Scholarly article on topic 'The Roles of Customary Institutions in Adaptation and Coping to Climate Change and Variability among the Issa, Ittu and Afar Pastoralists of eastern Ethiopia'

The Roles of Customary Institutions in Adaptation and Coping to Climate Change and Variability among the Issa, Ittu and Afar Pastoralists of eastern Ethiopia Academic research paper on "Social and economic geography"

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Academic research paper on topic "The Roles of Customary Institutions in Adaptation and Coping to Climate Change and Variability among the Issa, Ittu and Afar Pastoralists of eastern Ethiopia"

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Bamlaku Tadesse*, Fekadu Beyene, Workneh Kassa, Richard Wentzell

The Roles of Customary Institutions in Adaptation and Coping to Climate Change and Variability among the Issa, Ittu and Afar Pastoralists of eastern Ethiopia

DOI 10.1515/cass-2015-0025

received March 31, 2015; accepted November 12, 2015

Abstract: (Agro) pastoral communities who reside in the arid and semi-arid environments of Ethiopia are vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and variability specifically to the recurrent drought, floods and conflicts. From their long years of rich experiences of how to survive on such environmental pressures, (agro) pastoralists have also developed various forms of adaptation as well as coping strategies to the impacts of climate change and variability. Such strategies are closely guided and supervised by their customary institutions which have rich experiences in addressing the socio-economic/ cultural, political and environmental/ecological aspects. To mention some of the adaptation mechanisms in the study area are pastoral mobility; relying on traditional early warning mechanisms; area enclosures and preparing of hays/forage; diversifying livestock and selection of their species; the shift from pure form of pastoral to agropastoral production systems; and among others. Some of the coping strategies employed by the (agro) pastoralists are also their engagement in charcoal production and fire wood collections; the sell of their livestock, government

*Corresponding author: Bamlaku Tadesse, Bamlaku Tadesse (Assit. Professor in Social Anthropology) is currently a PhD candidate in Peace and Conflict Resolution, Department of Gender and Development, College of Social Sciences and Humanities, Haramaya University, Dire- Dawa, Ethiopia, E-mail: Fekadu Beyene, Fekadu Beyene (PhD) Assoc. Professor in Resource Economics, College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, Department of Rural Development and Agricultural Extension, Haramaya University, Dire- Dawa, Ethiopia Workneh Kassa, Workneh Kassa (PhD, Marketing), College of Business and Economics, Department of Management, Haramaya University, Dire- Dawa, Ethiopia

Richard Wentzell, Dean for the College of Law at Haramaya University, Dire- Dawa, Ethiopia

support in the form of safety net and MERET project and their indigenous social support mechanisms; petty trading especially by women; brokering on livestock trade; engagement in contraband trade; searching for daily labor, and among others. The paper also tried to assess the roles of customary institutions in social support mechanisms to the problems posed by the impacts of climate change and variability to their age old traditional ways of livelihood mechanisms.

Keywords: Climate change, adaptation, coping, Ethiopia, (agro) pastoralists

1 Introduction

Pastoralists play an important role in managing the world's dry land ecosystems with the help of their customary institutions. While their dependence on the dry lands makes them vulnerable to the ecological effects of climate change and variability, pastoralists' adaptive capacity provides a unique opportunity to prepare for and manage the associated shocks and stresses, such as drought and floods. The adaptive capacity of a community is its ability to adjust to climate change, to moderate or cope with the impacts, and to take advantage of the opportunities. Adaptive capacity is often determined by a range of factors, processes and structures such as income, literacy, institutional capacity, social networks, as well as access to information, markets, technology, and services [1, 2]. Communities are already undertaking activities to cope and adapt with drought and other climate-related hazards (i.e. conflicts, disease and pest outbreaks, bush encroachment, and land degradation). Therefore, an assessment of the current local coping and adaptation strategies, as well as their effectiveness and sustainability can give us an insight on local adaptive capacity in the study area.

[ME333H © 2015 Bamlaku Tadesse et al. licensee De Gruyter Open.

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 License.

The base of this adaptive capacity is mobility, which ensures that livestock makes the best possible use of dry land resources. The patterns of pastoralists' mobility are regulated by changing environmental conditions and enable them to maximize their productivity under water scarcity.

The Horn of Africa is inhabited by the world's largest population of pastoralists, characterized by a high level human insecurity, having witnessed numerous civil wars, as well as several interstate wars [3]. Pastoralist conflicts in the Horn of Africa for pastureland, water, and access routes aggravated in the second half of the twentieth century [3]. Reasons can be that land and water resources are becoming scarcer due to climate change, but also due to changing consumption patterns that make pastoralists dependent on external resources e.g. through involvement in trade or industrial farming practices. Pastoral communities in the Horn of Africa in general and eastern Ethiopia in particular have been adapting their livelihood strategies to the changing environmental conditions for many centuries. Their strategies to cope with and adapt to these droughts are deeply grounded in traditional social structures and resource management systems.

A key element of pastoralist communities in the Horn of Africa is caring for and protecting livestock 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 social status) and for social security purposes. To maintain viable livelihoods, herders and farmers (pastoralists and agro-pastoralists) must be able to cope with and adapt to all climatological dynamics and extremes across various time scales, from individual weather events to long-term climate change [4]. The occurrence of recurrent droughts had been a major issue throughout the history of the Ethiopian lowlands [5]. Most recently, droughts and the chronic failure (late arrival, early cessation, or non-appearance) of long rain in the period from March through May endanger the pastoralist and agro-pastoralist communities of Afar, Hawiya, Issa, Ittu and Kereyu ethnic groups and forced them to reconsider their current coping and adaptation strategies [6]. These address tangible assets, such as financial and natural resources, and less tangible elements such as the indigenous knowledge/ skills and opportunities to make decisions and implement changes to their livelihoods or lifestyle so as to survive and ensure their old aged livelihood mechanisms [7].

