Coping with Drought: Responses of Herders and Livestock in Contrasting Savanna Environments in Southern Zimbabwe

  • Ian Scoones


Rather than assuming environmental stability over time, human ecologists have placed a great deal of emphasis in the past two decades upon the ways people respond to the pressures of environmental stress such as is caused by earthquakes, floods, and frosts. Among those problems that have elicited the most attention are droughts, the subject of Scoones’ paper. Scoones shows the importance of attention to the details of difference in the environment, in the characteristics of the problem over time, and the means that people employ to cope. His study of herding practices in southern Zimbabwe, which has adopted extensive herding only in the past century, differentiates between grasslands on contrasting soils, which are affected by drought in different ways and recover at different rates. The intensity and duration of droughts varies as well, posing different problems to farmers, which change through time. Environmental variation is not sufficient, however, to account for the herding practices Scoones observed; he also looked at socioeconomic factors that regulated herd movement by the pastoralists, including labor management, the influence of wealth, loaning arrangements, institutional constraints, and conflict over access to territory. Scoones concludes with the advice that policymakers consider these factors so as not to impede local herders’ implementation of their own knowledge and experience to respond to drought.


Sandy Soil Clay Soil Soil Zone Ecological Zone Cattle Population 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ian Scoones
    • 1
  1. 1.Drylands and Sustainable Agricultural ProgrammesLondonEngland

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