Pastoralism in Africa : Origins and Development Ecologgy by Andrew B. Smith
Wits University Press | 01 Jan 1992
Paperback | 288 pages
This book gives an historical account of the development of pastoralism in Africa, and its adaptation to the open grasslands which cover large parts of the continents. How African pastoralists cope with their environment varies in social terms, but ultimately these social constraints still have to deal with the vagaries of localised and seasonal rainfall which lead to inconsistencies in the availability of pasture. Pastoralism has been a successful adaptation for thousands of years, so we must ask why many of Africa’s herdsmen are under pressure at the end of the twentieth century. A number of serious droughts blighted Africa in the 1970s and ‘80s, affecting the rural peoples, be they farmers or herders. Other questions lead from this: have these been unusually severe events, resulting in difficult adjustments for African pastoral peoples? And, if these drought conditions are part of the regular long-term climatic cycle, what has been so significant about the ’70s and '80s?
Pastoralism in Africa attempts to answer these questions by using ecological evidence from prehistory to enlarge understanding of the vicissitudes of herding societies in Africa today. The origins and spread of herding systems throughout the continent are examined with the underlying idea that understanding the growth of pastoral production in the past allows for a more sympathetic treatment of indigenous social formations based on tradition and experience, thus enabling governments and development agencies to formulate adaptive strategies suited to specific environments and the peoples that inhabit them. The book will interest archaeologists, development workers, anthropologists and students of African history.