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Social Classes and Economic Restructuring in Pastoral Africa: Somali Notes*

  • Abdi Ismail Samatar


Recent scholarship on pastoral societies in Africa indicates that qualitative changes are taking place in their economies (Picard 1980; Galaty and Salzman 1981; Swift 1982; Toulmin 1984; Sutter, 1987; Behnke 1984; Little 1985; Rigby 1985; Kelley 1987; Munei 1987). Although this literature shows that these changes are largely induced by urban groups, such as merchants and state bureaucrats who invade the pastoral range, it nevertheless fails to theorize systematically the nature of the transformation. As recent contributions of Berry (1989), Okoth-Ogendo (1989), and Blaikie (1989) indicate, changes in land tenure in rural Africa are part and parcel of larger social and economic processes operating in African economies, which lead to the reorganization of property relations and the restructuring of rights of access to resources. In spite of the warnings by these authors, even the more theoretically informed literature does not follow through with the implications of conceptual insights regarding the nature of pastoral transformation. Fundamentally, the contours of pastoral transformation very much depend on the structure and internal coherence of the pastoral sector and the type and the tendency of the capital impinging on it. This article is a contribution to the debate over the nature of African pastoral transformation and the social forces operating in that process.



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This article has benefitted from the comments of D. Reynolds, A. I. Samatar and the reviewers for the African Studies Review. The analysis presented in this paper was done before the collapse of the Barre-led regime, while the field-research was carried out in 1987-88. At this time it is difficult to foresee how the post-civil-war state will deal with the fundamental crisis outlined in the paper and what kind of policies it has in mind.



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Social Classes and Economic Restructuring in Pastoral Africa: Somali Notes*

  • Abdi Ismail Samatar


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