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Managing Variability: Herding Strategies in Communal Rangelands of Semiarid Namaqualand, South Africa

Laura E. Baker and M. Timm Hoffman
Human Ecology
Vol. 34, No. 6 (Dec., 2006), pp. 765-784
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/27654156
Page Count: 20
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Managing Variability: Herding Strategies in Communal Rangelands of Semiarid Namaqualand, South Africa
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Abstract

Herd mobility is a tool for managing environmental variability in African pastoral systems. This study examines the monthly mobility patterns of 24 herds over six years in the 20,000 ha communal area of Paulshoek, Namaqualand, and assesses the social, economic, and ecological factors affecting the livestock movement of individual herds and all herds combined. When the mobility pattern of all herds was considered, no seasonal or between-year differences in response to rainfall were evident. An analysis of individual herd mobility patterns showed that half of the herds were relatively sedentary over the study period while the other half were regularly mobile. Although herders used mobility to manage their herds in the unpredictable semiarid environment, their daily decisions were often made in response to their social, economic, or personal situations. There was no significant difference in livestock production between herding strategies, but sedentary herders had a greater localized impact on the rangeland than mobile herders. Our analysis suggests that non-environmental factors play a significant role in herd mobility and may consequently affect the efficiency of livestock production and environmental management.

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