Adaptive Strategies Of The Poor
ARID AND SEMI-ARID
LANDS (ASALs) OF ETHIOPIA
THE CASE OF THE
BORAN AND AFAR
OF THE COMMUNITY STRATEGY STUDIES
AND POLICY ANALYSIS
International Institute for Sustainable Development, IISD
Lem Ethiopia, the Environment and Development Society of Ethiopia
in co-operation with
CARE Ethiopia, Eco-consult
Horn Of Africa Centre for Human Environment
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ............................................................................................ II
PREFACE ........................................................................................................................ III
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY ............................................................................................ IV
STRESSES ON LIVELIHOOD AND ADAPTIVE STRATEGIES .............................7
MAJOR STRESSES ON LIVELIHOOD -- BORAN .........................................................................8
MAJOR STRESSES ON LIVELIHOOD -- AFAR ...........................................................................9
LOCAL ADAPTIVE STRATEGIES - BORAN ................................................................11
LOCAL ADAPTIVE STRATEGIES - AFAR ...................................................................14
NATIONAL POLICIES THAT IMPACT ON ADAPTIVE STRATEGIES OF THE POOR
PASTORAL LAND TENURE: LEGAL STATUS, POLICIES AND POLICY OUTCOMES .................19
POLICIES THAT ENHANCE ADAPTIVE STRATEGIES IN ETHIOPIA ............25
THE POST-COLD WAR CONTEXT FOR POLICY FORMULATION ..............................................25
NEW POLICY INSTRUMENTS THAT ENHANCE THE EXERCISE OF ADAPTIVE
The study on “the Adaptive Strategies of the Poor in Arid and Semi-Arid Lands” could
not have been completed without the co-operation and hard work of many researchers and
institutions. To all these is extended much gratitude.
The study was initiated by the International Institute for Sustainable Development in
collaboration with the UNDP, both of which institutions provided financial and technical
assistance. In particular, the IISD designed the methodology and research protocol, which was
enriched over the months by various participants in the research effort.
The research was conducted simultaneously in five countries: Ethiopia, Kenya, Burkina
Faso, Zimbabwe and South Africa. In Ethiopia, it was co-ordinated by the Environment and
Development Society of Ethiopia, LEM. Other collaborating agencies in Ethiopia included
CARE Ethiopia, Eco-Consult and Horn of Africa Centre for Human Environment.
In addition to the country teams, the research benefited from the valuable guidance of an
international advisory group whose members were Anil Gupta from the Indian School of
Management, Costantinos Berhe-Tesfu from the Centre for Human Environment, Environment
and Development Society of Ethiopia, Charlie Shackleton from the University of Witwatersrand,
Joachim Voss and Helen Hambly from the International Development Research Centre, Steve
Blais from the Canadian International Development Agency, Walter Lusigi and Shimwaayi
Muntemba from the World Bank, Euginie Aw from the Africa 2000 Network and Elizabeth
Migongo-Bake from the United Nations Environment Programme.
To all, a resounding thank you.
In recent years, there has been increased acknowledgement of the gaps which exist in the
world’s solutions for growth with poverty alleviation, development consistent with
environmental health, and progress alongside wide-spread sustainable livelihoods. There is also a
growing recognition that the world’s alternative bodies of knowledge all need to be tapped, that
informal knowledge systems have much to offer the formal knowledge systems in the area of the
promotion of sustainable livelihoods. The IISD-UNDP initiated project on “The Adaptive
Strategies of the Poor in Arid and Semi-Arid Lands” sets out a way in which this can be realised
in practical terms by documenting and sharing the adaptive strategies of the poor in a particular
ecological zone, the relationships of these strategies to sustainable livelihoods, and by identifying
the links between these adaptive strategies and policy.
This report brings together the community and policy level aspects of the study, i.e. the
livelihood systems of the Boran and Afar in southern and north-eastern Ethiopia, the
environmental and socio-political stresses on these livelihood systems, the adaptive strategies
which have evolved in the face of these stresses, their relationship with sustainable livelihoods
and finally, the local indicators of sustainable livelihoods in the two communities, as well as the
main policies and institutional arrangements which have impacted the evolution and
implementation of these adaptive strategies in Ethiopia. Clearly, the effectiveness of policy
depends on local responses, often embodied in the communities adaptive strategies.
The report should be of interest to those who are searching for lessons about the way in
which two communities living in an extremely fragile environment operationalise sustainable
livelihoods. Thus it should be of interest to other local communities of pastoralists who may
learn some new strategies from each other. It should also be of interest to those who design
policies which depend on the local responses of agro-pastoralists, not only in Ethiopia, but
indeed in all arid and semi-arid zones. This includes local and national policy-makers, as well as
international donor agencies, especially in the wake of the UN desertification convention when
more attention is being paid to resolving the problems confronting the inhabitants of areas with
The studies in the Boran and Afar communities of Ethiopia were conducted at the same
time and in a similar manner to those in four other African countries: Kenya, Burkina Faso,
South Africa and Zimbabwe. For each study site a community report, a policy document, and a
synthesis document which distils the main links between the community and policy findings was
prepared. The interested reader would certainly benefit from the breadth and depth of the various
case studies. In addition, a detailed guidebook entitled Participatory Research for Sustainable
Livelihoods in Arid and Semi-Arid Lands: A Guidebook for Field Projects on Adaptive
Strategies” is being published. This should prove valuable to those who may want to conduct
Both the Boran and Afar are primarily pastoralists who live in the arid and semi arid
lands of Ethiopia. The survival of the pastoral production system in both communities is a
function of its adaptability to the social and physical environment. This is dependant upon the
collective mix of strategies that are employed to meet the various stresses and challenges which
arise. These adaptive strategies are the major mechanisms that maintain the resilience of the
system, and help to minimise unforeseen risks.
Most of the adaptive strategies identified among the Boran and Afar centre on the
management of livestock, which are the main source of food (milk, blood and meat) for the
communities. Their other uses include the provision of hides, cash, transportation (in the case of
camels and horses) as well as being a store of wealth.
The major stresses on livelihoods in Boran are due to inadequate rainfall, the increasing
encroachment of the bush onto range land as well as increasing human, and animal population
pressure. In Boran, the following adaptive strategies were identified:
1. multi-species composition of livestock herds to include cattle, goats, sheep,
camels, and horses to enhance the security of food supply;
2. differential management of lactating and dry herds to maximise milk
3. the traditional burning of grazing lands every three years to control tick and
other infestation, and to enhance new pasture growth;
4. communal management of deep and shallow wells, as well as ponds;
5. the maintenance of local institutions, Forra and Worra, to enhance social
cohesion, sharing of communal wealth, population control;
6. income diversification: Some members of the community migrate temporarily
to go and work in the salt mines and gold mines. Bulls are also sold as needed.
7. crop cultivation, a fairly recent and not yet pervasive adaptive strategy for
food source diversification.
In the Afar community, the major stresses on livelihoods are related to drought,
inter-ethnic conflict with their Issa neighbours over land and water disputes, the expansion of
state-owned irrigation schemes and game reserves, bush encroachment and the associated loss of
desirable plant species, human illness, livestock diseases, and flooding. Like the Boran, many of
the adaptive strategies identified among the Afar centre on livestock management. The adaptive
strategies are as follows:
1. multi-species pastoralism to increase the security of herd survival
2. herd splitting to maximise the use of rangeland, watering points and milk
3. transhumant pastoralism to avoid the floods and maximise on the seasonal
variability of pasture and browsing fora;
4. the early weaning of kids which enhances milk supply and also provides cash
from the sale of the kids;
5. supplemental feeding of livestock with acacia pods during times of prolonged
drought to enhance the chances of herd survival;
6. imposition of community rules which forbid cutting of useful tree species,
such as acacia;
7. the practice of inter-clan co-operation for the distribution of community
8. diversification of income sources from sale of livestock and livestock
9. the adoption of irrigated agriculture.
The major policies which have had an impact on adaptive strategies in the Boran and
Afar communities are land-tenure policies, as well as those which seek to transfer the
decision-making authority to different levels of the administrative hierarchy, including the
community and individual levels such as decentralisation. An evaluation of land tenure policies
with respect to pastoral groups reveals that in general, these communities’ welfare is not
considered in the formulation of policy. In general, the Boran and Afar, whose livelihoods
depend primarily on the availability of land for animal grazing, do not have legal ownership to
their land, and can easily be denied the use of land if the government so deems.