The adaptive dynamics of local level institutions are of high relevance because centralized planning or generic, ready-made technical fixes are of limited value for local practice. Local institutional structures become

critically important in adaptation and coping strategies regarding three aspects: first, they structure impacts and vulnerability, second they mediate between individual and collective responses to climate impacts and thereby shape outcomes of adaptation, and finally they act as the means of delivery of external resources to facilitate adaptation, and thus govern access to such resources [1]. The mediating role of institutions between people and the environment, between individuals and collectivities, and between different collectivities make them essential to adaptation efforts. Traditional leadership through customary institutions is dominating in the most remote and marginalized pastoralist and agro-pastoralist communities of the arid and semi - arid regions of the Horn of Africa in general and eastern Ethiopia in particular. These are not only home to pastoralists, agro-pastoralists but also to sedentary agriculturalists, private ranchers, national parks and various investment and development projects [8, 9, 10, and 11]. This means that these various actors have to share the scarce resources available to them and interact in protecting their day-to-day activities so as to ensure their livelihoods. Customary institutions in Ethiopia are, for instance, the Xeer in Issa- Somali [12], the Gumma in various Oromo clans, the Madda in Afar [13], the Wilok in Nuer, or the Carlok in Anyuaa [14]. They are mainly addressing conflict issues but also they are involving other aspects of socio-economic, environmental and political affairs.

The objective of this paper is to provide an overview on the roles played by customary institutions in adapting to and coping with the impacts of climate change in vulnerable (agro) pastoral communities in the Horn of Africa.

2 Materials and Methods

2.1 The study area

The research was carried out in the Mieso Mullu district of Shinlle zone, Somali Regional State, the Amibara district of Zone 3, Afar Regional State and the Mieso district of West Hararaghe Zone, Oromia Regional state in eastern Ethiopia. The study area is one of the most affected by the impacts of the recurrent conflict and drought conditions in Ethiopia which hampered to sustain the traditional modes of (agro) pastoral livelihoods. The study area is largely arid and semi-arid with high temperatures and low precipitation and is part of the arid and semi-arid lowlands north of the Hararghe highlands. We involved participants from the Afar, Issa-Somali and Ittu-Oromo ethnic groups

that are strongly competing in this region on the same resources and thus provoke permanent conflicts. See map of the study area and the distribution of clan and ethnic groups in their respective districts in figure 1 below.

2.2 Data and methods

We involved qualitative and quantitative information in our study. The quantitative data were generated through surveys in 128 randomly selected households of the Mieso-Mullu, Mieso and Amibara districts. The main questions covered in this topic were the perceptions of (agro) pastoralists to the different aspects of the manifestations of climate change and variability. They were also asked about the roles of customary institutions in social support system to those catastrophes induced by climate change and variability. Based on the qualitative information gathered from the author's personal observations, key informant interviews and focus group discussions, respondents were asked to rank on the survey determined with a five point Likert scale for the different alternatives given about how (agro) pastoral communities adapt/cope

to those changes through their customary institutions. Respondents were also given an opportunity to suggest additional strategies not listed in the survey. The field work was conducted between February 2013 and November 2014.

A total of six kebeles1 (two kebeles from each district) were selected purposively based on the severity of drought and conflict situations while the 128 household heads for the survey were selected randomly from the six kebeles.

The qualitative data were generated through using semi-structured key informant interviews, focus group discussions, personal observations and informal discussions. In-depth interviews with key informants were conducted and data generated in order to have thick description of the events under discussion. Key informants and focus group discussion participants were selected based on their age and level of awareness about their culture, society and environment and heads of households and members holding positions in customary institutions preferred. A total of 16 Issa, 18 Ittu and 14 Afar

1 Kebele (Amharic word) is the lowest administrative unite below a district

for individual interviews; and 6 focus group discussions for each groups (Issa, Ittu and Afar) were conducted and the participants were selected from the (agro) pastoralists, clan leaders, community elders and representatives, zonal and district level officials of the three districts.

Secondary sources of both published and unpublished documents such as reports, letters, cases, and annual plans were also reviewed and analyzed thematically. The unpublished documents were found mostly in the archives of Harari regional state administration, the zone and district level administration and security, justice bureau, agriculture and natural resources offices of the three districts.

Respondents were asked to rate the adaptation and coping strategies to the impacts of climate change and variability employed by (agro) pastoral communities as very important, important, not sure, less important and not important. The result of the chi-square test indicates that the responses between the three study sites are significantly different in all factors that are devised as adaptation and coping strategies to the impacts of climate change and variability. This indicates that the perceptions to the response factors that are employed by the (agro) pastoral communities of the three study sites are different due to their difference in socio-economic, political and resource factors. Then index values were calculated to

rank the perceptions by weighting the (agro) pastoralists' perception (within and between the study groups) and then by multiplying it with arbitrary values to each alternative. Accordingly, the factors that are devised as adaptation and coping strategies to the impacts of climate change and variability were ordered according to their importance.

3 Results and Discussion

3.1 (Agro) pastoralists' adaptation strategies to the impacts of climate change and variability

Strategies of the pastoralist communities we surveyed consist, for instance, in diversifying crops and livestock production, migration to urban centers, area enclosures, charcoal making and firewood collection, petty trading, agro-forestry and short-cycle vegetable and fodder production for their livestock, construction of water points.

In the household survey, participants were asked to rate the climate change adaptation and coping strategies employed by their communities on a 5 point Likert scale, namely (1) very important, (2) important, (3) not sure, (4) less important and (5) not important (Table 1).

