Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Quarterly Journal of International Agriculture

Quarterly Journal of International Agriculture No. 3/08

Pastoral women as strategic and tactical agents in conflicts: negotiating access to resources and gender relations in Afar, Ethiopia

Martina A. Padmanabhan
Humboldt University of Berlin, Germany


The paper focuses on the strategies and tactics of pastoralist women situated within violent conflicts in Afar, Ethiopia and analyses institutional changes taking place concerning the resources water, pastures and overall mobility, especially regarding access to trading sites. An institutional analysis framework focusing on property rights and collective action is enhanced via the concept of asymmetric institutions in order to analyse the effects of unequal rules on gender relations and identify the strategies and tactics applied by pastoral women in violent conflicts. The paper is based on an extensive literature review, the re-examination of findings from a larger study and a follow-up to focus-group discussions carried out in November 2006 in Semu Robi, Ethiopia. The conclusions propose that conflicts are opportunities for women to widen their scope of influence – with strategies and tactics used by women to access water, pastures and trading sites acting as implicit renegotiations of gender – and draw recommendations for project policy and further research.

Keywords: gender, Ethiopia, conflict, institutions, pastoralist

JEL: A14, B54, B52, N47, N57

Vol. 47 (2008), No. 3: 239-266