Some policies, especially the ones which seek to strengthen local institutions, have been
found to have been supportive of adaptive strategies. However, some have been clearly
detrimental; the state acquisition of land for plantations in areas which were formerly used for
grazing and browsing livestock have been found to disrupt strategies for livelihoods. Likewise,
policies which attempt to assimilate normally nomadic pastoral peoples into more main stream
modes of existence have also been found to be disruptive.
Local institutions which govern adherence to societal rules are also found to be very
important in determining the implementation of adaptive strategies for sustainable livelihoods.
They are particularly important for enforcing the rules pertaining to the control of current
consumption, and thus the protection of the environment to ensure adequate supplies of natural
resources in the future.
The Government has enacted various macropolicies and laws aiming at enhancing local
decision making. The theme of direct participation in policy decision-making (as compared
with the "representative" participation whereby the State retains economic decision authority on
behalf of the citizens), is central to most policies. The ramifications of decentralisation are that
most Government departments will and must now operate through a system where authority is
vested at a variety of levels. The ramifications of participation are that decision making is to be
largely bottom-up, from the individual and the community through the decentralised executive
organs. Congruence between institutional capacity and operational empowerment on the one
hand and political-level empowerment on the other hand must then be achieved.
Decentralised / federalised governments, local administrations and the communities need to
know about, and accept and be empowered to implement the sectoral policies. (Likewise, they
must develop local policies and action plans.) Empowerment and acceptance of social policies and
related policies must be achieved by a programme of action designed to achieve this goal.
This report brings together the community level finding of research into the
adaptive strategies of the Boran and Afar pastoral communities, as well as the review of
the national policies which have impacted these communities. Because adaptive
strategies are responses (long-term) to the various stresses which communities face, the
report first begins with a presentation of these, as identified among the Boran and Afar.
Then the major policies affecting the adaptive strategies and livelihoods of these pastoral
communities are discussed. Finally, the adaptive strategies which were identified are
Stresses on livelihood and adaptive strategies
The main theme of this study is the identification and investigation of the
adaptive strategies of the Boran and Afar pastoralists who live in the arid and
semi-arid lands of southern and north-eastern Ethiopia, respectively. The study
discuses the general livelihood systems of the Boran and Afar whose production
system depend mainly on both transhumant and agro-pastoralism.
The survival of the pastoral and agro-pastoral production system in both
societies is a function of adaptability to the social and physical environment, and
more importantly due to the many different strategies that are employed to meet
each new challenges. These adaptive strategies are the major mechanisms that
maintain the resilience of the system and help to minimise unforeseen risks.
The common strategies among both pastoral societies are herd splitting,
herd maximisation, the emphasis on milk rather than meat and crop, intra and
inter-clan co-operation and reciprocity. Having large herds is encouraged in both
societies for social recognition as a status symbol and for risk mitigation during
periods of stress, i.e. drought, disease and epidemics. Herd diversification is the
most important feature in these societies where commonly four types of animals
are kept as a traditional insurance scheme.
Although these traditional pastoral production systems are
environmentally and socially sustainable in such fragile and harsh environments,
the system is now at risk of not being able to meet basic livelihood necessities due
to human over population, over stocking, drought and bush encroachment.
Therefore, the study concludes that there is an urgent need to develop the pastoral
way of life in Afar and Boran by sustaining locally adaptive strategies particularly
those strategies that have the capacity for becoming the basis of sustainable
Major stresses on livelihood -- Boran
The Borana pastoral system has the highest ecological potential among the
major range development areas in Ethiopia. The Boran are the major supplier of
livestock for the use of small holders in highland Ethiopia and for export to
generate foreign exchange (Coppock, 1993). However, ecological sustainability in
Borana is under stress due to bush encroachment (40% of the land being
encroached) and soil erosion due to heavy grazing (19% of the land being
eroded). The following are the major stresses in the study area:
Shortage of Rainfall: Large parts of Borana rangelands have become more fragile
and are unable to carry the increasing human and livestock population. Rainfall is
low and unpredictable. Although the Borana plateau is generally estimated to
receive a mean annual rainfall ranging from 400 and 1100 mm, informants at
Dubluk and Areri Meddas described that they got what they called good rainfall
only three times in the past ten years. Shortage and/or absence of rainfall in
Borana means inadequate pasture for grazing and the dearth of surface water for
human and livestock consumption resulting in a very low or no milk off-take,
particularly from cattle. The absence of cattle milk among the Boran means the
total breakdown of their entire subsistence which compels pastoral households to
dispose of their livestock in order to purchase grains for food.
The discussion with different Boran households confirmed that during
severe drought the movement of livestock herds could be far extended outside the
Boran territory to the west and north west, which has often resulted in violent
inter-ethnic conflict with the Somali. When the intensity of the drought problem
becomes severe and expanded in large areas of land, even outside the Borana
territory, a Borana pastoralist could decide to sell most of his livestock herds for
very low prices.
However, there could be a condition where there is no market for the
livestock during severe droughts which leads to the death of cattle followed by
sheep, goats and camels in that sequence. Thus, lack of rainfall for a Boran
pastoralist means a general failure of his survival. It was recognised that the
1983-84 and 1990-91 droughts resulted in heavy loss of livestock in the Borana
In addition to grazing, cropping is also impaired by a shortage of rainfall
in the Borana region. It has imposed major problems on Borana agro-pastoralist
particularly at Areri Medda. According to informants, the crops they used to grow
never reached the harvesting stage as a result of erratic and inadequate rainfall.
They also reported that the magnitude of the problem was further exacerbated by
their lack of access to early maturing, drought resistant cereal varieties. All these
stresses lead to a situation in which people have become partially dependent on
food relief programmes.
Bush encroachment and tick infestation: Another stress on the livelihood of the
Boran is the invasion of rangelands by trees and thorny bushes, with a
simultaneous drop in the production of the grass biomass. Tick infestation has
also become an additional threat to the well being of livestock both in Areri and
Dubluk Meddas. From the community discussions at Areri and Dubluk, it was
perceived that bush encroachment markedly reduced milk production from cattle.
Tick infestation resulted in mastitis and blocked teats.
It is evident that cattle are the favoured large herbivore species on
improved rangelands with abundant grass biomass. As the quantity of rainfall
decreases and browse species become more prominent, cattle are replaced by
camels and small ruminants, mainly sheep and goats. Thus, camels and small
ruminants may survive better on encroached rangelands than cattle, a trend being
observed now in Borana.
Population Pressure: Although time series data are hard to come by, it is evident
that the Boran livelihood is in crisis mainly due to human over-population.
According to the information obtained from different Boran households,
human and livestock populations are growing at a very rapid rate. Moreover, it
was reported that there are a substantial number of multiple child births in the
area. Since livestock are the basis of livelihood of the Boran, one additional child
in this society means an additional number of livestock needed to maintain the
livelihood of the new born. Thus, the ever increasing human population tends to
result in the overstocking of the livestock population on the limited and degrading
communally owned rangelands. Human population pressure and concomitant
variables are thus potential stresses of the livelihood of the Boran the culture of
which precludes the adoption of modern birth control methods at present.
Major stresses on livelihood -- Afar
Generally speaking, the major stresses on the livelihood system of the
Afar can be divided into two: man-made and natural. Man-made stresses include
the expansion of irrigation schemes, game reserves and inter-ethnic conflicts.
Natural strains include the reduction of the total vegetation cover due to
decreasing precipitation, the invasion of undesirable plant species, and flooding.
Drought: Drought is one of the major stresses on the Afar pastoralist. Their
survival has hitherto been sustained under hard environmental pressures. Periods
of drought are cyclical phenomena among the Afar and have forced them to adopt
transhumant pastoralism. At least one year in five can be counted as a very
difficult year for the Afar resulting in the loss of a large number of livestock and
human life. The most devastating droughts in the Awash Valley occurred in
1972-1974 and 1983-1984.
Under normal circumstances, Afar herds move no further than 50 km from
their dry season retreats (usually the Awash riverine plane) and generally less than
20 km. During the last three decades, however, livestock herds have had to move
increasingly greater distances in search of feed and water. The direction and
distance of movement are often planned and arranged by the decision of
traditionally established group meeting of Afar elders.
