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Post-drought restocking Can its impact be sustainable?

By Ahmed Alkadir Mohammed

Ahmed Alkadir Mohammed is currently a Disaster Risk Management Specialist with the World Bank, Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP) Team. Prevously he spent 16 months as a Nutrition Project Consultant with the World Bank in Ethiopia to facilitate and coordinate the overall activities of World Bank Funded Nutrition Project in Ethiopia. He is a graduate of Addis Ababa University (BSc Management) and of Tufts University (MA in Humanitarian Assistance, 2007).

I would like to acknowledge my thesis advisor and instructor, Daniel Maxwell, who well equipped me in my research. Also, Daniel, Michael Delaney and Abera Tola from Oxfam America, the Feinstein International Centre Master of Arts in Humanitarian Assistance (MAHA) programme instructors, and all my Boston based friends. I appreciate Ana Hammock who assisted me in editing the research paper and Erin Boyd in the enrolment of the programme.

On a personal level, I acknowledge the supports of my brother Mekonnene Alkadir, my spouse Shemsiya Ali, and my children Megfira Ahmed and Olyad Ahmed. My greatest gratitude goes to the role of my mam, Ade Monina Hussein Megnaka, who played significant role in laying ground of accessing quality childhood education that became the basis for my success in my academic and career development.

This article reflects some of the findings of Ahmed's MSc thesis on post-drought restocking of pastoral households (2007)1

The livelihoods of pastoral communities depend on livestock production. Livestock provide basic subsistence foods such as milk, meat and blood and are also used for wealth accumulation, prestige, insurance and inheritance. The income generated from the sale of livestock serves to buy additional food items, crops and clothing. Moreover, livestock are used as a means of transportation, dowry in marriage and to fulfill reciprocal (social) obligations. Therefore, any adverse factor which impacts negatively on livestock threatens the livelihood and life of pastoral communities.

Recurrent droughts in Ethiopia and Kenya have claimed the lives of livestock and depleted herd sizes. The adverse impact of drought on livestock is significant in Ethiopia and Kenya. For instance, Ethiopia lost 90% of calves, 45% of cows and 22% of mature males between 1983- 19842 , 37% of cattle between 1984-1986 and 60% of cattle from 1999-20003. Kenya (Turkana) lost 90% of cattle, 80% of sheep and goats, 40% of camels in 1979-804, as well as 28% of cattle and 18% of sheep and goats in 1991 in Northern Kenya5. This loss of livestock affects families, particularly children, women and elders, as their food security is dependent on livestock. It is also pushing pastoral households into destitution and forcing them to drop out of the pastoral way of life.

The traditional means of self-restocking have been eroded in the pastoral community, due to recurrent drought, raiding, conflict, environmental degradation and an increase in population. This has prompted the search for and implementation of alternative interventions by agencies (non-governmental organisations (NGOs). NGOs have been shifting their programmes toward livestock based interventions to address the impact of recurrent drought. These interventions include de-stocking, water, veterinary service, restocking, and fodder provision.

Post drought restocking in pastoral communities has become an important area of research in Ethiopia and Kenya. Pioneers of restocking have demonstrated a number of objectives (advantages) of post-drought restocking. Among other things, reintegrating families into a pastoral way of life is shown as one of the objectives. It is also indicated that restocking is contributing to food security and a balanced diet (children), as well as improving economic and social standing6. However, a number of professionals in this field argue that many restocked pastoralists do not return to a pastoral lifestyle and are likely to become destitute in a short period of time. This raises the question of whether the impact of restocking is sustainable and if not, why not?

The objectives of this article are to explore post-drought restocking interventions, highlight their limitations, and suggest practical elements that need to be improved in the future. These objectives are looked at in terms of the sustainability of restocking impact in reintegrating (maintaining) restocked families into the pastoral way of life. The article discusses restocking interventions in the pastoralist areas of Ethiopia and Kenya. It argues that if the right sets of critical factors are considered in design and implementation, the impact of post-drought restocking can be sustainable with regard to reintegrating (maintaining) restocked families into a pastoral way of life. However, restocking affected pastoralists to the level of a Critical Livestock Thresholds (CLT) is key.

