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Product title :

Discontinuity in pastoral development: time to update the method

Author(s) : S. Krätli

Summary :

Most off-the-shelf basic methodological tools currently used in pastoral development (e.g. technical definitions and conventional scales of observation) retain underlying assumptions about stability and uniformity being the norm (i.e. ‘equilibrium thinking’). Such assumptions reflect a theoretical framework which had been questioned since the 1970s and was openly disproved in scientific circles during the 1990s, when it was shown to be fundamentally inadequate. Today, lingering equilibrium assumptions in the methodological legacy of pastoral development get in the way of operationalising state-of-the-art understanding of pastoral systems and drylands. Unless these barriers are identified, unpacked and managed, even increasing the rigour and intensity of data collection will not deliver a realistic representation of pastoral systems in statistics and policymaking. This article provides a range of examples of such ‘barriers’, where equilibrium assumptions persist in the methodology, including classifications of livestock systems, conventional scales of observation, key parameters in animal production, indicators in the measurement of ecological efficiency, and the concepts of ‘fragile environment’, natural resources, and pastoral risk.

Agricultural statistics – Dryland variability – Ecological efficiency – Ecological fragility – Methodology – Natural resources – Pastoralism – Productivity – Risk – Scale.

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