Inter-ethnic Conflict: The most important natural resources among pastoralists
are water and available forages in the rangelands. The scarcity of these natural
resources often leads to competition and conflicts among the people who seek to
have access to them, and the conflicts more often than not result in the loss of life
and property. At Asoba, the study team talked with an old Afar warrior who
reportedly killed 16 Issa raiders and for his trophies he has external marks on his
ears. Discussion with him confirmed that there exists an age-old conflict between
Afar and Issa (Somalis) which result in the raiding of livestock and loss of human
life. The Afar consider the Issa as their traditional enemies. Elders explained that
there are permanent resource constraints in the area; the Issa are short of water
and the Afar short of grass for their livestock.
The steadily increasing and inevitable downward creep of the Issa in
search of water from river Awash probably exacerbates the conflict. The Rakba,
Harkamela Fedhite and Able Hisomale clans are the main victims of Issa raids
around the Middle Awash. The Issa are said to be better armed and resolute to
raid, loot and kill. This has forced the Afar males to carry automatic rifles both
day and night. At present every adult male is expected to invest in automatic
firearms by selling cattle.
Expansion of Irrigation Schemes and Game Reserves: The encroachment of state
owned irrigation schemes and game reserves has resulted in the reduction of Afar
rangelands, and this has become a source of conflict between the Afar and the
central state. Afar elders explained that most of the time the period in which the
Afar livestock herd trekked back to their green retreat (the Awash riverine plain)
at Gilal coincides with the time at which the cotton fields of the state farms
mature. During such periods the Afar drive their stock into the cotton field which
often leads to armed conflict between the state farm guards and the pastoralist,
resulting in the loss of animal and human lives.
Bush encroachment and loss of desirable species. According to informants at
Mahado, Dahi Tele and Anghelele, important grazing and browsing plant species
are withering away in the rangelands. This is followed by a steady increase in
unpalatable and undesirable bushes and shrubs. It was also observed that the
riverine plane near Mahado and Assoba is getting bare with a very thin grass
cover while the rangelands east of the riverine plane are dominated by thorny
bushes. According to informants, poisonous plant species are also becoming
common in the range. For example, a plant locally known as Halemaro is the most
dangerous poisonous plant known to kill animals. The expansion of the area
occupied by a tree locally known as Woyane is also another threat for the Middle
Awash Area. The accumulation of livestock in limited browsing and grazing land
and the expansion of irrigation schemes combined with recurrent drought could
be ascribed as causes for the deterioration in Afar range condition.
Human and livestock diseases. The Afar complain that there are hardly any health
infrastructures for humans and no veterinary services for their livestock.
According to Afar elders, malaria, tuberculosis and diarrhoea are the most
common human ailments in the area. Schistosomiasis is also widely mentioned by
the Afar as an endemic disease affecting people. The most common livestock
diseases mentioned by the Afar are parasitic diseases, tuberculosis and tick
infestation which all reduce livestock production and reproduction. The Afar
practice the burning of old kraals in order to kill ticks and thorns. They often shift
their huts within a distance of 100 meter to 20 km because of tick infestations.
Flooding: Seasonal flooding is common in the Middle Awash riverine plains.
Under normal conditions this is desirable since it avails grazing and browsing
during the dry season. However, it becomes a stress if it is unpredictable.
Occasional flood hazards have destroyed Afar settlements. At times Afar villages
were cut off from other villages for weeks because of flooding.
LOCAL ADAPTIVE STRATEGIES - BORAN
Pastoral adaptive strategy among the Boran are mainly subsistence
strategies in which large sizes of human and livestock populations are maintained
on declining water and grazing resources, mainly because of low and irregular
rainfall patterns. The human-livestock interface among the Boran is such that
livestock are cared for and protected within a variable environmental setting in
order to sustain daily subsistence needs (milk, blood, meat and hide), cultural
needs (for marriage, and other rituals and for status) and for social security.
Herd Structure and species composition: Herd management is the principal means
of Sustaining livelihood in Borana. As mentioned earlier the Boran maintain at
least three combined livestock species which include cattle, goats, sheep and
sometimes camels and horses. This multi-species composition of livestock
holding has the double merits of utilising both browse and grass species in the
plant community and hence providing a continuous supply of human food.
Selective maximising of livestock populations to a given ecological condition is
thus geared to solve the problem of human food supply particularly in moisture
deficit seasons. Furthermore, different livestock species have different adaptive
and/or genetic merits for disease resistance.
Splitting the herd into wet or lactating versus dry herd: The Boran
pastoralist have adopted strategies that are passed on from generation to
generation to solve problems related to watering and grazing by dispersing their
livestock herds into worra (milking herd) and Forra (dry or non-milking herd)
groups based on the frequency of watering and availability of good grazing and
The Worra herd spend much of their grazing time within a circular area
not very far from villages (Ollas) and water wells, while the Fora herd travel
much further from the water wells and villages to graze a much larger area.
Greater herd dispersal for grazing and increased concentration of the herd for
watering are major adaptive strategies of the Boran pastoralist to efficiently utilise
limited resources. Most Borana villages also reserve enclosed grazing areas
(Kallo) for calves.
Grazing Management: In Borana, grazing land has increasingly suffered from
bush encroachment. This problem is said to be exacerbated by a government
policy that has restricted traditional range burning since 1974. Informants
explained that tick infestation has become hazardous due to the prevention of
burning. The declining in size of grazing land in Borana is not only attributed to
bush encroachment; territorial competition by the neighbouring Somali pastoralist
has also reduced large tracts of land on the eastern border (Helland, forthcoming).
Traditionally, Boran pastoralists practice burning of their grazing land
every three years for several reasons. Tamene (1993) listed down the reasons as
- To control the undesirable plant species.
- To reduce tick infestation.
- To improve the quality and quantity of the pasture.
Water management : For practical purposes the Boran divide sources of water into
four, based on the availability of underground and surface water:
Tulla - deep traditional water wells. Normally twelve people are needed to
make a chain in order to lift water from the Tullas using traditionally made
buckets locally known as Ocole.
Ella - shallow wells. Normally four people are required to lift the water.
Lola - flood water.
Haro - pond water mostly constructed by hand.
The digging and maintenance of wells require co-ordinated efforts by
large groups of people and to this effect wells are often managed by well councils
known as Abba Hiregha. Although the importance of ponds as source of drinking
water for humans and livestock at Areri and Dubluk entirely depends on the
availability of rainfall, ponds are supplementary to the permanent water sources
(wells). Ponds are mostly constructed by each village and are located not far from
the villages. The most important advantage of ponds is that the demand for
co-ordinated labour to lift water, as is the case of the deep wells, is reduced.
Their disadvantage is that ponds will dry up if rainfall is insufficient.
However, this alternative use of water helps pastoralists to distribute their herd
and thereby reducing grazing pressure near permanent watering points which
helps reduce soil erosion. Furthermore, the use of ponds is another mechanism for
coping up with labour problems to water large herd sizes out of deep traditional
wells. Informants claimed that the construction of ponds has become a common
practice among the Boran pastoralists. All these efforts have enabled the Boran to
adapt to such a harsh environment for several years. Their water management is
well taken to be one of the major adaptive strategies for survival.
Social and cultural adaptations
Social organisation: The Boran have an elaborate indigenous social organisation
based on the principle of the peace of the Boran known as Nagaiya Borana and
the quality of being Boran known as Borantiti. The Boran are divided into two
exogamous moieties, Sobbo and Gona. In addition every Boran belongs to one of
the 5 sub-moieties, 17 clans and some 60 lineage. At clan level every Boran is
expected to help others in times of hardship including the settlement of disputes.
This kind of intra-clan assistantship is known as "Gosa Gonfa" which is a kind of
wealth redistribution within each clan.
The Boran are administered by their own political organisation known as
Gada. It is a generation system in which one generation is assigned to maintain
the peace of the Boran. Gada has a series of rules and rituals which have been
kept and practised for centuries. The Boran also have adapted a system of
territorial organisation irrespective of kinship affiliation. Families are grouped
into neighbourhoods known as Solola; neighbours into villages known as Olla;
villages into Ardas; Ardas into Medda; and Meddas into Rera. Some of these
territorial organisations serve as resource management units.
