Mountain Research and Development vol:29 issue:3 pages:255-264
Transhumance, the seasonal movement of herds occurring between two points and following precise routes repeated
each year, is practiced on a broad scale in the open
field areas of Tigray (North Ethiopia). This article
presents a characterization of the practice, factors that explain its magnitude, and recent changes. Eleven villages were selected randomly, semistructured interviews were conducted, and data on the sites were collected both in the field and from secondary sources. The transhumance destination zones are characterized as better endowed with water and fodder resources, essentially due to their great extent. The sample villages can be classified into three groups: annual transhumance (average one-way traveling distance 8.1 km), home range herding (average traveling distance 2.2 km), and keeping livestock near homesteads. Movements are basically induced by the fact that there is little to no space for livestock near the villages during the crop-growing period—not by the significantly different temperature or rainfall conditions in the grazing lands. Adults will only herd the flocks when the distance for transhumance is great or considered unsafe; otherwise, young boys tend the livestock for the entire summer rainy season. Faced with social (schooling) and technological (reservoir construction and establishment of exclosures) changes, transhumance in Tigray has adjusted in a highly adaptive way, with new routes being developed and others abandoned. Transhumance does not lead to major conflicts in the study area even when livestock are brought to areas that belong to other ethnic groups (Afar, Amhara).