Adaptive Strategies in African Arid Lands. Proceedings from a Seminar at the Scandinavian Institute of African Studies, Uppsala, Sweden, April 1989
Bovin, M. (ed.)
Manger, L. (ed.)
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Arable cropping, pastoralism and agropastoralism are the major systems of production which have evolved in a resource scarce, high risk environment. The success of such strategies in areas of high evaporation, low soil nutrient content and frequent erosion is attributable to their high degree of flexibility. Drought, warfare and disease have kept human and animal populations in some sort of balance, along with a low birth rate and high death rate; thus consumption needs have been kept low. The introduction of health and veterinary services has caused a decrease in flexibility which results in a concomitant increase in vulnerability. The crisis in Africa is due more to the inability of the region to produce for an expanding population than to a purely ecological decline. However inherent functionalism whereby adaptation naturally follows when carrying capacity has been exceeded is rejected as groups are constrained by the available energy. The development of the nation state has meant an increase in the demand for grain in urban areas and for export, and for this reason amongst others it is necessary to look more broadly than simply at the local population to find solutions to problems of resource management and social organization.