Traditional Population Control: Traditionally population increase is regulated
through a custom that protects a mother from any kind of sexual intercourse until
the baby stops weaning. More than this, according to Gada rules, the ilman-korma
(literally son of the brave) who are would-be Gada leaders are restricted from
marriage and sexual intercourse until they reach the Raba generation grade (40-45
Marketing: At normal circumstances Boran sell their bulls and in return buy
calves, grains and other items. Recently the Boran tend to sell their cattle in the
Kenyan market because of access to favourable terms of trade. The evolution of
selling dairy products has also become another survival strategy to sustain
livelihoods. Unlike cattle and small stocks, dairy products are often sold in
domestic markets. Other recent innovations are selling of charcoal and wood. The
Boran usually buy maize and sorghum to supplement their food items.
Food habits: The basic staple foods of the Boran are milk, blood and meat
supplemented with porridge made from maize and/or sorghum. Milk is obtained
from cows, goats and camels. However, camel products are food taboo for some
Boran clans. At present there is a greater tendency of raising camels since the
existing Borana ecology favours camel production. Blood is often taken from live
animals with utmost care for the health of the animal. In times of crisis women
collect wild fruits and other forest products.
Off-farm activities: Poor pastoral households in Borana accustomed to seasonal
migration to Soda (salt mining place) and Kibre Mengist (gold mining site) to
supplement household income. Out migration is particularly common among the
Boran who are displaced at times of drought and during the Ethio-Somali war of
the 1970s. Some men stay in the gold mining site at Kibre Mengist for a year.
Cropping: The Boran are in general pure pastoralists, they mainly depend on the
raising of livestock. However, recently food cultivation has become an alternative
livelihood in drought affected areas. Farmers practice both ox-plough and
hoe-cultivation. The major crops cultivated in such places are maize and sorghum.
However, farmers expressed that they are in dire need of fast maturing varieties of
maize and sorghum. Katumane is a type of maize seed recommended by farmers
themselves for this purpose. They need to have access for katumane which is
grown in Kenya. Farmers in Borana, however, do not use manure to enrich their
soil. Heaps of manure are left unused. On the other hand, group discussion in
Areri study site revealed that double harvesting of sorghum has become possible
in rare good seasons.
The principal pressure on the Boran pastoral system is the steadily increasing
human population and the encroachment of the rangelands with shrubs and thorny
bushes, and the situation is exacerbated by either shortage or failure of rainfall.
Furthermore, lack of agronomic consultation services, paucity of early maturing and
drought resistant crop varieties among the agro-pastoralist and tick infestations because
of restricted rangelands burning are also major stresses identified.
The strong social cohesion of the Boran to operate and repair deep wells for
permanent water supply, their time-tested skill of sustainable grazing management
through their local institutions (Forra and Worra); and the beginning of crop cultivation
in few localities of the region are major indicators of continuous adaptive strategies
among the Boran against the harsh environment in which they live.
LOCAL ADAPTIVE STRATEGIES - AFAR
Multi-species pastoralism: Among the Somali, a camel owner is said to be whole
man, a cattle owner a half man, and a sheep and goat owner no man at all. Unlike
the Somalia, however, the Afar pastoralist usually maintains different kinds of
livestock species because of the fact that different livestock species are believed
to have their own adaptive merits to the environment in which they exist.
Furthermore, different stocks are complementary in their products which in turn
ensures a continuous food supply to the pastoralist. Large herd size and livestock
species composition have thus remained major strategies of the Afar to spread
and/or to avert risks in a hostile environment.1
Splitting the herd into home and satellite herds: Two herding regions are practised
among the Afar: home herds (homa) and satellite herds (magida). The homa herds
include milking stocks with almost all sheep and goats and are kept around camps
near watering points. Variations do exist in distances to be covered by the homa
herds to each watering place, cattle and camels usually cover more distance than
sheep and goats.
Satellite (Magida) herds, as the name indicates, are those who move long
distance where grazing and/or browsing is available. Migida herds include cattle,
camels and in a few cases small stock. Splitting livestock herds into homa and
magida is thus a traditional institution by which the Afar pastoralist could manage
their rangelands for sustainable browsing and grazing. The Afar think that this
division helps for continuous milk supply, better growth of calves and
productivity of pasture.
Transhumant pastoralism (seasonal migratory move): The Afar practice both
regular and irregular patterns of herd movement because of drought, flooding and
increasing pressure over pasture. At normal condition (at an average rainfall
year), the Afar in Middle Awash Valley follow a regular pattern of seasonal
movement which covers short distance from their dry season retreats (usually the
Awash riverine plane). During karima, the Afar at Angelele leave the riverine
plane, because of flooding, for uplands to the east particularly to the Alledeghe
plane. They return to the riverine plane during Gilal. This back and forth
movement of the Afar pastoralist is a strategy to avoid flooding.
During drought periods, however, the Afar and their herds travel long distances in
search of feed and water. The direction and distance of their movement is
determined by the availability of pasture and water. This pattern of movement is
irregular and always unpredictable.
Early weaning of kids: Male kids of about 15 days old, locally known as Bekel,
are considered by the Afar as early maturing cash crops. Fried Bekel meat is
believed to be delicious and is the most favourite food item in most towns of Afar
region. Early weaning of kids has, on the one hand, increased the milk off-take
According to the Afar elders, the number of females in the livestock herds need always be
large for continuous milk supply. Milk is the most important food item on which the Afar
pastoralist depend for their survival. Discussion held with Afar elders revealed that milk
from camels and goats is most important during dry seasons and that of cattle and sheep
in wet seasons. This indicates that multi species livestock herding is an insurance for
survival among the Afar pastoralist.
from goats and on the other hand has provided, the cash income from the sale of
Cut and feed system: Cutting branches of fodder tress, such as acacia species,
during long dry periods and feeding their stock is a common practice among the
Afar pastoralist in Middle Awash. The Afar elders explained that acacia pods are
important sources of dry season feed for all livestock. The leaves and tips of
branches are also browsed by camels, sheep and goats. Acacia trees along the
banks of river Awash are important dry season fodder reserves in Middle Awash.
Traditional management of useful trees: The Afar pastoralist of the Middle Awash
have different traditional rules to which every individual Afar must adhere. The
most important of which is the rule that restricts the cutting of useful fodder trees
such as acacia species without the permission of clan elders. From the group
discussion held with the Afar elders at Mahado, Dahai Tele and Anghelele, it was
perceived that every Afar clearly knows the use of acacia trees i.e. as a source of
dry season fodder for livestock, and thus respects the rule prohibiting the cutting
of these trees when grazing and browsing species are available. Violation of this
rule, however, forces clan elders to impose punishment (usually one head of cattle
for cutting one tree). This has been an important strategy to conserve the most
useful fodder tree reserves.
Inter-household co-operation: The Afar in the Middle Awash adopt different
kinds of intra clan co-operation and wealth redistribution in times of extreme
wealth disparity. The following are some of the traditional forms of co-operation:
Hantila: It is share rearing between a poor household and large
stock owner whereby the poor is given free access to the milk from
lactating animals obtained on loan basis. This is often
institutionalised when the poor apply for Hantila milk animals.
Sometimes a large stock owner may wilfully distribute his stock to
the poor when he thinks that someone needs assistantship.
Irbu: It is a mechanism whereby those households who lose their
livestock through raiding or epidemic are compensated.
Digibihara: Clan members are expected to contribute cattle or
small-stock to be slaughtered at weddings. Every stock owner is
bound by obligation to share any resource required when he is
requested to do so. If one refuses, he will be penalised according to
Afar Ada (Afar custom).
Food habit: The main staple food of the Afar is milk followed by grain and meat.
Most of them chew chat (Catha edulis) and smokes tobacco. The Afar consume
the butter of cows and sheep with milk. Butter is often drunk alone and is given
high value. They understand that butter is a traditional medicine for humans. In
times of drought the Afar food supply include boiled maize, unleavened bread and
Marketing: The Afar sell livestock and livestock products (skins, kid skins, ghee,
dry meat, etc.) and ropes and buy commodities such as grain, firearms, clothing,
honey, chat, salt, pepper, tobacco, mats, spices, coffee, gourds, aromatic woods,
breads, sandals, soap, medicine for livestock, sugar, etc. Afar male animals (bulls,
oxen, ram, he goats and camels) are often exchanged for Oromo female animals
(cows and heifers). One heifer is exchanged for 6 small stock (sheep or goats).
