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Stability of African Pastoral Ecosystems: Alternate Paradigms and Implications for Development

James E. Ellis and David M. Swift
Journal of Range Management
Vol. 41, No. 6 (Nov., 1988), pp. 450-459
DOI: 10.2307/3899515
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3899515
Page Count: 10
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Abstract

African pastoral ecosystems have been studied with the assumptions that these ecosystems are potentially stable (equilibrial) systems which become destabilized by overstocking and overgrazing. Development policy in these regions has focused on internal alterations of system structure, with the goals of restoring equilibrium and increasing productivity. Nine years of ecosystem-level research in northern Kenya presents a view of pastoral ecosystems that are non-equilibrial but persistent, with system dynamics affected more by abiotic than biotic controls. Development practices that fail to recognize these dynamics may result in increased deprivation and failure. Pastoral ecosystems may be better supported by development policies that build on and facilitate the traditional pastoral strategies rather than constrain them.

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