In the survey result, diversifying crop production was

Table 1: Ranking of climate change adaptation strategies by district

Climate change adaptation strategies



Both 3 districts


Index Rank Index Rank Index Rank Index Rank test

Diversifying crop production 4.76 2 6.53 3 10.64 1 4.31 4 50.4***

Harvesting wild fruits and other 3.34 7 3.70 9 4.15 9 2.40 9 22 3***

tree products

Charcoal burning 3.32 8 4.84 6 9.90 5 3.55 6 44.7***

Migrating to urban areas and 4.00 6 3.34 10 8.39 8 3.09 8 32.8***

other countries

Use bank accounts to accumulate 1.64 11 2.79 11 2.89 10 1.47 11 20.3***


Use informal saving and credit to 2.38 10 3.95 7 2.81 11 1.89 10 25.3***

accumulate wealth

Raising livestock and doing 4.52 4 7.30 1 10.03 4 4.44 3 27.7***

additional activities

Diversifying livestock/cattle 4.68 3 6.75 2 10.48 2 4.56 2 11.3**


Mobility with livestock 5.26 1 6.18 4 10.29 3 4.79 1 17.5**

Searching for other paid jobs 2.79 9 3.92 8 9.75 6 3.26 7 39.2***

Diversifying to other livelihood 4.25 5 5.45 5 9.15 7 3.90 5 28.4***


***Significant at 1%, ** Significant at 5%

reported to be the 2nd, 3rd and 1st most important adaptation strategy to climate change and variability by the sampled respondents of Mieso-Mullu, Mieso and Amibara districts respectively. The responses were also found to be statistically different at 1%, meaning the certainty level is 99.9% and it is more certain about the responses of all sampled respondents (128). This indicates that there is the trend of shifting from pure form of pastoral production system to the practice of agro-pastoral production system as an alternative pastoral livelihood strategy mainly due to the environmental/climatic pressure posed on pastoralists. Today most of the communities in the study area particularly in Mieso are predominantly shifting to sedentary agriculturalists (crop farming communities) unlike the previous times. Some pastoralists in the Afdem and Mieso-Mullu area transitioning into agro-pastoral production systems due to the scarcity of the pastoral land for their livestock and the stiff competition on grazing lands with the neighboring pastoral communities. Similar to other countries in the Horn of Africa, agro-pastoralism in Ethiopia has been spreading into purely pastoral rangelands as people have increasingly adapted to farming practices. The emergence of agro-pastoralism as a new form of pastoral adaptation production system could be partly associated with the decline in range land resources as well as decrease in both livestock numbers and their productivity. This compounded situation may have forced pastoralists to resort to agro-pastoralism.

According to the community elders in Mieso, the Ittu pastoralist communities were able to graze their animals as far as Afdem district, but today the area is entirely controlled by the Issa Somali2. They further argued that not only had the Ittu Oromo lost their grazing lands to the Issa Somali but also to the Afars. The encroachment of both groups in to the Ittu territory has negatively impacted on their age long pastoral livelihood strategies. However, this argument remains a controversy that the Issa and Afar elders responded that they (the latter) never encroach and take over Ittu's land. Ittu's elders further added that these pastoralists who displaced from Afdem area are forced to engage in crop farming by leaving their old aged livelihood strategy, i.e. pastoralism. The same is true in Amibara district that few pastoralists are also turned in to agro-pastoralism particularly along the Awash River and its environs. Besides to the practice of irrigation farming by the Afar pastoralists along the Awash River, they also engaged in rain feed agriculture though the rainfall is almost unpredictable and erratic. There is the difference

2 Focus group discussion with community elders at Mieso, 21 October 2014

in their degree of transforming in to agro-pastoralism among these pastoralists. The majority of the various Oromo clans in the area are almost in the process of transforming in to sedentary agriculturalists while few Afars in Amibara district who are along the Awash river practiced agriculture and the remaining (the majority) are still pure pastoralists. When we see the Issa and the Hawiya Somali, the Issa are still entirely engaged in pure form of pastoral production system while the majority of the Hawiya are turned in to agro - pastoral production system.

Furthermore, the focus group discussion participants at Mieso added that one of the (agro) pastoralists' adaptation strategies to the impacts of climate change and variability is the shift of livelihood strategy from pure form of pastoralism in to mixed form i.e agro-pastoralism. As a result, they began to practice crop farming which are drought resistant that needs shorter periods of rain and harvested in a short period of time. They depend on both rain feed and irrigation for their agricultural practices. The Mullu River is the main source of irrigation agriculture in the Sodomogoro Misra kebele which was started during the Dergue regime. From this irrigable land, agro-pastoralists produce maize, pepper and chat during the dry season.

The shift from pastoral in to agro-pastoral production system has its own impact on the customary land tenure system. A study about the Karrayu also stated that "the resort to farming activities has meant that their traditional land tenure arrangements have undergone significant changes and modifications" [15]. He also further discussed about the dynamics nature of pastoral land tenure system and the agricultural modes of adaptations to the changing environmental conditions that "the Karrayu cattle-herders resort to whenever circumstances require it and are opportune". When pastoralists are transformed in to agro-pastoral production system where the households are largely depend on crop production as household income (greater than 50%) and their daily food/ energy consumption (greater than 15%), the communally owned land which was administered by their customary institutions is now owned and administered privately by each households for agricultural purposes.

In addition, the shift of pastoral production in to agropastoral production system and sedentary agricultural practices in selected kebeles of Mieso Mullu district like Mullu, Kurfasewa, HulkaDobba, Mencha, and Hardim is also a form of adaptation mechanisms in which they began to practice mixed farming production system. The decrease in range land resources, in the number of livestock and their productivity is also mainly because

of the impacts of global climate change. According to the focus group discussion participants, the rest of other kebeles in this district are currently pure pastoralists who are more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. The emergence and rapid expansion of agro-pastoralism in Ethiopia is partly associated to the decline in range land resources as well as decrease in both livestock numbers and productivity [16]. As a result of this adaptation mechanism, the participants confirmed that the Somali and the Oromo pastoral and agro-pastoral communities are engaged in recurrent conflicts when the Oromo agro-pastoralists encroach the Somali pastoralist grazing areas due to the high population pressure, clearing and burning the natural forest for farmland and settlement area considering that it is vacant land. The Somali pastoralists in turn encroaches the farmlands of the Oromo agro-pastoralists especially during drought periods in search of water and pasture land.

