Some considerations for the understanding of small herd dynamics in East African arid zones: The long-term consequences of bridewealth exchange networks

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Abstract

While many recent studies of East African pastoralists have begun to consider the social and material contexts within which cattle come to be valued, few have stressed the importance of pastoral production for subsistence needs, and even fewer the conditions under which this production takes place. This paper will show that a thorough understanding of herd management strategies, including the circulation of cattle through bridewealth, demands that we consider the long-term environmental risks inherent in pastoral production in arid lands. A computer simulation demonstrates the manner in which, in the course of 50-year spans, stochastic and environmental factors affect small herds. I go on to show the manner in which differing levels of bridewealth payments can offset the risk associated with a highly fluctuating environmental context.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)23-50
Number of pages28
JournalHuman Ecology
Volume21
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1 1993

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Keywords

  • Nuer
  • bridewealth
  • computer simulation
  • drought
  • exchange
  • risk

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science

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