Differential risk exposure and stochastic poverty traps among East African pastoralists

John G. McPeak, Christopher B. Barrett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

116 Scopus citations


In the pastoral and agropastoral systems of east Africa's arid and semi-arid lands (ASAL), climatic shocks, price volatility, disease outbreaks, and widespread violence beget frequent disruption of already-fragile livelihoods. Last year's drought dramatically demonstrates that intense suffering recurs regularly in the ASAL in spite of significant humanitarian aid flows. This article explores why that might be. We draw on preliminary results of an ongoing quarterly survey in six sites in northern Kenya, seventeen years' herd history data collected from Boran pastoralists in southern Ethiopia (Desta), five years' seasonal data on land use and herd management decisions among Gabra pastoralists in northern Kenya (McPeak 2000a, b), and three years' transactions-level data on livestock markets in northern Kenya (Barrett et al.). In the interest of brevity, we present only a synthesis of findings from these and related studies that suggest how differences in pastoralists' ubiquitous risk exposure create and sustain structural poverty traps from which many ASAL pastoralists are having a difficult time escaping.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)674-679
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Agricultural Economics
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Economics and Econometrics


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