The livelihood framework analysis

The livelihoods framework is one of the approaches applied by a number of humanitarian and development organisations to examine the livelihood of a given community and to help design appropriate interventions. According to the livelihood analysis, pastoral communities in the Horn of Africa are vulnerable to recurrent drought, humans and animal diseases, cattle raiding, conflict, bad governance and policies, poor social and economic infrastructure and loss of grazing lands. To determine the implications of this analysis on post-drought restocking, a number of factors must be considered : hindrance of mobility, lack of access to and loss of range land, livestock mortality, poor productivity of milk, and off-spring and diminished herd growth. These all adversely impact the sustainability of restocking.

The poverty trap analysis

In the field of economics, the poverty trap refers to the situation where individuals, communities, regions or economies are caught in extreme poverty and unable to get out of this condition7. This analysis is fundamentally based on a Critical Assets Threshold (CAT). It asserts that households that possess assets equal to or above these thresholds recover from shocks, accumulates assets and escape poverty, while those who have assets below these critical thresholds experience decline and collapse of assets and persistent poverty. In addition, this analysis implies that if a shock leaves a household's assets equal to or above the critical thresholds, then recovery and growth is possible and vice versa8. (In pastoral communities of Ethiopia and Kenya, the risk of falling into the poverty trap is directly related to the productive livestock assets held at household level and whether this is equal to or above the CLT. The CLT is necessary for sustenance, herd growth, increase in return and recovery from shocks9. "A threshold value is the number of animals required to support a person or a family if that person or family was to rely totally on animals for all his or their needs."10

A study in Southern Ethiopia demonstrates the presence of the poverty trap among the Borena pastoralists. The study identified that household herd size thresholds are 10 livestock units11, below which a household is economically not viable and thus enters a downward spiral of poverty. However, those who are above this level are expected to accumulate livestock and grow their herds12. Based on the discussion with pastoralists in Afar Zone of Ethiopia, 30 - 40 small ruminants are the minimum stock to start a pastoralist way of life13 (Development Fund, 2007) while 50 - 70 sheep and goats in a proportion defined by the household and of the right age for immediate breeding are suggested for restocking implementation in the Somali region of Ethiopia14. A similar study in Northern Kenya also demonstrated presence of the poverty trap and the CLT that enables pastoralists to accumulate livestock and grow their herds.

From a restocking perspective, the studies suggest not only who should be restocked, but also the necessity to restock pastoralists to a minimum critical threshold level in order to ensure sustenance, enable herd growth and recovery from shocks15. The importance of improved veterinary service, livestock and herders' security, and dry season water availability are also emphasised as means to protect and build assets16.

Other related factors

Many NGO interventions elect to supply small animals (such as goats and sheep) rather than cattle, although some pastoral communities are dependent on a range of livestock and produce from their herds. Small animals alone may not therefore ensure food security for these pastoralists17. In other contexts, small animals such as goats are preferred as they give milk for the consumption of children and elders and forage easily from bushes and shrubs encroachments18. Many small NGOs implement restocking programmes using disaster relief funds19. If animals are bought from other regions, their age, reproductive and milk productive capacity, adaptability and disease profile should be analysed20. Lack of transparency in the purchase process is observed to be one of the limitations in restocking projects. In 1985 and 1987, destitute Borenas were restocked with animals bought by traders, which resulted in a number of disadvantages for the pastoralists21. In some instance, sale of the restocking animals has been observed in order to buy other livestock and grain, for payment as part of a bride price and to finance traditional ceremonies22. In order to prevent beneficiaries slaughtering and eating their new herd, it is recommended to provide food for 9 to 12 months during the restocking programme23. All these factors should be considered during planning restocking interventions.

