale dans cette partie du continent. Pour répondre à ce qui est perçu comme une crise de reproduction pastorale, le gouvernement éthiopien préconise la sédentarisation des éleveurs. Les critiques affirment que cette politique est une tentative opportuniste par le régime de renforcer son contrôle sur les minorités rebelles du pays. Les éleveurs nomades de la Région Somali se trouvent dans la situation paradoxale d′être plus riches que les agriculteurs des régions montagneuses, mais d′être exclus politiquement, isolés géographiquement, et fortement vulnérables aux crises de subsistance, qu′elles soient naturelles (sécheresses) économiques (embargos sur les importations de bétails par les États du Golfe, lutte sévère du gouvernement contre le commerce de ‘contrebande’), ou socio-politiques (affrontements entre les différents clans, ou entre les milices locales et les autorités). Dans ce contexte fortement politisé, les voix des communautés pastorales sont souvent ignorées. À partir d′un travail de terrain effectué en 2005 dans la Région Somali, cette étude cherche à montrer que le mode de vie « en marge » caractérisant les peuples pastoraux car ils sont exclus par l′État et hors de sa portée, et résistent pourtant à l′intégration, explique à la fois leur richesse et leur vulnérabilité.

Suggested Citation

  • Stephen Devereux, 2010. "Better Marginalised than Incorporated? Pastoralist Livelihoods in Somali Region, Ethiopia," The European Journal of Development Research, Palgrave Macmillan;European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes (EADI), vol. 22(5), pages 678-695, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:pal:eurjdr:v:22:y:2010:i:5:p:678-695
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