Besides to the practice of crop production as an adaptation strategy and to ensure their food security, (agro) pastoralists are also depending on harvesting of wild fruits and other tree products as an adaptation strategy to climate change/ variability, the 7th for Mieso-Mullu and the 9th for both Mieso and Amibara district respondents respectively though there is the decline in the wide coverage of forest resources. The survey result also shows that charcoal burning is another adaptation and coping strategy, the 8th, 5th and 6th for Mieso-Mullu, Mieso and Amibara district sample respondents respectively.

In addition, respondents have also reported that migrating to both urban areas and other neighboring countries like the Middle East as well as searching for paid jobs are adaptation strategies. While migration is the 6th, 10th and 8th ways of adaptation strategy, searching for other jobs is reported to be the 9th, 8th and 6th for Mieso-Mullu, Mieso and Amibara district sample respondents respectively.

Respondents were also asked to rate about the culture of (agro) pastoralists in using bank accounts to save and accumulate wealth in good times and use it when there is sever and prolonged drought, the 11th for Mieso-Mullu and Mieso and the 10th for Amibara district respondents respectively. This implies that (agro) pastoralists have poor culture of using bank accounts. Their responses towards the use of informal saving and credit associations to accumulate wealth is the 10th for Mieso-Mullu, the 7th for Mieso and the 11th for Amibara district respondents.

Furthermore, diversifying the livestock species is also reported to be another form of adaptation strategy. The survey result shows that diversification of livestock species is the most important adaptation strategies, the

2nd for Mieso and Amibara and the 3rd for Mesio-Mullu district sample respondents. Though pastoralists face an acute shortage of pasture land and water points, they are trying to diversify their livestock species as adaptation strategy. Elders at Mieso town reported that there is the introduction of new types of animal production system which was not accustomed to the existing communities' way of life although the communities in the Mieso area are accustomed to cattle milk. Some of these newly introduced animals in Mieso area are camel and goat production. The rationale why the Ittu (agro) pastoralists adopted these animals is because of their complementary nature of the dietary system with other animals (that means camels are browsers based on trees and bushes while cattle are grazers basically depend on grass). Camel and goat are drought resistant animals unlike that of cattle. In the previous times the predominant animal production system in the area was cattle. The practice of sheep production decreased from time to time when cactus tree emerged and widely spread in the area which is not mostly edible by animals as it is toxic and seriously damages their eyes.

Besides to diversifying livestock species as an adaptive strategy, focus group discussion participants at Mieso reported that pastoralists also practiced the selection of livestock species that are best adapting to the new ecology and also more productive with the limited pasture and water. They have indigenous knowledge in indentifying the most productive and healthy animal breeds. Selected breeds especially bulls for breeding are communally owned through their customary institutions that are targeted to serve across all clan members. According to the Ittu community elders in Mieso, camel production was not widely practiced in their culture in the previous times rather they were engaged in other types of livestock production (cow, sheep and goat). Although production of camel in the Ittu culture was a recent phenomenon, there is a new trend of shifting from the production of camel to sheep and goat since goat and sheep needs less pasture than camels. This is mainly due to the change of the ecology that disfavors camels feeding habit. This does not mean that the pastoralists no longer have access to camel milk simply that the number of camels is diminishing. It was also observed that there is an increase in the number of donkeys, because of their multi-functionality in transporting water and fuel wood, while the cattle population is already wiped out on account of prolonged drought and disease. On the contrary, in Afar there is a clear shift from cattle towards goats and camels. In Afar, it is used to be only cow milk that was commonly sold, but

now the pastoral women have started selling camel milk3. Elders added that selling milk was not the culture of Afar people at all. It is very recently that women are engaged in business of milk selling due to the decrease in household income as a result of the pressure of climate change/ variability on their single-handed livelihood strategy (i.e. pastoral production system). While the (agro) pastoralists practicing livestock production as their day today activity they are also doing additional income generating schemes, the 1st for Mieso and the 4th for Amibara and Mesio-Mullu district respondents.

The survey result also revealed that (agro) pastoralist mobility is reported to be another form of the (agro) pastoralists' adaptation strategies, the 1st, the 4th and the 3rd most important strategy for Mieso-Mullu, Mieso and Amibara districts respectively. (Agro) pastoral mobility is an old aged and long years of pastoralists' practice so as to maximize their productivity and efficiently utilize their resources. Such practices were respected and tolerated among most pastoralists in the form of reciprocity when one group is badly affected by drought at one time and the others do the same at another time. However, pastoralist mobility in these days is considered as a survival/coping strategy to the prolonged and severe drought due to the influence of global climate change/ variability rather than a normal pastoralist way of life.

These days mobility of pastoralists with their livestock across regional and international boundaries is no more functional and productive since pastoralists started to claim their own territories and boundaries. Therefore, their mobility across boundaries during drought seasons aggravates/instigates pastoral conflicts due to the fear of territorial ownership and sometimes due to the fear of the spread of livestock diseases. One of the important factors affecting pastoralists' mobility is the introduction of manmade regional and international boundaries that restricts their mobility to access pasture and water freely and easily. The occurrence of recurrent droughts and conflicts in the pastoralist areas also badly affects the efficiency and effectiveness of pastoralists' productivity and in turn jeopardizes their livelihood strategies. The pastoralists, therefore, responds to such changes by devising different forms of survival and coping mechanisms to the impacts of global climate change/ variability. For instance, they are forced to reduce the

3 In old times selling camel milk was prohibited because camel is more respected and valued among the (agro) pastoralist communities. Milking of camel is not allowed to women and to the extent that they are not allowed to look after them due to the issue of purification.

number of their livestock population so as to reduce the burden on the natural resource base and also to limit the scope of their mobility beyond their territory as they face resistance/conflict from the other ethnic and clans.

