Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Quarterly Journal of International Agriculture

Quarterly Journal of International Agriculture No. 2/08

Property rights changes among Afar pastoralists of Ethiopia:
the role of the state

Bekele Hundie
Humboldt University of Berlin, Germany


Most grazing lands in pastoral areas are common-pool resources over which a multitude of pastoralists have de facto rights. Historically these lands are governed by customary laws, while formal institutions, if any exist, are less important. Despite this fact, there is a wide range of changes in property rights and resource use patterns taking place in pastoral areas nowadays. National governments have contributed much to making changes in customary property rights in many pastoral regions: either through direct involvement in commercial farming or through policies that act against traditional pastoralism. This study aims at explaining property right changes among Afar pastoralists of northeast Ethiopia. Based on primary and secondary data, explanations are given concerning how the traditional communal rights of pastoralists have been changing due to state intervention and how these coercive interventions, begun in the 1960s, have had detrimental impacts on the livelihoods of pastoral households.

Keywords: property rights, pastoralists, state, Afar, Ethiopia

JEL: p26, p48

Vol. 47 (2008), No. 2: 121-144