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27-31 August 2019
Poznań, Poland
Europe/Warsaw timezone
programme last update: 23 August 2019
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Contribution Paper

Poznań, Poland - Morasko Kampus, room: 2.124

Pastures new? Measuring pastoralist poverty dynamics with a retrospective household survey


  • David Paul PERTAUB

Primary authors


Ethiopia’s lower Omo valley is a historically marginal periphery, now being transformed by mega-dams and industrial plantation agriculture, which is home to many traditional agro-pastoralist groups. This paper describes the methodological challenges faced by a project (inspired by Krishna’s ‘Stages of Progress’ methodology) which set out to gauge the impact of these recent developments by implementing a retrospective survey of changes in wealth and poverty in an agro-pastoralist community over the last twenty years. Firstly, the unit of analysis, the household, proved problematic: this is a setting where polygamous, multi-local households act as seasonally mobile and geographically dispersed units of production, where a strong moral economy encourages redistribution between households, and where gender roles means knowledge/access to resources differs markedly between household members. Others problems arose because survey respondents had little schooling or exposure to social research; for example, many pastoralists used a very different style of historical and temporal reckoning based upon locally salient, but officially unrecorded, past events. Finally, while the original project methodology emphasized using local measures of prosperity, understandings of poverty/wealth during this period of profound change were socially situated, multiple and contested. Traditional pastoralist understandings of wealth had important limitations; focusing on family and herd size, the underlying ideology provided little acknowledgement of important measures of privation and exclusion such as lack of access to education or food insecurity. The paper considers each of these methodological challenges in turn, outlining how the project addressed them and the advantages and disadvantages of the working solutions adopted.