One aspect of the impact of climate change is the encroachment of unwanted bushes (such as cactus and prosophies) which gradually replaced the grass and tree species. From both field observations and focus group discussions it is clearly feasible that species of the savanna grass land including important trees(bushes) in which pastoralists livestock are depend on them are now disappearing and to the extent in some places that there is totally bare lands with full of dust particles. This has its own repercussion on the scarcity of fodder/ pasture. In other words, bush encroachment is a factor for exacerbating feed scarcity.

Furthermore, there is also the shrinking of the pastoral range lands due to the appropriation of pastoral land for investment and national parks/game reserves. The Afar lost a total area of land 47,141 hectors for the above mentioned purposes [17]. As a result of these and other combined factors, pastoralists are now developing new coping and adaptation strategies. Some of these strategies as mentioned above are area enclosures which help to preserve some areas of pasture land for dry seasons as contingencies. From the key informant interview, it was revealed that there was the practice of area enclosure formation particularly in Mieso area as an adaptation strategy. However, currently the practice as an adaptation strategy is decreasing due to the scarcity of available land for pasture and farm land due to the increase in population pressure, the encroachment of farmers in to pastoralist range lands, and the appropriation of (agro) pastoralists' range lands for investment, national parks, sanctuaries and game reserves, and among others.

Another strategy is preparing hays/forage and feed their animals in times of drought periods especially from the protected national parks and game reserves in agreement with the park administrative officials, and the like. This strategy is in response to the acute shortage of pasture that (agro) pastoralists are facing due to the prolonged drought and unpredictable rainfall patterns. Pastoralists are allowed to prepare hays as fodder from the controlled areas (national parks and game reserves) especially during drought periods and carry and feed their animals outside of the reserved areas. The focus group discussion participants in Andido town of Amibara district reported that in very recent times, there was an agreement between the local administrators (officials responsible for the parks and reserve areas) and the community in Afar on the issues that the pastoralists can use the border areas

Figure 2: Bare lands due to prolonged drought in Mieso-Mullu district

Figure 3: Invasive bush encroachments (cactus and prosophies) in Mieso district

Figure 4: Invasive bush encroachments (cactus and prosophies) in Amibara district

Table 2: Ranking of coping strategies to climate change and variability by district

Coping strategies to Climate change




Chi-square test

Migration to neighboring 1.01 6 countries

Charcoal making 1.55 1

Searching for daily labor in 1.37 2 nearby town

Involving in contraband trade 1.08 5

Theft of properties 0.89 7

Petty trading 1.37 2

Brokering on livestock trade 1.37 2

Firewood collection or clearing 0.29 8 forests for marketing

Safety net and rationing pro- 0.29 8 gramme

Cattle raiding 0.25 10

2.GG 2.73

l.66 l.83 2.68

2.32 G.GG

4.28 4.26

3.72 2.44 4.34 4.21 G.GG

4.34 4.38

3.93 3.58 4.24

4.33 G.GG

32 5*** 21 l*** 22 5***

19.3** l5.7** 27.2***

14.G** 15.4**



*** Significant at 1%, ** Significant at 5%

of the park during drought periods though demarcation of border areas was difficult and always led to conflicts between the pastoralists and the park administrators.

3.2 (Agro) pastoralists' coping strategies to the impacts of climate change and variability

Coping mechanisms to climate change and variability are short term strategies employed by the (agro) pastoralists. Some of the coping/survival strategies to such changes in the study area are charcoal production, petty trading, brokering on livestock trade, contraband trade, safety net programme and its rationing, and MERET4 project and also its rationing program, daily/wage labor, and the like. These will be discussed in detail below.

The survey result shows that charcoal making is one of the most important coping strategies employed by the (agro) pastoralists communities of the three study areas, the 1st, the 4th and 3rd factor for the Mieso-Mullu, Mieso and Amibara district respondents respectively with the response pattern being significantly different at 1% (99.9% certain in their responses). Currently there is a high rate of charcoal production and fire wood collection in the (agro)

4 MERET-is abbreviated as Managing Environmental Resources to Enable Transition to More Sustainable Livelihoods.

pastoralist areas as an alternative livelihood strategy by those households or individuals who are forced to drop or near to drop their main livelihood system, i.e. pastoral production system. The production of charcoal as a coping strategy is currently facing new challenges with the rise of the emerging trends of pastoral production systems. One of the emerging trends is the eruption and widely distributions of the unwanted bush encroachments in the area that hindered for the survival of the indigenous forests/ trees which are the main sources of charcoal production. As a result of the expansion of permanent settlement and urbanization in the area that needs the construction of permanent houses by destroying forests/trees has also greatly affects the forest coverage. Previously pastoralists are mobile that needs a mobile and temporary hut so that there was no need of cutting larger trees for permanent house constructions. But today, there are the emergences of smaller administrative and illegal/contraband centers here and there that hugely demands wood/trees for permanent house construction. As there is a competition on territorial expansion between Afar and Issa, these contending parties are establishing new settlement centers which are strategically important for center of contraband trade, administration, and the like mainly along the major high way. Examples of new permanent settlement areas are Melka Sede, Melka Werer, Andido, Gedamaitu, Adaitu, Unduffo, Hardim, and among others.

One may ask a simple but important question about whose section(s) of the (agro) pastoralists are changing their age old livelihood strategy to charcoal production. From the field observations and focus group discussions, it is the most vulnerable and destitute (agro) pastoralist groups who are forced to shift from pure form of pastoral production system (when they lost their animals due to severe drought) in to charcoal production as an alternative livelihood diversification and coping strategy. It is because charcoal is becoming too expensive that currently attracts not only the vulnerable individuals/households but also others who perform well as an option of additional asset accumulation. From the gender perspectives, more women are engaged in charcoal production than men in the study area. When a household lost their traditional livelihood strategy and turned in to destitute life, wives/women are the first to seek for alternatives as they are the one who shoulders the household burden and are responsible for all the domestic activities and care for all the family members. As a result they are responsible to seek for the daily subsistence allowance of their household members. That is why more women are engaged in charcoal production than men in most (agro) pastoralist areas of eastern Ethiopia.

