Accepted Paper:

Sedentarization and the creation of alternative livelihoods among Saho pastoralists in Eritrea  


Robel Gebru (Graduate School of Human Sciences, Osaka University)

Paper short abstract:

Sedentarization and the creation of alternative means of livelihood are two mutual and interconnected aspects in the study of the process of transformation of the traditional mode of pastoralism into modern life ways in the Horn of Africa that is caused by social and natural factors.

Paper long abstract:

Like many postcolonial states, the 'common tragedy' perception towards pastoralists characterizes the development policy in Eritrea. Despite the fact that more than 70% of the total land is geographically and climatically unfavorable for cultivation, Eritrea remains committed towards sedentarization of pastoral and nomadic societies. Moreover, environmental and political problems also contributed to the reduction of pastoral communities Eritrea. Sedentarization thus is the result of multiple intertwined factors including state policy, environment degradation, recurrent drought, political and social unrest.

Sedentarization in Eritrea started during the armed struggle in the liberated areas and was promoted to a large scale after independence in 1991 in the dryland and semi-desert part of the country. Some of the major sedentarization centers in Eritrea include Qohaito in 1993, Afambo 1998, Habero 2000 and so on. The reduction or complete abandonment of pastoral mobility stimulates the necessity of the provision of alternative mode of subsistence by the government to the 'displaced pastoralists' to support the new and modernized life. Qohaito is one of the earliest sedentarization centers in the southern highlands of the Eritrea. Since the establishment of permanent settlement in Qohaito in 1993 the villagers began to diversify their subsistence base including; regular cultivation, chicken and bee farms, trade, employment and participation in food for work projects. This research paper will discuss the social and administrative processes of sedentarization in Qohaito, and formulate an argument on how alternative means of livelihood is created for former pastoral societies in Eritrea and Horn of Africa in general.

Panel P043
Development and pastoralists (Commission on Nomadic Peoples/NME panel)