The Afar exchange their male cattle for firearms. They buy cows to increase their
herd size and the Oromo sell cows because of lack of fodder or to buy oxen.
Adoption of farming: It has been pointed out earlier that rainfall in Middle Awash
is unreliable and unpredictable limiting the potential for rain-fed agriculture and
makes irrigation the only option for crop production. The common crops grown in
the Middle Awash include cotton, banana and maize. Tomato, piper and
groundnut are also grown. Cotton and banana plantations are operated at
commercial level by the government while maize is being cultivated by
agro-pastoralists in groups and at individual level.
Until recently, the Afar pastoralist were not involved in farming activities.
Today, however, it seems that the Afar in the Middle Awash have come to realise
that they can not subsist on pastoralism alone. This is evidenced by the active
participation of the Afar task forces in maize production activities at Kedighdura,
near Melkaworer. Furthermore, the increasing participation of the Afar woman in
cotton picking activities indicates that there is a gradual change in the means of
The Afar are one of the early inhabitants of Ethiopia. They are known to have
inhabited their present territory since 3000 B.C. They have been mentioned in historical
records since the 13th century. Throughout their existence in one of the most arid lands in
tropical Africa, they have been confronted by different natural and human made stresses
of livelihood. The expropriation of their grazing land without any meaningful
compensation forced them to adapt to endangered transhumant pastoralism. The age-old
resource use conflict between them and the Issa Somalia tribe has curtailed their free
movement in search of grazing. Their livelihood has been at stake not only due to
human-made predicaments, but also by natural factors such as drought, flooding and
However, the Afar have never been passive victims against a harsh and
unpredictable environment. Among the Afar all livestock species are indispensable to the
production system. The Afar practice multi-species pastoralism as a traditional
risk-aversion mechanism. The rational use of indigenous acacia species as alternative
source of fodder during dry seasons, the seasonal migrations in search of pasture, the
splitting of their herd into home (lactating) and satellite (dry) herds and the early weaning
of kids so as not to exhaust the milk supply intended for human consumption are some of
the indigenous adaptive strategies among the Afar to sustain their livelihood in one of the
most harsh environment in the world.
National policies that impact on adaptive strategies of the poor
Background: The utilisation of resources in arid lands requires herd mobility and tracking
strategies which could create a balance by way of adjusting stock size to match available
feed resources (Behnke and Scoones, 1991). It is with this intention of realising such and
similar goals that a number of interventions were effected in Ethiopia. It is also worth
noting that migration patterns have often been affected by government policy, political
dynamics and the impact of new technologies.
The total number of Pastoralists in Sub-Sahara Africa is alleged to be about 25
million (Bonfiglioli, 1992) out of which nearly 5 million live in Ethiopia. Swift (1988)
asserts that most livestock in Africa is kept by agro-pastoralists who derive more than 50%
of their revenue from agriculture and only about 10% from livestock and
livestock-products. Due to paucity of data and authentic information owing to various
constraints, the numerical size of "pure" pastoralists and agro-pastoralists is not
conclusively established to date.
Nevertheless one study (Bonfilioli, op.cit) asserts that the pastoral production
system in Ethiopia, for instance, contributes around 1/3 of the agricultural GDP amounting
to nearly 15% of the total GDP. The percentage share of the pastoral production system is
calculated without considering revenue from export of a large number of animals finding
their way to the markets of neighbouring countries through arrangements made by
illicit/illegal trade structures whose records can not naturally appear on official documents.
Major constraints affecting pastoral production systems include:-
Poor nutrition and widespread incidence of diseases,
Limited education, exposure and training of people engaged in pastoralism,
Weak domestic and export markets failing to boost revenues emanating from
Poor social and physical infrastructural settings,
Deficient policies and failure to recognise the contribution of pastoral
production systems to the national economy and development,
Biased interventions pertaining to pastoral development tending to alleviate
pressing needs of a short-term nature thus leading to undertakings that utterly
disregard all-rounded development of pastoralists on a sustainable basis.
For a long time in the past, there was no comprehensive and integrated policy
ensuring sustainable livelihoods for people in arid and semi-arid ecological zones. It should
be noted that the persistence of such a "no-policy" stance regarding such issues as ancillary
support, ownership of and access to resources and factors of production, empowerment,
strengthening of legitimate entitlement, etc. have undoubtedly engendered markedly
negative implications for pastoral development endeavours.
According to swift and Toulmin (1992), pastoralists lack political and economic
influence as a consequence of which pastoral systems have been seen as expendable by
decision makers. On the other hand, pastoralists are perceived by governments and donors
as having access to valuable resources like land, water sources and animals. This is why the
major approaches employed by governments and donors tend to focus on livestock
development (Salih, 1987) than on pastoral development. Such moves are driven mainly by
the interest to gain access to resources allegedly held by nomads. Considerations of pastoral
development is mostly propelled by the need to procure products for world markets, satisfy
the consumption requirements of urban dwellers and facilitate the integration and
assimilation of nomads to the mainstream mode of life (settled agriculture)2.
Pastoral Land Tenure: Legal Status, Policies and Policy Outcomes
Official documents and related material provide no legal provision that explicitly
regulate the status of pastoral areas prior to the 1955 Revised Constitution of the Empire of
Ethiopia. Joanna M.Niecko, who has made a detailed study on the role of land tenure in
modern Ethiopia's system of administration, maintains that laws (edicts) regulating land
ownership, distribution, and system of taxation were issued for the first time in the late 19th
and early 20th centuries3. The legal status of pastoral area, perhaps for the first time, has
been determined by the 1955 Revised Constitution and further elaborated by the Ethiopian
Civil Code of 1960. Further laws have been promulgated by subsequent governments.
All the legal provisions, in one way or another, explicitly or implicitly, make
pastoral lands the property of the state. The 1960 Civil Code of the Empire of Ethiopia
(Desta, 1973) does not explicitly determine that pastoral areas are considered to be
government property. Article 1194 of the Civil Code, at face value, for example, does not
answer the question whether pastoral areas are vacant and, thus, they do belong to the
government. But what is implied is that pastoralism, unlike sedentary farmers, do not have
permanent place of domicile. They rather roam over a disproportionately large area of land
which they do not effectively use and occupy. The central argument of the drafters of these
legal documents is that pastoral areas are generally "under-utilised" or "un-utilised"
(Brucke, 1994) and, therefore, fall under State domain.
2 Further, governments consider pastoralists as difficult to control, politically unreliable and
preoccupied with conducting illegal trade and trans-border mischief. Bonfiglioli (op.cit.) says
that as a result, pastoralists are perceived as lacking loyalty and commitment to the national
interest as defined by policy makers whose knowledge and exposure to modes of life and
other settings in the arid and semi-arid zones is highly limited.
3 But she has not given any hint about specific regulation(s) governing pastoral lands, nor the
effect of the general regulations on pastoral areas. Desta Asfaw, who implies that his study
on pastoral areas is an important basis for further research, has not analysed any legal
provision that predates the 1955 Revised Constitution.
Article 1168 (1) of the code has also not regulated to the contrary. The main
contention of this article, however, is that pastoralists, unlike their settled farming
neighbours in the highlands, pay no land tax except taxes per heads of cattle. In other
words, it appears that the position of the central government was that since the pastoralists
do not pay land tax, the lands they use and occupy are subjected to the direct control of and
are at the disposal of the government. Moreover, what makes this provision more
interesting is the second statement deliberately added to restrict the legal effect of the
provision to communal areas in the lowlands. Arguably, the legal implication of the
statement is that communal lands elsewhere, presumably in the northern part of the
country, are not considered to be government land. In the south, however, individual
ownership and annual payment of land tax were considered to be necessary, and areas that
do not fall within this category were declared to fall under State Domain. (Imperial
Ethiopian Government Constitution, 1955).
