9. Is “Traditional” Pastoralism Rational or Irrational?
With the development of research on pastoralist ecology, the following view has become established. The style of African pastoralism is a rational one that has evolved in response to the unstable natural environment of the arid zone, and it is structurally different from that of modern livestock farming designed in response to market dynamics. This was a major step forward. During the 1970s and 1980s, when starvation, drought and desertification in Africa were drawing the world’s attention, “traditional” pastoralism was widely considered to be irrational, and thus environmentally destructive and incapable of withstanding droughts. Based on this assumption, development aid was given to African countries, aimed at absorbing the “traditional” pastoralism into the market economy, “modernizing” it to become resilient to drought, and preventing the misuse of the natural environment, which might incur desertification. Yet, the attempts did not reap the expected fruit.