Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Geography and Anthropology

Document Type



This dissertation is an investigative cultural ecologic study of the pastoralists in the eastern and northwestern lowlands of Eritrea. Tigre, Hidareb, and Rashaida herders were identified and studied throughout the fieldwork. These ethnic groups constitute people with defined cultural and economic characteristics inhabiting environments characterized by marked seasonal variations in precipitation. Their livelihoods are almost wholly dependent on livestock forming types of modes of production identified as pure-pastoralism and agro-pastoralism. The distinction between these two forms lies primarily in the type of economic strategy pursued (i.e., wholly livestock-based economy versus livestock-crop economy) as well as in the pattern of pastoral movement involved (i.e., horizontal versus vertical). The information gathered from these groups through a structured questionnaire and through participant observation formed the basis for quantitative and qualitative analysis. It is concluded that the study groups employ herd mobility as an adaptive strategy used to take advantage of rainfall; a critical factor that determines the supply of forage as well as the number of animals that can be supported in an area. A regression analysis showed that the search for pasture explains most of the variations in a decision to migrate. In addition, the survey on the herd dynamics demonstrated that the variable and harsh environment of the study areas significantly impacted the livestock holdings of the households. The mortality pattern for all species types increased during the drought period across all zones studied. The analysis of the magnitude of the reduction across wealth classes indicated the rich pastoralists suffered greater loss in absolute terms, but such losses were lower in proportion to their holdings. The wealthy class reacted more quickly during the recovery phase, while the poor experienced either a long period of adjustment or an ejection from the pastoral system. Finally, the study concluded that the pastoral groups have entered into a new phase of development due to compelling human and ecological circumstances. Mobility is gradually being eliminated, while a strategic shift to sedentary cultivation, as an increasingly important process, is taking place.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Kent Mathewson