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A pastoral society is a social group of pastoralists, whose way of life is based on pastoralism, and is typically nomadic. Daily life is centered upon the tending of herds or flocks.


Social organizationEdit

There is not an explicit form of social organization associated with pastoralism. Pastoral societies are often organized in tribes, with the ‘household,' often incorporating the extended family, as a basic unit for organization of labor and expenses[1] Lineages are often the root for property rights. Mobility allows groups of pastoralists to leave and regroup as resources permit, or as sought after with changes in social relations.

Cross-border pastoralismEdit

Sometimes pastoralists move their herds across international borders in search of new grazing or for trade. This cross-border activity can occasionally lead to tensions with national governments as this activity is often informal and beyond their control and regulation. In East Africa, for example, over 95% of cross-border trade is through unofficial channels and the unofficial trade of live cattle, camels, sheep and goats from Ethiopia sold to Somalia, Kenya and Djibouti generates an estimated total value of between US$250 and US$300 million annually (100 times more than the official figure).[2] This trade helps lower food prices, increase food security, relieve border tensions and promote regional integration.[2] However, there are also risks as the unregulated and undocumented nature of this trade runs risks, such as allow disease to spread more easily across national borders. Furthermore, governments are unhappy with lost tax revenue and foreign exchange revenues.[2]

There have been initiatives seeking to promote cross-border trade and also document it, in order to both stimulate regional growth and food security, but also allow the effective vaccination of livestock.[2] Initiatives include Regional Resilience Enhancement Against Drought (RREAD), the Enhanced Livelihoods in Mandera Triangle/Enhanced Livelihoods in Southern Ethiopia (ELMT/ELSE) as part of the Regional Enhanced Livelihoods in Pastoral Areas (RELPA) programme in East Africa, and the Regional Livelihoods Advocacy Project (REGLAP) funded by the European Commission Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHAO).[2]

Examples of pastoral societiesEdit


North & Northeast AfricaEdit


Sub-Saharan AfricaEdit

Near EastEdit

South AsiaEdit

Central AsiaEdit

Southern EuropeEdit

Northern EuropeEdit

North AmericaEdit

South AmericaEdit


One of the consequences of the break-up of the Soviet Union and the subsequent political independence and economic collapse of its Central Asian republics is the resurgence of pastoral nomadism. Taking the Kyrgyz people as a representative example, nomadism was the centre of their economy prior to Russian colonization at the turn of the C19/C20, when they were settled into agricultural villages. The population became increasingly urbanized after World War II, but some people continued to take their herds of horses and cows to the high pasture (jailoo) every summer. Since the 1990s, as the cash economy shrank, unemployed relatives were absorbed back on the family farm, and the importance of this form of nomadism has increased. The symbols of nomadism, specifically the crown of the grey felt tent known as the yurt, appears on the national flag, emphasizing the centrality of their nomadic history and past in the creation of the modern nation of Kyrgyzstan.

See alsoEdit


External linksEdit