Academic journal article Nomadic Peoples

Risk Perception and Coping Strategies among the Karrayu Pastoralists of Upper Awash Valley, Central Ethiopia

Academic journal article Nomadic Peoples

Risk Perception and Coping Strategies among the Karrayu Pastoralists of Upper Awash Valley, Central Ethiopia

Article excerpt


This research investigated the risk perceptions and coping mechanisms of Karrayu pastoralists of central Ethiopia. The concept of livelihood framework underpins the argument of the paper. First-hand data was generated by a survey of 100 households and use of qualitative participatory methods: time line, wealth ranking and seasonal calendars. The findings reveal that the Karrayu people who operate in seemingly similar contexts are not exposed to similar constraints and opportunities. The wealth status of a household is highly related to the differences in risk perceptions and coping strategies. Differences were documented among men and women, youth and adults, local people and government actors. The relatively well off and the destitute have different risk perceptions and responses. Differences in risk perception and diverse coping strategies among the Karrayu pastoralists were also highly gendered.

Keywords: coping strategies, pastoralists, risk perception, Ethiopia


The Karrayu are a transhumant pastoral community in Ethiopia who inhabit the Metehara plain and the surroundings of Mount Fentale. The area is located in the eastern half of East Shewa Zone, Oromiya Region. In the current national administrative structure, Karrayu land comes entirely within Fentale District, which borders with the Afar Region. The language of the Karrayu is Afaan Oromo. In 1994, the population was reported as 55,853 (Central Statistical Authority 1996). The figure included both local Karrayu inhabitants and Ittu migrants who had come to live there over the last forty years. The Karrayu way of life has predominantly been nomadic pastoralism, which is heavily dependent on environmental resources whose availability is determined by temporal and spatial variables (Ayalew 2001; Buli 2001).

Since the beginning of the second half of the twentieth century in particular, the Karrayu, like other pastoral communities in the Awash Valley area, have increasingly been affected by commercial farm expansion and wildlife conservation schemes. The processes of expropriating the rangelands for the aforementioned purposes have therefore thrown the customary land use rights of the community into unabated crisis. Ayalew (2001) puts the total size of the dry and wet season grazing land traditionally belonging to the Karrayu at 150,113 hectares. According to this source, 90,100 hectares have already been lost to the development ventures. In undertaking these developments, little respect has been given to the indigenous knowledge and practices of Karrayu pastoralists. Recognition of the local knowledge and practices should be beneficial in crafting sustainable community development programmes. This study was conducted to document how the different wealth, age and gender groups within the Karrayu community perceive the sources of livelihood risks, and see what kind of current traditional knowledge is in place to cope with these risks.

Livelihoods Concept

Looking at livelihoods provides a richer and more detailed picture of how poor families cope with a variety of risks and shocks in meeting their basic needs. Households can have several possible sources of income and other resources that constitute their livelihood. A range of on-farm and off-farm activities, which together provide a variety of procurement strategies for food and cash, maintains livelihood systems. A household's total resource is based not only on its productive activities and endowments, but also on its legal, political and social position within society (Sen 1981; Swirl 1989). Livelihood systems incorporate the present situation, as well as the short- and long-term perspectives, not only to preserve current patterns of consumption, but also to avoid destitution or sacrificing future standards of living. The risk of livelihood failure determines the vulnerability of a household to income, food, health and nutritional insecurity. …

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