Precious Steppe: Mongolian Nomadic Pastoralists in Pursuit of the Market (AsiaWorld)

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For instance, the Turkana people of northwest Kenya use fire to prevent the invasion of the savanna by woody plant species. Biomass of the domesticated and wild animals was increased by a higher quality of grass. Pastoralism is found in many variations throughout the world, generally where environmental characteristics such as aridity, poor soils, cold or hot temperature, and lack of water make crop growing difficult or impossible. Pastoralism remains a way of life in Africa, the Tibetan plateau , the Eurasian steppes , the Andes, Patagonia, the Pampas, Australia, and other many other places.

One theory is that pastoralism was created from mixed farming. Bates and Lees proposed that it was the incorporation of irrigation into farming which ensued in specialization. The importance of these advantages and disadvantages to different farmers differs according to the sociocultural preferences of the farmers and the biophysical conditions as determined by rainfall, radiation, soil type, and disease.

Bordering areas of land remained in use for animal breeding. This meant that large distances had to be covered by herds to collect sufficient forage. Specialization occurred as a result of the increasing importance of both intensive agriculture and pastoralism. Both agriculture and pastoralism developed alongside each other, with continuous interactions. There is another theory that suggests pastoralism evolved from hunting and gathering.

Hunters of wild goats and sheep were knowledgeable about herd mobility and the needs of the animals. Such hunters were mobile and followed the herds on their seasonal rounds.

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Undomesticated herds were chosen to become more controllable for the proto-pastoralist nomadic hunter and gatherer groups by taming and domesticating them. Hunter-gatherers' strategies in the past have been very diverse and contingent upon the local environment conditions, like those of mixed farmers. Foraging strategies have included hunting or trapping big game and smaller animals, fishing, collecting shellfish or insects, and gathering wild plant foods such as fruits, seeds, and nuts.

Pastoralism occurs in uncultivated areas. Wild animals eat the forage from the marginal lands and humans survive from milk, blood, and often meat of the herds and often trade by-products like wool and milk for money and food.

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Pastoralists do not exist at basic subsistence. Pastoralists often compile wealth and participate in international trade. Pastoralists have trade relations with agriculturalists, horticulturalists , and other groups. Pastoralists are not extensively dependent on milk, blood, and meat of their herd. McCabe noted that when common property institutions are created, in long-lived communities, resource sustainability is much higher, which is evident in the East African grasslands of pastoralist populations.

Mobility allows pastoralists to adapt to the environment, which opens up the possibility for both fertile and infertile regions to support human existence. Important components of pastoralism include low population density, mobility, vitality, and intricate information systems. The system is transformed to fit the environment rather than adjusting the environment to support the "food production system.

Pastoralists and their livestock have impacted the environment. Lands long used for pastoralism have transformed under the forces of grazing livestock and anthropogenic fire. Fire was a method of revitalizing pastureland and preventing forest regrowth.


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  • Precious steppe : Mongolian nomadic pastoralists in pursuit of the market!
  • ENVIRONMENTAL & COMPLIANCE.

The collective environmental weights of fire and livestock browsing have transformed landscapes in many parts of the world. Fire has permitted pastoralists to tend the land for their livestock. Political boundaries are based on environmental boundaries.

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Nomadic pastoralists have a global food-producing strategy depending on the management of herd animals for meat, skin, wool, milk, blood, manure, and transport. Nomadic pastoralism is practiced in different climates and environments with daily movement and seasonal migration.

Pastoralists are among the most flexible populations. Pastoralist societies have had field armed men protect their livestock and their people and then to return into a disorganized pattern of foraging. The products of the herd animals are the most important resources, although the use of other resources, including domesticated and wild plants, hunted animals, and goods accessible in a market economy are not excluded. The boundaries between states impact the viability of subsistence and trade relations with cultivators.

Pastoralist strategies typify effective adaptation to the environment. In East Africa, different animals are taken to specific regions throughout the year that corresponds to the seasonal patterns of precipitation. Some pastoralists are constantly moving, which may put them at odds with sedentary people of towns and cities.

The resulting conflicts can result in war for disputed lands. These disputes are recorded in ancient times in the Middle East, as well as for East Asia. Different mobility patterns can be observed: Somali pastoralists keep their animals in one of the harshest environments but they have evolved of the centuries. Somalis have well developed pastoral culture where complete system of life and governance has been refined. Somali poetry depicts humans interactions, pastoral animals, beasts on the prowl, and other natural things such the rain, celestial events and historic events of significance.

Mobility was an important strategy for the Ariaal ; however with the loss of grazing land impacted by the growth in population, severe drought, the expansion of agriculture, and the expansion of commercial ranches and game parks, mobility was lost. The poorest families were driven out of pastoralism and into towns to take jobs. Few Ariaal families benefited from education, healthcare, and income earning. The flexibility of pastoralists to respond to environmental change was reduced by colonization.

Precious Steppe: Mongolian Nomadic Pastoralists in Pursuit of the Market by Ole Bruun

For example, mobility was limited in the Sahel region of Africa with settlement being encouraged. The population tripled and sanitation and medical treatment were improved. The Afar pastoralists in Ethiopia uses an indigenous communication method called dagu for information. This helps them in getting crucial information about climate and availability of pastures at various locations. Pastoralists have mental maps of the value of specific environments at different times of year.

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Pastoralists have an understanding of ecological processes and the environment. Pastoralists produce food in the world's harshest environments, and pastoral production supports the livelihoods of rural populations on almost half of the world's land. Several hundred million people are pastoralists, mostly in Africa and Asia. ReliefWeb reported that "Several hundred million people practice pastoralism--the use of extensive grazing on rangelands for livestock production, in over countries worldwide.

The African Union estimated that Africa has about million pastoralists--over a quarter of the total population--living on about 43 percent of the continent's total land mass. Pastoralism has been shown, "based on a review of many studies, to be between 2 and 10 times more productive per unit of land than the capital intensive alternatives that have been put forward".

However, many of these benefits go unmeasured and are frequently squandered by policies and investments that seek to replace pastoralism with more capital intensive modes of production. The Pastoralist Knowledge Hub, managed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN serves as a knowledge repository on technical excellence on pastoralism as well as "a neutral forum for exchange and alliance building among pastoralists and stakeholders working on pastoralist issues".

There is a variation in genetic makeup of the farm animals driven mainly by natural and human based selection. Hence pastoralists can maintain farm animal genetic resources by conserving local livestock breeds. Hardin's Tragedy of the Commons described how common property resources, such as the land shared by pastoralists, eventually become overused and ruined.

However, one of Hardin's conditions for a "tragedy of the commons" is that people can't communicate with each other or make agreements and contracts. Many scholars have pointed out that this is ridiculous, and yet it is applied in development projects around the globe, motivating the destruction of community and other governance systems that have managed sustainable pastoral systems for thousands of years.

The outcomes have often been disastrous. Pastoralists in the Sahel zone in Africa were held responsible for the depletion of resources.

The violent herder-farmer conflicts in Nigeria , Mali , Sudan , Ethiopia and other countries in the Sahel and Horn of Africa regions have been exacerbated by climate change, land degradation, and population growth. However, recently it has been shown that pastoralism supports human existence in harsh environments and often represents a sustainable approach to land use.