People who once had 40 cattle are left only with fences: Coping with persistent drought in Awash, Ethiopia

Laura Camfield, Jennifer Leavy, Senait Endale, Tilahun Tefera

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How to support those responding to environmental change in resource-constrained environments is central to literature on climate change adaption. Our research explores a gap in this literature relating to the negotiation of intra-household relations and resource access across different types of household in contexts of social and environmental transition. Using the example of the semi-arid Awash region in North-Eastern Ethiopia, which has experienced drought and alien plant invasion over the past decade, we explore how men and women use changes in household structures and relationships to adapt more effectively. We draw evidence from life histories with 35 pastoralists across three rural, peri-urban and urban communities. Using Dorward et al’s taxonomy, we find Afar people are not only ‘stepping up’, but also ‘stepping out’: shifting from pastoralism into agriculture and salaried employment. As this often involves splitting households across multiple locations, we look at how these reconfigured households support pastoralists’ wellbeing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)889–905
Number of pages17
JournalEuropean Journal of Development Research
Issue number4
Early online date14 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2020


  • Adaptation
  • Drought
  • Ethiopia
  • Life histories
  • Livelihoods
  • Pastoralism

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