What Has Declined On So Many Pastoral Lands?
Livestocks are typically defined as domestic animals raised in an economic-farming setting to make milk, grain, meat, eggs, and other livestock-related products like leather, fur, and wool. In modern times, many different breeds of cattle exist, but they usually are grouped into two general categories: cattle that are grass-feeders and cattle that are feeder cattle. Grass-feeders include cattle that graze on alfalfa, clover, mare, and clover; horses, donkeys, ostriches, goats, lambs, and bulls; and chickens. Feeder cattle include cattle that eat a mix of grain, alfalfa hay, and clover. In addition to cattle, some breeds of sheep are also classified as feeders.
For years, contemporary agricultural specialists have categorized all types of livestock into either “domestic” or “pastoral.” Although the two classification systems may be biologically based, they have had a tremendous impact on the way modern pastoralists think about and approach the management of domestic and other livestock. The differences between pastoralism and domestic agriculture have had profound consequences for the way in which we use our natural resources, how we farm our land, and what products we make from our livestock. The differences between pastoralism and domestic farming have affected not only the lives of people living within these socio-economic systems, but also the very structures of the markets that support these economies. In the past few decades, the global demand for alfalfa, clover, mare, and other grazing animals has dramatically increased, with resulting increases in prices and pressure on farmers to find new sources of these vital products.
Pastoralists have had to change their business models in order to keep up with this demand, and the results have been dramatic. Many smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa have either closed their businesses and gone into exile, or have been forced into marginalised positions as a result of this relentless competition. Others have chosen to go into other industries such as electronics and technology, or medicine. There is one clear lesson here: pastoralists need to come up with new business ideas if they are going to continue to make a significant contribution to their communities and to the wider global society. If pastoralists want to build a sustainable future for themselves and for the communities that they serve, then they must address the issues surrounding the current trends in farming that has led to the decline of many African pasture lands.