On the other hand, when there is severe and prolonged drought, (agro) pastoralists are forced to sell their livestock and in turn buy food and food supplements. As a supplement to this, they also depend on government support in the form of safety net programmes (food for work), and indigenous forms of social support mechanisms. These social support mechanisms are applied when someone has no any kind of cattle to sell during drought periods. In this self help association, the poor are beneficiary in the form of Zakat (form of religious alms) or giving goat as a gift. Those who are destitute enough/poor are also allowed to engage in fire wood collection and charcoal making.

In addition, from the discussion it was also reported that some community members particularly women who are close to the main high way or rural towns are engaged with various forms of petty trading to support the income of their household since the age old traditional way of life is under threat, the 2nd most important coping strategy for all sample respondents of the three districts with the pattern of responses being different at 1% significance level (meaning the certainty level is more at 99.9%).

Furthermore, brokering on cattle trade was also reported as another alternative livelihood coping/survival strategy, the 2nd, 3rd and 5th most important strategy for the Mieso-Mullu, Mieso and Amibara district respondents respectively with the response factor being significantly

different at 5% (that means, it is less certain at 95%). This is a new trend that in the previous times the brokers on cattle trade were only those who reside in the urban areas, but now those rural dwellers who were engaged in (agro) pastoral production system are also engaged in this system as the number of (agro) pastoralists who lost their cattle are increasing at an alarming rate.

The focus group discussion at Mieso-Mullu5 also revealed that some (agro) pastoralists are also engaged in contraband trade as an alternative survival/coping strategy although such contraband trade is decreasing due to the strict control of the government in the eastern part of the country. In the previous times the area between Dire Dawa, Bike, Afdem, Mieso through Herina are known contraband routs in the Hararghe province of Ethiopia that have a direct connection with Somaliland and Djibouti. From the survey result, the perceptions of the respondents towards this variable as a coping strategy is reported to be the 5th, 7th and 6th for the Meioss-Mullu, Mieso and Amibara district respondents respectively. However, due to the interruption of the Addis Ababa-Djibouti railway, some of these areas are no more functional as centers for contraband trade rather new centers are opened along the Addis - Djibouti asphalt main highway. Places such as Gedamaitu where the Issa already controlled is "a small town in Afar region found towards the north of the Alledeghie plain - the vast plain used as the main grazing area for Afar, but now Issa is the centre for dispatch and delivery of the contraband goods"[18]. The Afar being in the strategic location in this area had the upper hand in controlling and acting as middlemen between traders of the center and the hinterland for generations [17]. However, currently the Afar lost their position to the Issa since the Afar was forced to pushed back to the northward directions by leaving the two important routs (the rail way and the asphalt) and other important centers when the Issa encroach the area. The competition between the two is still hot and they are on the accusations and counter accusations for claiming and reclaiming of these important contraband centers and their environs.

Besides, safety net programme and MERET project with their rationing programmes are also other forms of coping mechanisms for the (agro) pastoralist communities in the area, the 8th for Mieso-Mullu and Amibara and the 9th coping strategy for Mieso district respondents respectively. The safety net and MERET project programmes are initially in the principle of food for work but now it is changed in to development works. This means every household head

5 Focus group discussion with community elders at Meios-Mullu, 23 October 2014

(both male and female headed household) or his/her representative is expected to participate in community development works like natural resource management, conservation programs and other community works (like soil band construction, watershed management, formation of area enclosures, road construction, plantation, seedling, pond construction, and others) in their kebeles three days per week so as to receive the allotted rationing for each household usually one quintal (100 kg) of wheat. MERET project plays an important role in adaptation and mitigation of climate change and variability in the forms of sustainable land management and rehabilitation of degraded lands; reclamation of wastelands, re-vegetation of degraded hillsides, restoration of damaged pasturelands, and adoption of improved soil and water conservation technologies in cultivated fields and community owned lands [19]. The authors further added about the role of MERET project in this regard is that it gives great emphasis on comprehensive planning and implementation of the above mentioned integrated land reclamation interventions.

In addition to distributing 100 kg of wheat for each household who directly participated in community development works, there is also a direct support in the safety net programme basically for those households who are unable to participate in community development works (mostly the elderly and the sick). The beneficiaries/participants of this programme are only heads of households in each kebele.

The World Food Program supported MERET Project (formerly known as Food for Work Project) in Ethiopia was initiated in 1974, mainly as a response to the drought and famine of1973/74 in the Northern part of the country (mainly Tigray & Wollo). The program, which started in the form of relief, gradually shifted to development program with the objective of addressing the problem of food shortages and vulnerability to the recurrent droughts through the rehabilitation of degraded lands and enhancement of productivity in the project areas. However, until 1980 the projects were small, fragmented and scattered all over the places and had little impacts. The relatively smaller projects were consolidated into one project called "Rehabilitation of Forest, Grazing and Crop lands" in 1980; and this marked the beginning of large scale Food for Work project, now called "MERET Project". The name of the project kept changing during the different phases in view of fine-tuning the names to the roles and functions of the project. It is coined from its major intervention areas and is intended to emphasize the existence of strong relationship between sustainable natural resource management and improvement of livelihoods of people [20].

Furthermore, searching for daily labor and migration in to the nearby as well as other distant major cities including the neighboring Arab states especially by youth groups of both sexes is also a response to the impacts of climate change and variability. Mostly men are the one who are searching for daily labor in the nearest urban centers while girls are the one who migrate to the Arab countries as house maids. The survey result shows that it is the 2nd, 1st and 4th most important coping strategy currently employed by the(agro) pastoralist youth groups in the study area with the response pattern is different at 1% significant level. While elderly women are obliged to stay in their locality till their death with their disasters/ catastrophes and taking care of the children and the elderly with limited/scarce resources. In addition, women are also suffering to collect water and fire wood by traveling long distances away from home besides to their responsibility to buy their household food consumption from the market. Collecting water and firewood in the pastoralist area are now becoming very tedious.