Article 130 (3) of the Revised Constitution is important for its being explicit on the
issue since the phrase "all grazing lands" leaves no room for doubt that the pastoral areas
are not held and possessed individually and hence, belong to government. According to
Desta, the absence of the phrase "nomadic areas" does not create any point for doubt since
there is no constitutional provision that provides to the contrary, i.e. that excludes pastoral
areas from falling under-State Domain (Desta, op.cit.).
As a matter of fact, the land policies of the Dergue and that of the Transitional
Government of Ethiopia (TGE) have not basically altered the equation as far as pastoral
areas are concerned. The military regime's Constitution of September 1987 and its radical
rural land reform of March 1975 did not bring about any significant change in the legal
ownership status of pastoral lands. The provisions of both documents that are cited above
made all rural lands and all natural resources therefore "public property" under the control
of the state or under state controlled Peasant associations, which were empowered to make
periodic destruction of land and to undertake villagisation programs. Hence, although
pastoralists were guaranteed "possessory right" they in effect were not owners of their
customary lands and were confined within 20 “Gashas” (800 hectares) for their movement
in search of grazing land and water points for their animals.
Moreover, the military government, in the same way as the imperial government,
retained the prerogative to control and administer the resources on and beneath the land,
and thereby the right to determine the manner of appropriating the resources thereof.
The Government’s agrarian policy in general and its policy on pastoral areas in
particular seems to be a mixture of the policies of its predecessors. The relevant provisions
of the Constitution declares all rural land as state property, confers power upon the
government to determine on use of land and all natural resources thereof by private
(domestic or foreign) investors, and guarantees only usufruct right to Pastoralist. While it
seems that the government is committed to drive radical agrarian policy, maintaining the
right and power to make land grants to private investors may mean a return to the imperial
regime's policy of private large-scale mechanised commercial farming to which the latter
was strongly opposed, save for its lately endorsed "mixed-economy" policy issued in 1990.
Part of the problems for the enhancement of adaptive strategies and
implementation of programme designed on the basis of this experience stem from
the major problem inherent in the political transition of Ethiopia is the
extreme weakness of the social movements and their failure to develop
coherent strategies for promoting broad based and well organised
citizenry. Some of the salient features that underlie the socio-economic
and class formation of our society make it difficult to preserve and
On the other hand, since its emergence in the early 20th century, the
modern Ethiopian state has been typified by autocratic leaders and
primarily existed for the benefit of the powerful elite of the centre. The
overwhelming majority of the people had no role in governance and are
unfamiliar with their rights and obligations as citizens.
The system of rule was authoritarian top-down style of governance, with
an urban-based power structure and authority radiating from the centre.
Various efforts to devolve authority and involve people been unsuccessful.
As a result there was little popular participation in the political process and
the populace has become distrustful and critical of the state and wary of
having any contact with it.
Whatever the technical construction chosen to express democracy, the
sustainability of the system will depend on the understanding of the people
and social groups and institutions of the rights and obligations of
citizenship and the respect for democracy. Africa has very little, if any,
experience in open democratic discourse and is unfamiliar with the critical
values and practices that anchor democratic culture and tradition. Three
decades after the removal of the colonial and feudal regimes, the political
culture remains that of passive subordination and neo-patrimonial
The political tradition preached by the aristocratic associates the
well-being of the individual with the presence of personalised leadership
inducing loyalty and does not encourage active competition, questioning
of authority or dissent. And these have turned out to be old habits that die
hard and which linger on until the present day, despite the tumultuous
political experience of the continent in the past quarter of the century.
Furthermore, while many African countries, experienced some form of
democratic organisation and function in the colonial setting and their
liberation struggle, our populace is paradoxically unfamiliar with the
mechanics of democratic governance or its rudimentary principles.
Practices such as free elections, the formatting of political parties, free and
open discourse on public issues are all foreign concepts that need to be
installed in the majority of the populace.4
There is a widespread perception that the political movements and
contesting groups are preoccupied with petty internal bickering and have
failed to involve and execute the populace. Most of the more militant
opposition leaders tend to personify power and broadly exercise
democratic principles within the meaning and context internal structures
of their organisations. They seem to be ore interested in taking political
power rather than to effect genuine democratic changes. The key to
building enduring democracy is the existence of strong, viable and
assertive civil society. Organisations of civil society operate between the
state and the citizenry and give structure to the representation of interests
of a diverse body of the populace. It is an essential prerequisite as it
facilitates the opportunity for participation in the political life for the
citizens at large.
The contemporary reality of Ethiopia is that the various social, economic and
political organisations such as trade unions, self-help groups professional associations,
etc. are very weak and generally dominated by the state. Power was concentrated in the
hands of the state at the expense of other institutions in society. Many of these civic
organisations in the country did not arise on voluntary basis or based on shared political
value but are state sponsored. In defining the problems of the transition to democracy and
proposing solution's for them, i.e. in setting goals, and tasks for itself in attempting to
solve the problems, leading political parties have done so largely within a particular
tradition of political thought, argument and struggle. The tradition has origins in the
radical student movement, in ideas of "national liberation", "class struggle", "national
democratic revolution" and "socialism" spawned by that movement, in international
Marxist-Leninist thought, and in the revolutionary experiences of former and existing
communist countries, notably the Soviet Union, China and Albania.
One major obstacle to efforts to install and consolidate democratic system in
Ethiopia is the all powerful, highly centralised and hierarchical bureaucratic
structure. Built over the last fifty years, the organisational imperative of the massive
bureaucratic machine is to command and control and is preoccupied with its own survival
and enrichment. It is unlikely that the powerful bureaucracy will abandon its privileged
position and control of the state apparatus to democratically elected political leaders or
respect the institutional restraints of democratic rule without struggle.
The state has proved to be the main channel for personal wealth
accumulation and securing privileged position in society. As the result
4 The lack of democratic culture is also clearly manifest in the disarray and inability of the
managers to achieve internal unity. While there are many educated managers, they have
been unable to unite or put together a coherent political alternative to the existing
leadership. Rather to a considerable degree, managers have become a vehicle for
ambitious and power hungry politicians.
of the socialisation of the means of production, there was no, at least on
paper, patrimonial class differentiation and the state power was
appropriated to the political elite or bureaucratic bourgeoisie, that mainly
constituted well-educated top officials, organisation leaders, and some
high ranking officers or liberation front leaders. It was characteristic of
this group that it did not exert control over means of production but
utilised its position in the state apparatus to provide itself with an
economic basis by indulging in corruption and nepotism.
The economic rewards of the public sector are so much greater than
those of the private sector for the majority of people that politics has
become a much more brutal struggle. Because the state has often been the
only available vehicle for the personal accumulation of wealth and for the
formation of social classes, there is too much at stake in the competition
for power and position in the bureaucracy that political groups and
individuals feel compelled to win at any cost even if that results in the
socio-economic deterioration of the society or demands the cost of many
As the winner takes all and the looser is consigned to the political and
economic wilderness, all the brutality and corruption of bitter fights
ensure in every political competition. It is simply a zero-sum game where
the loser has no refugee or alternative. Consequently, the bureaucracy will
no doubt fight aggressively in order to obtain its patrons in positions if
political power by any means possible.
The bureaucratic set-up is characterised by a complicated net works
of patron client relations, with a patron giving a decent position in the
government in exchange for a clients political support. Clientelism in this
form is extremely widespread and spreads out in waves from the
centennial figure of the system. Relatives are among the first to be
privileged followed fellow villagers and members of the ethnic group and
lastly those from other ethnic groups but who should prove life long
The ruling elite makes every effort to maintain control over the state
apparatus and government job is regarded as collateral for political
support or at least for not opposing it. Hence, professional experts in the
state apparatus for lack of opportunity to exit out of the system, remain
mute and indifferent. The effort of the elite to establish its hegemony over
the state and the society at large has led to resisting of the growth
autonomous mass organisations among the civil society, thus perennial
attempts have been made to restrict the freedom of the press and to
incorporate such organisations as trade unions, women's, youth and
professional associations into the state party system.
As political position has become the only competing alternative for
professional salary level income generating business, the number of
people who want to go into that business is very large. Individuals who
couldn't be capable of gaining sufficient education for decent white collar
job have made it a way of success in life and the result is too many people
are being diverted from material production to political service giving
sector of the economy. As more and more people regard politics the easy
way out for satisfactory income generation they are willing to do anything
including sabotaging a true democratic process by being the
mouthpiece of an authoritarian regime.
