Camel management as an adaptive strategy to climate change by pastoralists in southern Ethiopia
Abstract, Ecological Processes, 2017 December
Experiences of low rainfall and frequent droughts have had enormous impacts on livestock production and pastoralists’ livelihoods in southern Ethiopia. The Borana pastoralists are dependent on livestock husbandry with the dominance of cattle in their herds for generations. Recently, the Borana communities have engaged in extensive livestock species diversification, with more focus on camel management as an adaptation strategy to the severity of recurrent droughts. Although increasing interests in camel management among the Borana pastoralists are acknowledged, the driving forces for the increase in camel population in the region have not been addressed. The aim of this study was to assess the trend in camel management as an adaptation strategy towards climate change among the Borana pastoral households. The study also investigated evidence of climate change and the driving factors for camel adoption.
The study was conducted in three purposively selected kebeles, which is a lower administrative unit in Ethiopia, of Yabello district in Borana Zone in southern Ethiopia focusing on 156 randomly selected camel-owning households. The study employed both quantitative and qualitative methods whereby data gathering tools such as key informant interviews (KII), focus group discussions (FGD), household surveys (HS), and field observations were used. The data were analyzed by descriptive statistics using SPSS software version 16.
Pastoralists’ perceptions and the existing meteorological data analysis showed an increasing trend in temperature but a decreasing pattern in rainfall over the last 27 years (i.e., during the last four Gada periods). Both pastoralists’ observations and existing meteorological data analysis showed an increasing incidence of recurrent droughts with decreasing availability of grazing and water resources. Respondents further explained that cattle are more vulnerable during severe droughts. The findings also showed that camel management as an adaptation strategy by the Borana pastoralists began recently and showed a steady increase in trend over the last four Gada periods. Pastoralists’ perceptions and the existing analysis confirmed that camels’ potential for high milk production and their capacities to withstand harsh environmental condition are among the many reasons that contributed to the adoption of camels by pastoralists in southern Ethiopia. Camels were also more preferred with the changing ecology of rangeland vegetation dynamics towards bush encroachment.
It seems that the high potential of camels for milk production and their abilities to withstand harsh environmental conditions are the major driving forces that contributed to the adoption of camels by pastoralists in southern Ethiopia. Hence, the adoption of camels by pastoralists in southern Ethiopia could be best understood in terms of livelihood diversification option to ensure the food security of pastoral households. We conclude that the increase in camel population in Borana during the last four Gada periods could be attributed to communities’ responses to the impact of climate change and frequent droughts.
Climate change Camel management Pastoral households Borana Zone Southern Ethiopia