8. Maintaining Large-scale Biomass

Studies on the ecosystems of energy flow involving pastoralists have found that a large portion of the energy that domestic animals obtain from eating plants is used not for reproduction but for the maintenance of biomass. Of the energy that animals extract from the natural environment, only 1% is circulated to human beings (Coughenour et. al., 1985). The arid zones where pastoralists live are repeatedly hit by drought, reducing the number of livestock. Under such uncertain circumstances, the herds of domestic animals serve as a huge storehouse of biomass that allow human being as well as domestic animals to survive through the drought. While modern stockbreeding aims to maximize the production efficiency of livestock for the market, the production carried out through pastoralism in Africa aims to secure a stable supply of food by maintaining large biomass. These two production systems are entirely different in their orientation.

Reference: Coughenour, M. B., J. E. Ellis, D. M. Swift, D. L. Coppock, K. Galvin, J. T. McCabe, and T. C. Hart, 1985. “Energy extraction and use in a nomadic pastoral ecosystem.” Science, vol. 230: 619-625.



OHTA Itaru
Living in the Arid Zone: Ecology of Pastoral Societies in Africa

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