The shift from mobile pastoralism to sedentary crop-livestock farming in the drylands of eastern Africa: Some issues and challenges for researc

The Drylands of Eastern Africa have been home to many mobile/nomadic pastoral communities for centuries. These communities traversed large areas in search of pasture and water for their livestock. The objective of their livelihood system was subsistence based on milk. However, within the past one third of a century or so, there has been a sharp shift towards sedenta ry type of production and livelihood system. This shift has been caused by, inter alia , economic, political, demographic and environmental changes. Prolonged droughts, population growth, expanding crop agriculture, political insecurities including civil wars and et hnic conflicts, and conservation policies have all affected the ability of mobile pastoralists to keep their large herds, move freel y across the drylands and rely on mobile pastoralism as a livelihood system. As a consequence, crop agriculture is becoming increasingly common, and sometimes necessary subsistence strategy, albeit one that is considered a poor choice to animal husbandry particula rly since the drylands they occupy are uniquely suited to rearing of livestock. Still the majority of pastoral households in Easte rn Africa remain committed to raising livestock even as they adapt to a sedentary life and crop cultivation. Research on sedenterization of mobile pastoralists in this region has mainly been anthropological in nature. Published studies have addressed consequences an d impacts of sedenterization in terms of direct impact on immediate environment, human health and general welfare changes, social order within the household and community, and participation in the mainstream national economy. Hardly any research has been conducted to investigate the key parameters, characteristics and impacts of the crop-livestock production/livelihood system tha t emerges from mobile pastoralists who settle and take up crop agriculture in combination with livestock keeping, albeit at a red uced scale. This paper argues that crop-livestock systems by formerly mobile pastoralists in the drylands present issues and challe nges directly related to environmental quality, food security, natural resource management, human welfare and ultimately the Millenn ium Development Goals. This forms a priority research axis for Eastern Africa’s drylands