In the focus group discussion6 it was also reported that some individuals who are turned to a destitute life and lost their hope and becoming more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and variability are becoming instigators of conflict in the form of theft, cattle raiding, charcoal production, resource appropriation and other types of coping mechanisms. This in turn aggravates the scale of their vulnerability and also impacted on their traditional means of adaptation and coping mechanisms.

Besides, (agro) pastoralists have also their own socio-cultural systems of adaptation and coping strategies to the impacts of climate change and variability. With the minimal functioning and/or total absence of modern governance institutions in most (agro) pastoral communities for long centuries, they have developed complex systems of indigenous social organizations based on the core principles of reciprocity, tolerance, respect and peaceful co-existence. The basis of pastoral socio-cultural and political organizations is the clan. Clan is a set of patrilineally related households traced to an apical ancestor who is considered as the founding father of that specific clan and considered as the father of all clan members.

Furthermore, at clan level each individual is expected to help others in times of hardship including the contributions for compensations during conflict resolution processes. This kind of intra-clan assistantship is common among most pastoral communities in Ethiopia which is a kind of wealth redistribution system within each clan.

6 Focus group discussion with community elders at Andido -Amibara district, 23 October 2014

To mention, the common social and cultural adaptation strategies are herd splitting, herd maximization, the emphasis on milk and milk products rather than meat and crop, intra and inter-clan co-operation and reciprocity, herd diversification, among others are the most important features in these societies. Furthermore, there are also other forms of customary adaptation and coping mechanisms such as the practice of transhumant pastoralism (moving between two fixed points, i.e for dry and wet seasons), inter-household co-operation, marketing and changing food habit, splitting the herd into home and satellite herd and into wet versus dry herd, traditional management of useful trees and adoption of crop farming/agro-pastoralism. Generally, the pastoral customary institutions in the study areas are served for the purpose of planning, enforcing and managing the rules of resources and land use, mobility and settlement patterns, disaster and risk mitigation, conflict management and resolution, and among others.

To conclude, there are new and emerging trends in (agro) pastoralists' adaptation and coping strategies to the impacts of climate change and variability in the study area. Some of these emerging adaptation and coping strategies includes (but not all) remittances from relatives; transformation of pastoralists into agro-pastoralists, especially in areas situated next to water sources; seeking employment (mostly casual labor); engaging in petty trading, selling firewood and charcoal as well as handicraft products. One can observe that the high prevalence of diversification as a livelihood strategy signals efforts by the (agro) pastoralists to actively manage vulnerability by increasing the reliability of livelihood assets. But the people's involvement in so many coping and survival strategies is also a sign of grief in (agro) pastoralists' livelihood systems.

3.3 The roles of customary institutions in social support systems induced by climate change and variability

With the absence of modern institutions for social security, the roles of customary institutions in social support systems in response to the catastrophes induced by climate change and variability are very important. There are different names and functional principles of such institutions among the various (agro) pastoral communities in eastern Ethiopia. For example, Debbare in Oromo is an institutional system to help the poor and the needy people if someone face a problem because of drought and other types of climate change manifestations.

If someone who lost his cattle due to drought cases, the community members in his clan will contribute different types of animals so as to withstand and cope up the misfortune. Even the milking cow will be given to someone who is badly in need of it by someone who has extra milking cows or goats. The (agro) pastoralists developed a social security system where wealth, land, water and pasture are all communal and shared fairly among the clan members using a system of indigenous management, governed by the Gada system. Busa-gonofa in Borena Oromo helps people in need and also maintains solidarity and shares wealth. This strategy ensures their survival despite the losses caused by drought, animal or human disease. This system also restocks and maintains the health of the herd. Busa-gonofa involves different units, i.e clans, sub-clans, family groups and households with implicit independence to manage their own affairs.

Another form of social support system is Kallow/ qeretta which is practiced during marriage ceremonies in the Mieso area Oromo culture. In this system, there will be a contribution of cattle/money/crop for the bridegroom if he is poor. The bridegroom is allowed to wonder in every household and called the word Kallowfunufee. Then they will understand his request and the household members will decide what type of gift they are going to give him, i.e either cow, ox, sheep, goat, money or crop. The request of Kallowfunufee in the community is only allowed to those youngsters who are destitute enough and have no any other choice to get married.

Hirppa is also the social support system that helps to each other when someone face a problem like the loss of one's cattle due to drought, cattle raiding, flooding and any other means of manmade and natural calamities. If someone lost his/her property due to fire, the community has also the responsibility to support /contribute both in kind and in cash for the needy one in this Hirppa program.

The Afar has also various institutionalized mutual aid associations in their communities named kaidoh which lead to the growth and establishment of new households. The communities reinforce these mutual aid associations. Some of these include; hantilla in which lactating animals are given as free loans to destitute Afars so that they can have some milk. The Irbu is a system where those who lost their animals due to epidemics or raids are allowed to ask for animals from individual households for help (by wandering from hut to hut) but do not consider themselves as beggars. Gera hara in Afar is also a customary system where an individual is allowed to ask his local community members to give him animals in order to buy a firearm since arming oneself is considered as a mutual security and protection from enemies.

Furthermore, the Issa-Somali has also similar indigenous institutions that are considered as traditional social protection/security mechanisms. To mention, Zakat which is a religious alms from wealthier relatives/clan/ sub-clan members usually provided to disadvantaged groups once a year and it is mandatory. Irmaansi is when households provide milking animals to households who have no lactating stocks across seasons to use it and return back at the end of the milking period. Maal (literally means milking) is the sharing of livestock during milking period. Rai is the culture when children from poor pastoralists herd for richer relatives and receive food and other benefits as payment. Keyd is the process of adopting livestock offspring from richer households, sometimes on credit. It also refers to when pastoralist women reserved the traditionally preserved butter from the special fatty cows. Finally, Dhowrto/Dawarsi and alternatively named as Qaadhaa is the contribution of both animals, milk and its product for distribution amongst poor households with no milking animals, especially during dry season (Jilaal). Furthermore, such traditional asset redistribution systems are important social institutions in Somali community which are considered as traditional social security systems [21]. In Somali culture the mutual support system is known as Kalmo and is administered by the Ogamilog or village head. Pastoralist mutual assistance systems come into play when a household member becomes destitute due to war or drought and when he/she has many children and cannot support his/her family with the remaining livestock [22].

