Pastoralists in East Africa's arid and semi-arid lands (ASAL) regularly confront climatic shocks that plunge them into massive herd die-offs and loss of scarce wealth. One of the most puzzling features of pastoralist behavior in times of stress has been their relatively low and non-responsive rate of marketed off-take of animals when faced with likely losses to herd mortality. As Figure 1, from Desta (1999), finds in 17-year herd history data from Borana pastoralists in southern Ethiopia, mortality always exceeds net sales as a share of beginning period herd size, with the latter never exceeding three percent and moving hardly at all in response to shocks to rangeland carrying capacity that cause regular spikes in mortality rates. This case might be more pronounced than others, but the basic pattern is widely believed representative of herd dynamics and marketing patterns among east African ASAL pastoralists.
Barrett, Christopher B.; McPeak, John G.; Luseno, Winnie; Little, Peter D.; Osterloh, Sharon M.; Mahmoud, Hussein; and Gebru, Getachu, "Pastoralist Livestock Marketing Behavior in Northern Kenya and Southern Ethiopia: An Analysis of Constraints Limiting Off-take Rates" (2004). Economics Faculty Scholarship. 84.
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