"Pastoralists’ life is like the kooba".

Quote and photo from the field. By ESR Yayi Zheng.


All ESR's are on fieldwork in various parts of Africa in 2019. As part of the dissemination they will be sending a photo and a quote from the field while they are away.   


This photo and quote from the field comes from ESR Yayi Zheng who is doing her fieldwork in Kenya-Ethiopia on Pastoral Economy. Read more about her research here

The anthill shown in the photo is called kooba in the Borana language. Kooba is made by termites, and can be easily seen in the vast Borana land, where people lead a pastoral life. 


One day, while interviewing an elder, I asked him why he started to sell cattle and build houses. He told me, “Pastoralists’ life is like the kooba. Kooba can go up to 3 or 4 metres high but will then collapse, back to the ground. We pastoralists keep the cattle and the number of cattle become more and more. But one day the drought comes, all the cattle will die. It is exactly like the kooba.” Hearing this, other men around me all nodded their heads. One man responded quickly, “This is very true! We used to live in Golbo and we had a lot of cattle. But one day the Gabra came and raided us, we lost everything, our cattle back to zero.” 


Many pastoralists sell cattle and then use the money to build houses in town. They rent them out but continue living in the huts themselves with their cattle. They say, the land is good for the cattle, so we live here.