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Impact of Drought on Pastoral Livestock in Baringo, Kenya 1983-85

K. Homewood and J. Lewis
Journal of Applied Ecology
Vol. 24, No. 2 (Aug., 1987), pp. 615-631
DOI: 10.2307/2403897
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2403897
Page Count: 17
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Impact of Drought on Pastoral Livestock in Baringo, Kenya 1983-85
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Abstract

(1) Drought losses among livestock in a 4500 km2 area of Kenya were studied by regionwide survey and intensive monitoring of individual herds over an 18-month period covering the driest year on record for the region. (2) The regional survey found net reductions of c. 50% during the first 9 months of drought in all zones and for all species herds, but stock losses varied with species, locality, herd management and stage of drought. Stock redistribution complicated estimates of mortality based on regional data but could be analysed through intensive herd data. (3) Cattle herds were moved considerable distances to find better pasture, while small stock mostly remained at the homestead. Highest stock loss percentages occurred in the zones of greatest production potential. Contrasting ecological zones showed superficially similar stock loss figures but had different underlying dynamics. Owner-managed cattle did better than cattle placed with hired herders. Stock redistribution and the cattle/small-stock trade produced anomalous local increases in an overall pattern of stock loss. (4) During the study there was an initial phase of cattle movement, a subsequent phase of high mortality but continued high fertility, and a final phase of much lower mortality (despite continued severe drought), with no calving in cattle. These patterns differ from those commonly assumed in drought simulation models. (5) Traditional drought management uses stock movements in response to a changing complex of range, water, disease, labour, access and security, as well as long-term planning factors. Imposed management initiatives are unlikely to improve on this, but new mechanisms for post-drought herd reconstitution may be important.

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