The legitimacy of the democratic process underway in Ethiopia will
depend in important ways on it being perceived as reasonably honest,
predictable, transparent and accountable in the execution of the states
responsibility. Public sector corruption and inefficiencies undermine
political, economic and social stability by undermining citizens faith in the
In situations where public officials are seen to be using their positions to advance
parochial interest and self aggrandisement, a general loss of respect for authority and the
law occurs and despondency in the general population develops. It is apparent that as the
continent enters this new era of political pluralism and democratic governance there is a
need to overhaul the administrative machinery and develop institutional alternatives to
the centralised, bureaucratic and hierarchical organisational structure.5
Africa in general and Ethiopia in particular, faces pressing issues and problems of
peace making, conflict management, democratisation and development to be settled. But
there are alternative ways of weighing up and framing the issues and of charting the
course of action which may be embarked upon towards their settlement. There is no
simple or immediate identification of democratisation problems as they actually are; there
is only a definition of them from a certain perspective and towards a certain "resolution".
What is important in the politics of democratisation is not so much the problems of
transition themselves as what various, competing organisations and groups conceive them
to be and how the organisations "settle" their conceptual differences.
The paradox of the situation is that, at the same time, the authoritarian power of the state
is based in part upon appearance. The state is weak by any conventional measure of
institutional capacity and has little or no control over peripheral regions and rural areas.
As the most able party leaders and expert advisers become involved in central
administration and policy, Regional (provincial) and local party organisation as well as
the local government apparatus are manned by less qualified personnel or they simply
cease to function. Vigilant and obsessed by preservation of power, local level officials are
pre-occupied by administrative and to an even greater extent by political tasks than
ensuring the rights of people or implementing the democratic mandates. Again if public
confidence is to be instilled, it is necessary to extend the reach of the state to the remote
areas of the country and carefully monitor conducts of the agents of political groups.
The issues of democratisation of management and development that is articulated
today in this context can therefore be seen in part as whatever it states within its
ideological problematique, whether its formulation of the issues have anything to do or
not with the democratisation of Ethiopia. Indeed, for the transition period and its
architects, may be little more than a setting for exploring or experimenting with the
global themes and preoccupation of revolutionary democracy, that bears within its
wombs the traditions of socialism, such as the abolition of class oppression and national
and gender inequalities, and of state boundaries created against the interests and wishes
This is manifested in the mutualising of the goals, objectives and discourse of
transition to the extent where they gain currency less as constitutive elements of an open
public arena for democratic debate and discussion and more as ingredients of a political
recipe pre-cooked by a particular organisation or coalition of organisations. It shows up
in the tendency to offer solutions in tight, formulaic terms, for the most part
avoiding the uncertainty of their pluralism, negotiated framing, and to resist the
opening up of its reform aims and purposes for alternative formulations.7
In the above review, the attempt has been to identify some of the impediment for
the consolidation and preservation of democracy. Economically, socially, politically there
exist almost insurmountable obstacles to the flourishing of democratic governance.
However, other societies with identical features have managed to install and maintain
multi-party democratic system. While it is too early to decide how the system of
governance will evolve, there is no reason to believe that democracy is doomed in
Ethiopia. A skilled and committed leadership can mitigate conditions that are hostile to
Policies that enhance adaptive strategies in Ethiopia
The post-Cold War context for policy formulation
6 But these are so mediated and "processed" by revolutionary rhetoric, doctrine and
organisational practice that they signify less spontaneous particulars than ideologically
loaded and rehearsed elements. Often, they betray little in the contingencies of the lived
experiences of ethnic and cultural groups in Ethiopia, but manifest the more or less
explicit general forms of the ideology the transition works, the mechanisms which the
leaders uses in operating the ideology, and the character of the operation itself.
Under these circumstances, interpretative possibilities within concepts and goals of
democracy are pre-emptively "frozen" or short-cut, turning immediately into the
actualities of revolutionary democracy formulae. Recognition of this problem would
constitute a significant development of its democratic practice if management as an art is
to grow flourish and the manager to find his/her identity. It would be a major opening for
the mutual incorporation of uncertain state strategies and process in a more dynamic and
complex articulation of democratic transition in Ethiopia.
The dynamics of political transition that were kindled within the framework of a
global move towards self-determination, self-assertion and self-empowerment and the
opportunities for popular participation in governance in Africa are unprecedented. The
challenge for us, however, is to place these dynamics in a coherent perspective, and
within the context of basic principles of good governance, enabling policy environments
for adaptive strategies of the poor in marginal environments, and to determine how, in the
implementation of such principles, relevant experiences may be shared between and
within African countries.
This study aims to facilitate the definition of indigenous knowledge, ideas and
systems which embody and institutionalise human adaptation to marginal environments
within the context of civil society’s collective institutional heritage and tradition in
African cultural traditions at large by promoting increased understanding of the process
and requirements of democratic transition. While it is of fundamental importance that
Africa itself defines approaches to, and processes of, participation and good governance,
it is also necessary that such approaches be synthesised with universal principles of
democracy which assure both political contestation and political participation.
Government has adopted a number of political and economic policies. A number
of basic themes and principles are embodied in the macro level policies: Regionalization,
decentralisation, participation, nationalism, and reduction of the role of the State in the
economy. In most African countries, the precepts of nationalism, Regionalization,
participation and decentralisation are means by which to transfer decision-making
authority to different locations in the administrative hierarchy - including the community
and individual levels8.
The Constitution Ratified
Regional self governments Ratified
Fiscal decentralisation Ratified
Tax proclamation Ratified
Constitutional development and electoral laws Ratified
Promotion of Participation (various instruments) Ratified
The Transitional Economic Policy Ratified
National Population Policy Ratified
National Policy on Women Ratified
National Policy on Disaster Management Ratified
Directives for Disaster Prevention and Ratified
National Food and Nutrition Strategy Draft
National Education Policy Ratified
8 Although this process has begun and limited participation has been achieved, there are
numerous officials, organisations, communities and people in all parts of Africa who are not
yet aware of their responsibilities to implement the polices that impact on adaptive
National Conservation/Natural Resources Ratified
National Investment Policy Ratified
National Agricultural Policy Draft
Land Tenure Policy De-facto
NGO Policy Needed
Social Policy Ratified
Action Plan for Implementation of the NFNS Needed
Micro-Enterprise Development Strategy Ratified
Livestock Development and Marketing Strategy Needed
It is within this macro-policy framework that sectoral policies and strategies have
been and are presently being drafted, endorsed and ratified. Both legally and
operationally all sector strategies must take these major policy tenets into full
consideration. The needs for refining and developing existing macro-policies,
development of new policies, development of new Regional and sectoral policies,
promotion and awareness generation of Macropolicies, empowerment training, training in
community development have indeed been manifested clearly.
Although the content of ratified policies are clearly characterised by empowerment
and participation, the process of policy formulation is less so. Policy formulation has been
largely a top-down process, driven by the central government. Physical limitations have
necessitated a process characterised by less than full participation. Nonetheless, it is
recognised that the process by which policy is formulated (as it cannot include everyone)
has ramifications for acceptance and implementation. On a basic level, a policy that is not
fully understood by those charged with its implementation cannot be implemented. Insofar
as Government policy is empowerment and participation, knowledge of and acceptance of
policy is critical.
The process has been by necessity largely top-down and centre-driven. Social
policies and other related sectoral policies are more technical in nature than the general
macro-policies. Furthermore, they, by their nature, present a critical requirement for
understanding and acceptance at a very broad level. The line departments of the central
government need to understand the implications and impacts of their policies on adaptive
strategies and further, need to be internalised in the policies and operations of those
government departments. The theme of direct participation in policy decision-making
(as compared with the "representative" participation whereby the State retains economic
decision authority on behalf of the citizens), is central to most policies. The ramifications
of decentralisation are that most Government departments will and must now operate
through a system where authority is vested at a variety of levels. The ramifications of
participation are that decision making is to be largely bottom-up, from the individual and
the community through the decentralised executive organs. Congruence between
institutional capacity and operational empowerment on the one hand and political-level
empowerment on the other hand must then be achieved.
Decentralised / federalised governments, local administrations and the communities
need to know about and accept and be empowered to implement the sectoral policies.
