of Uncertainties 

borana photovoice

Facilitated by Maresha Taye   

Risks and uncertainties are experienced differently by pastoralists depending on their family status, their relationships with their wider clan, groups and networks. Together these shape their particular world view and their experience of droughts.

Pastoralists rotate their privately owned land between growing animal feed and crops depending on the season and resource requirement (for livestock or grains for the household). As the picture shows, the tiny grass was cut by an agro-pastoralist in the hopes of rain, which would allow crops to flourish. Unfortunately, the anticipated rain did not arrive. Sora, 34, defined uncertainty after taking the above picture:

“Uncertainty is dealing with something you have no control over. I can control changing my pastureland to a farmland but not the rains to grow the crops.”

Although enclosures for calves and lactating animals remain open during fodder shortage seasons, members of this village's community were late in opening up the enclosure. Godana had not anticipated this. One of his calves is in distress — as food supplies diminish, animals get frail and illness takes hold. He explains uncertainty with this picture.

Rain is rain, and drought is a drought—no mystery about them. Uncertainty is the series of events around those [rain and drought].”

“Risk is something that makes your daily life more challenging. It is the depletion of resources that is fundamental to your survival. Uncertainty is your limited knowledge of when and how these essential supplies may dwindle.”

During the 2018 stress period, Obda migrated to Gomole, in the northern part of Borana, where it rained more. Pastoralists – whom he had never met before - hosted him. They let him graze his animals and cultivate crops on their land. He harvested the grain, but his host refused to take the crop residue, despite his insistence. He brought everything back to his house. During that critical moment, that small crop residue has helped him keep his calves alive. Although the  picture in the left is a crop residue kept during normal dry season, he wanted to communicate uncertainty with this picture.

“Uncertainty is a very complex term to explain. As a pastoralist, I can mention drought and conflict as the two major features of uncertainty. However, every source of uncertainty is unique every time it happens.”

Consumption of alcohol is becoming more prevalent in Borana, and the majority of photovoice participants identified it as a key cause of uncertainty. They stated that it has an economic impact by competing with other types of livelihood investments; socially, individuals are becoming less respectful of customary traditions - when they are drunk, they would come and unleash their animals into communal enclosures, causing disorder. Their work culture has deteriorated, and their family relationships and overall well-being have suffered significantly. This picture is one of the examples most male photovoice participants took but women could not in fear of harassment in the liquor houses.

In 2018 after five years of marriage, Negelle, in her mid-twenties, lost her spouse in a fight with Somali pastoralists over dry season pasture. Her husband was skilled in livestock trade, which was their major source of income. However, after he died, she was unable to continue the business since it demanded greater negotiation abilities and networks with other traders, pastoralists, and brokers. As a result, her fortune decreased in two years. 
She expressed uncertainty with the two pictures she took above, which she labelled as passive wealth (top) and active wealth (bottom), where the former belongs to her while the latter belongs to an affluent pastoralist near her community.