Critical factors that hinder the sustainability of post-drought restocking

This review has identified the following critical factors:


The following are recommended to improve the sustainable impact of post-drought restocking interventions:

For more information, contact: Ahmed Alkadir, email:;

Show footnotes

1Post-drought Restocking of Pastoral Households: Can its impact be sustainable? Master of Arts in Humanitarian Assistance e Program, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Tufts University, May 2007. Thesis Advisor: Maxwell, Daniel (Associate Professor, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy)

2Coppock, D. L. 1994. The Borena plateau of southern Ethiopia; Synthesis of pastoral research, development and change, 1980-91. Addis Ababa: International Livestock Center for Africa (ILCA).

3Coppock, D.L. (2000). GL-CRSP Annual Report 2000.

4Hogg, R. (1985). Restocking pastoralists in Kenya: A strategy for relief and rehabilitation. ODI Pastoral Development Network Paper 19c. Overseas Development Institute, London.

5Barton and Morton, forthcoming publication.

6The Development Fund (2007). Impact Assessment of the Goat Restocking Project in Afar, Zone-2, Berhale.Addis Ababa. 2007 (Aynalem Haile)

7Izhar, B (2005). Why Poverty Traps Emerge

8Carter, R and Barrett, B (2004). The Economics of Poverty Traps and Persistent Poverty: An assets-based Approach. BASICS CRSP Management Entity, Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, University of Wisconsin- Madison.

9McPeak, G and Barrett, B (2001). Differential Risk Exposure and Stochastic Poverty Traps Among East African Pastoralists. American Journal of Agriculture and Economics.

10International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). 2004. Livestock Study in the Greater Horn of Africa. Nairobi/Kenya.

11It should be noted that the focus of this paper is on the significance of a 'self-sufficient' livestock herd size that should be considered in restocking interventions. The authors have used different ways of expressing the critical livestock threshold for Northern Kenya and Southern Ethiopia, i.e. per capita and livestock unit. Generally, approximately 4.5TLU per capita is suggested as a self-sufficiency threshold necessary in more arid rangelands not suffering widespread degradation (McPeak 2000).

12Barrett, Bet al (2002). Poverty Traps and Resource Degradation. BASIS Brief. No. 6

13See footnote 6.

14Save the Children Ethiopia (UK) ( 2005). Terminal Evaluation of the Restocking/Rehabilitation Program for the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Fik Zone of the Somali Region of Ethiopia.Acacia Consultants Ltd, 00606\Nairobi, Kenya.

15McPeak and Barrett, 2001. See footnote 9.

16Barrett, B et al (2006). Welfare Dynamics in Rural Kenya and Madagascar. Journal of Development Studies. Vol. 42, No. 2, 248-277

17Oba, G (1992). Ecological Factors in Land Use Conflict, Land Administration and Food and Food Insecurity in Turkana, Kenya. ODI Pastoralist Development Network Paper 33a. London: Overseas Development Institute.

18Ayle Gebre-Mariam (1989). Analysis of the progeny history of heifers and does and their off springs: Case of animals; restocked to re-settlers at Yavello, Mega and Moyale in 1985 and 1987. Addis Ababa.

19Toulmin, C (1995). Tracking Through Drought: Options for Destocking and Restocking. In Living within uncertainty: New Direction in Pastoral Development in Africa. 95-115 (Ed. Ian Scoones). London: Intermediate Technology Publications. Toulmin, C (1987). Drought and the Farming Sector: Loss of Animals and Post-Drought Rehabilitation. Developement Policy Review 5(2):125-148.

20USAID-Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance: Livestock Interventions: Important Principles for OFDA. 11-19-02.

21Ayele Gebre/Mariam, 1989 (footnote 8) and Development Fund, 2000

22See footnote 8.

23See footnote 10

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Reference this page

Ahmed Alkadir Mohammed (2011). Post-drought restocking Can its impact be sustainable?. Field Exchange 40, February 2011. p89.