(Likewise, they must develop local policies and action plans.) Empowerment and
acceptance of social policies and related policies must be achieved by a programme of
action designed to achieve this goal. There is an increasing recognition that managing the
transition to a sustainable future should became the new central organising principle of
the post cold war era. Towards this end, Governments have taken steps to
To modify existing policies and provide direction to the formulation of
policies (including Regional policy instruments) under development to
ensure a coherent policy environment for enhancing adaptive strategies of
the poor to environments marginalised socially, politically and
To raise the awareness of communities and institutions at all relevant levels
about the policies on and related to human adaptation to gain acceptance of
those policies and the attendant community and institutional implementation
To ensure participatory programmes addressing the problems of the poor by
providing empowerment training to communities.
New policy instruments that enhance the exercise of adaptive strategies.
In Ethiopia, the government is committed to manage national development plans
in line with the prevailing mechanisms for management and co-ordination of priority
national programmes. The principal law is Proclamation No. 41 relating to
decentralisation, gives responsibility to the regions for the preparation of their plans for
financing from locally generated revenue as well as the Capital Budget. The Plans are
prepared by the Sectoral Bureaux, compiled by the Planning Bureaux and consolidated
by Bureaux of Finance. Once approved by the Regional Executive, these are submitted
for appraisal to the Regional (provincial) Planning Department along with action plans
for implementation. After appraising the plans the Central Government proposes resource
allocation and submits them through the Ministry of Finance which makes the final
resource allocation recommendations, to the Office of the prime Minster for review and
final approval by the Council of Representatives.
An experiment in devolving decision-making that seems to be working! In spite of this
limitations, the Government has embarked upon federalist reforms and part of any
development needs appraisal process includes assessing the capacity of the regions to
implement their plans. Once problems are identified, Government proposes corrective
actions. Plans prepared by central institutions and/or by the regions are required to
undergo the same approval process at the local level. Plans are monitored and evaluated
both in substantive terms and financial terms by the submitting institutions themselves
according to formats developed by Government and submitted periodically to them.
Inputs required for programme implementation not available at the Regional
(provincial) level are sourced through central level sectoral or specialised agencies. An
important aspect of the institutional framework is therefore the interface between central
and local level institutions and peoples organisations. In proposing institutional and
management arrangements, it is therefore necessary to achieve a relationship between
local decision making. The relationships are manifested on a spatial, temporal and
A vertical and horizontal integration of the two types of activity at all levels of the
administrative structure (central, regional, zonal, wereda and "grassroots") is what should
make development planning and mitigative short-term measures implementation
complete. This means that care should be taken not to preclude the possibility of
intervention management from the national goals and objectives. This means that the
general principles and strategies of development which would allow for participatory
approach on the indigenous initiative and Government designed development programme
continuum from the "grassroots" communities to the highest level of the administrative
hierarchy will be adopted and adhered to during implementation.
Therefore it is recommended that the process of integrating adaptive strategies
with the overall national development which will follow the both formal and informal
sector Regional (provincial) plans and procedures. Accordingly, the Government is
committed to make development programmes community-based and locally executed;
fully decentralised to the implementing Woreda (district) organs of Government and
communities who will be the direct beneficiaries and partners in the programme. The
management structures are structured to provide space for a decentralised system that
would ensure effective community participation, positive impact of the activities on the
partners and target beneficiaries and accountability for donor resources.
The management takes into account the organisation structure existing at the
Regional (provincial) Zonal and Woreda (district) levels and their relation to the Central
level as defined in Proclamations 15/1993 and 33/1993 on Regionalisation whereby
sectoral ministries are replicated at the Regional (provincial), Zonal and Woreda (district)
levels with full responsibilities for activities within their areas of competence. The
structure provides an effective mechanism for involving communities in the full range of
development activities from needs identification, planning, implementation, monitoring
and evaluation. This approach will also shift the emphasis from institution-based
development to community-based development. The bulk of the resources will therefore
be disbursed in support of community-based development activities.
A major part of the activities in the area of integrated area-based development is
being implemented at the Woreda (district) level. Other support to central facilities such
as policy development are being implemented at Zonal, Regional (provincial) or Central
levels as appropriate. Strengthening the famine early warning system and people’s coping
mechanisms should be mainly directed from the Region and centre with the maximum
possible assistance channelled through the specialised government bureaux in the
regions. But this framework may make it difficult for adaptive strategies to be
incorporated into the mainstream of development work; it is hence necessary to exert
efforts to create spatial and socio-economic framework for incorporating adaptive
strategies as tools of planning.
The Government is committed to spend a large part of development programme
resources - at the Regional (provincial) level. The remaining resources are channelled for
strengthening central level organisations, for establishing mechanisms that will be
centrally managed or for policy and/or strategy development, the responsibility of central
institutions 9 . The following will therefore be the implementing arrangements for the
Local level: These are the true organisational structures that
represent the aspirations and prerogatives of `beneficiaries'. They
are the fundamental units to enhance people's participation
including local resource mobilisation and promoting
entrepreneurship through common accountability.
structures: The `mender', The Woreda (district) Council
`gott' The `Bayto', The
`Mahber,' `Edir', Women's
Civil society organisations, Woreda (district) Councils: These are the
State and local government basic implementation units for projects
State structures interface in Ethiopia through line ministries represented at this
National Government level NGOs, CBOs, structures of national
and Regional committees and the local people's
Governments organisations. The council through its
administration wing will oversee integration
in the implementation of all programmes.
9 The Government's recent drive towards decentralisation has obviously created a suitable
environment for the devolution of political and economic authority and decision-making.
This process also includes fiscal decentralisation which is the cornerstone for Regional
(provincial) and local resource allocation. Although in practice the elements of popular
participation (i.e. the democratic environment, meeting the material needs of the people
and sharing of political and economic authority) have yet to be fully achieved, the nascent
decentralised structure would assist in implementing programme activities through the
newly established Regional (provincial) planning and administrative organs.
International State structures Zonal Level: This is an administrative wing
organisations: Regional Governments that backstops the Woreda (district)
UN system, and Zonal Councils in providing the technical
donors, Banks, Administration expertise and coordinate inputs at the level
Int'l NGOs where the projects are manageably
supported. It also provides the organic link
with the Regional governments.
Regional Level: Consists of Bureaux of ministries, NGOs and People's Organisations.
This is the level for policy and programme development and execution. They are the basis
for evolving the enabling environment for indigenous development
Institutional Framework and Management Arrangements: The management arrangements
of the development initiative of the Government reflect the organisational structure in the
Regional (provincial), Zonal and Woreda (district) Administrations and their relation to
the Central Government. As these structures are emerging, some measure of flexibility
will be called for that would allow modifications to be introduced as experience is
acquired during implementation. At the central level, focal points drawn from sectoral
ministries and NGOs and CSOs or national institutions will be appointed. They will be
responsible for overseeing implementation of activities to be undertaken at the central
level. These focal points should preferably be responsible for co-ordinating of
complementary activities funded by other donors.
According to the new laws, implementation of any development activity will have
to be highly decentralised. Co-ordination at Regional (provincial) and National levels will
be ensured through the establishment of appropriate management structures. In each
locality in which implementation is planned, (Regional (provincial)/Zonal Woreda
(district) levels) the appropriate Sectoral Bureau will be responsible for the local
management of activities according to the sectoral focus. Policy generation and resource
allocation and programme co-ordination and management will be handled at the Regional
(provincial) level. At the Regional level there are also Executive Committees which
oversee the implementation of the Regional plans.
Community Level Management: In the current derive towads democarcy and
good governance, the Government calims that capacity built within local organisations
and the Woreda (district) Administrations for project identification, implementation
monitoring and evaluation will be a necessary condition to cultivate civil society . This
will be structured to serve all activities in the Woreda (district). It will be responsible for
all development activities and report on development impacts. Community support
Groups will also be formed, comprising representatives of traditional organisations,
community leaders, elders, peasant associations and local CBOs and NGOs. The
Community Support Groups will act as an interlocutor between the Woreda
(district)/Community Administrations and the donors. They will represent the interest of
the Communities and ensure that the activities that are implemented are consistent with
the aspirations of the communities. Technical support at the Woreda
(district)/Community levels will be provided through Zonal Bureaux, National
Volunteers and NGOs.
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