Different social groups and individual households have varying levels of access to existing institutions. Vulnerable groups in general have lower institutional access than those who are more powerful or better off. Before external support for greater adaptive capacity is made available, therefore, an analysis of the nature of institutional linkages and access for different social groups becomes critical.

In general, (agro) pastoralists have developed the different forms of social support systems that are important in the successful life of (agro) pastoralists where there are no well established government institutions working in this field. Such institutions enable (agro) pastoralists to recover from severe and recurrent natural disasters/ shocks and help to thrive to the normal conditions. For example, if a fellow (agro) pastoralist loses his/her herd; his/her lineage contributes livestock to keep him/her from dropping out of the pastoral production system. At village level (agro) pastoralists help each other to water animals, move huts, and search for lost animals and during burials. Besides, bulls are shared for breeding under the direction

of village heads to ensure that the herd is developed for the greater good. At the same time milking cows are also shared and/or given to an individual who has no milking cow especially to those households who have babies. At clan level, defense becomes important and communal, as does paying off debts or compensations during killings. The clan will help a family if someone is badly injured or has no milking cows [22].

4 Summary and conclusion

Although local institutions play a critical role in supporting adaptation and copying mechanisms, the intensity of adverse future climate impacts is likely to increase and also increasing their vulnerability and reducing existing adaptive capacity. The linkages among external interventions and local adaptations/copying strategies can only be understood through a focus on the mediating role and linkages among different institutions in a given territory, and their influence on production and adaptation possibilities. As climate change and variability and its impacts become more obvious, it is increasingly important to integrate the concerns for managing risks faced by households and communities into earlier concerns for growth, poverty alleviation, equity, and sustainability [23].

The existing national plans for adaptation and copying strategies seem to have attended only in a limited fashion to the role of local institutions in designing, supporting, and implementing adaptation and copying strategies. However, if adaptation is inevitably local, there is a great need to involve local institutions more centrally in planning for and implementing adaptation policies and projects. At the very least, there must be far greater coordination between adaptation policies and measures adopted by institutions (customary and modern) and decision makers at the national level, and their counterparts at the local level.

There are strategies that enhance the local people's control over their resources, adaptive strategies, alternative conflict management and the development of indigenous institutions that live in the arid and semi-arid lands where (agro) pastoral communities are residing. The survival of the (agro) pastoral production system 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 challenge. These adaptive/coping strategies are the major mechanisms that maintain the resilience of the system and help to minimize unforeseen risks.

Although these traditional (agro) pastoral production systems are environmentally and socially sustainable in such fragile and harsh environments, the system is now being endangered to meet the basic livelihood necessities due to over population, over stocking, drought, bush encroachments and the like [24]. Therefore, the study concludes the urgent need of developing the sustainable livelihoods through locally adaptive strategies particularly those strategies that have the capacity for becoming the basis of sustainable livelihood.

Among the various indigenous adaptation and coping mechanisms, some of them are widely practiced by these (agro) pastoralist communities. These include mobility; herd splitting; the redistribution of surplus livestock within social networks; diversification of livestock comprised of camels, goats, sheep, cattle and donkeys to enable them to exploit different expanses of the range during any period of the year; livestock loans and gifts; formation of complex social security networks based on kinship and friendship; reliance on relief food, farming along the river and gathering wild fruits, and among others.

The government's ability at local, regional and national level to manage and regulate access to natural resources can protect against the ill-effects of climate change and environmental degradation. When customary and modern institutions are strong enough with efficient leadership skills, the impacts of conflict, drought and famine will be reduced/limited and on the contrary when they are weak, it will be the vise versa.

Resilience to climate change and variability in the dry lands cannot be supported if the customary institutions that have long underpinned the (agro) pastoral production system are marginalized. The combined efforts of customary and modern institutions offer a promising model to mitigate the effects of drought and vulnerability to climate change and variability.

Furthermore, the combined effects of climatic/ environmental problems, recurrent droughts, flooding, resource scarcity, and the recurrent pastoral conflicts have negatively impacted on the sustainability of (agro) pastoralists' livelihood strategies. Their main livelihood strategy (livestock production) is jeopardized and some of the pastoralists are forced to abandoned their old aged ways of life and engaged with a new system (migrating to urban areas for wage labor or other forms of employment opportunities) or devise another alternative forms of livelihood strategy in their own homestead areas. In such adaptation and coping mechanisms the roles of formal and informal institutions are paramount. Institutional partnerships are vital so as to make the local adaptation and coping practices more effective and efficient. The

support for such partnerships (from both GOs and NGOs) can greatly enhance the informal institutional processes through which adaptation and coping strategies occur. The partnerships among the local level public and civil society institutions are linked more closely with the adaptation/coping practices related to the diversification of livelihood strategies. Finally, this research recommends that there should be the recognition of property rights ownership and land tenure system which helps to reduce the rate of overgrazing and deforestation by hindering the encroachment of outsiders (farmers, governmental organizations, and investors) in to (agro) pastoralists grazing areas.

Acknowledgments: The authors would like to acknowledge Dr Christine Frust, Journal editor and the anonymous reviewers for the unreserved and fruitful comments forwarded to this article. We also would like to acknowledge Mr. Zelalem Gebeyehu (Staff member and PhD candidate of Agricultural Economics at Haramaya University) for his contribution in GIS based map of the study area with clan/ethnic distributions.


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