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The case of Iran

In Iran no single renewable natural resource dominates development thinking as the Indus does in Pakistan, but pastoralism is an integral component of the Iranian scene. Both historically and today, wherever one goes in Iran pastoralists are never far away, and their significance is never simply economic. But as an occupation, pastoralism in Iran ranks lower than irrigation in Pakistan on the scale of values for the majority of the population; and the effects of this ranking are exacerbated by the history of relations between nomads and settled communities. This history left a heritage of fear (of the former by the latter) which, because of modern changes in the larger economic and political structure, has now degenerated into contempt and complicates the common perception of pastoralism.

The following account draws generally on the experience of the Turan Programme of ecological research (see below), most particularly on the work of Sandford (1977a), Iran (1976 and 1977), Martin (1982a, b) and personal field data.

The national context

Iran has a total population of about 34 million and a relatively high average per capita Gross National Product (equivalent in 1975 to US $1,650) which (taking into account changes in international oil prices) was growing at a rate of over 35 per cent in the mid 1970s. (Since 1978, information is either unavailable or less reliable.) Agriculture and pastoralism contribute relatively little to GNP, even though some 58 per cent of the population still live in rural areas. In contrast to the economy as a whole, agricultural output grew at only 3 - per cent per annum in the mid 1970s, and the output of the livestock sector at only 1-2 per cent. As a result of the slow growth of pastoral production in relation to population, national income, and consumption, there was a very rapid rise in the importation of livestock products. For example, recorded imports of meat and livestock for slaughter doubled in volume between 1970 and 1974, amounting to 65,000 tons of meatequivalent (about 12 per cent of total meat consumption) in 1974. Of course this phenomenon was largely a function of overall national development policy, but it is indicative of the general orientation towards pastoralism in Iranian society

In this connection it is important to note that most pastoralists in Iran are socially distinct from the greater part of the settled society. The structure of their social relations is different- most especially in the fact that patrilineal connections, stretching beyond the living generations, hold more significance for them, and tend to be used as explicit criteria for the composition and organization of communities and tasks. In view of the distinctiveness of these social forms, pastoral communities are generally referred to as tribes.

In Iranian history, the tribes have constituted an important political force, often presenting serious problems to the central government. In the modern period they were pacified, confederation by confederation, by Reza Shah in the 1920s. Despite considerable efforts by Government since then to frustrate nomadism (which generally reinforces tribal forms of organization) and, more recently, to encourage the introduction of Western patterns of pastoral production, and despite the decimating effects of two lengthy droughts (roughly 19581963 and 1968 1973), pastoralism in Iran is still largely traditional in technology. Traditional pastoral technology invariably entails seasonal transhumance for movement between summer and winter pastures. Many pastoralists are still nomadic, in that they move through their seasonal migrations with all their families and belongings.

The available statistics for pastoralism in Iran are probably not complete. but should be adequate to suggest a general order of magnitude. It is estimated that of a total ruminant population of around 53 million (of which probably close to 90 per cent are sheep and goats), 50-60 per cent are involved in major seasonal migratory (transhumant) movements between grazing areas. A recent estimate puts the number of nomadic pastoralists in Iran at 700,000. Some 25 per cent of all sheep and goats. and 18 per cent of the cattle, are thought to belong to nomads and 13 per cent of the remainder belong to people who do not own land. Among farmers, small land-owners (with less than 10 hectares) control 42 per cent and 54 percent, respectively, of the national total of small ruminants and cattle. The average holding among settled pastoralists is 24 head (sheep and cattle). Holdings of more than 50 head make up only 32 per cent of non-nomadic small ruminants. Among non-nomads, ownership of cattle is fairly evenly distributed (90 per cent of all cattle being owned in herds of less than 11, and 55 per cent in herds of less than five). The ownership of sheep and goats by settled pastoralists is rather more concentrated: 32 per cent are owned in herds of more than 50. The degree of concentration of ownership of nomads' herds is not known, but is likely to be higher. Nomadic groups tend to be more specialised and there is evidence in some cases (for example, Barth 1961; see also Spooner 1973) of absolute minima below which herd size cannot drop without forcing the pastoralist to cut his losses, leave the pastoral sector, and move into the settled, non-pastoral sector of the economy.

These figures help demonstrate the degree to which pastoralism in rural Iran is both ever-present and embedded in the traditional society and economy, but unintegrated into the modern economy. Such situations tend to be the most resist ent both to development and to ecological management.

The ecological problem

The problem of pastoral development in Iran is formulated somewhat differently by politicians, economic planners, and ecologists, and differently again by the pastoralists themselves. These different formulations make excellent sense in relation to the particular interests of each.

Briefly, traditional pastoralism is perceived as economically unsatisfactory because of low productivity per animal and vulnerability to drought; socially unsatisfactory because of poor living conditions exacerbated by loss of population through migration to cities, by inadequate services, and by insufficient integration into national life; and ecologically unsatisfactory because it applies excessive pressure to the vegetation, leading to a cumulative adverse effect on the productivity and community structure of this renewable natural resource. It is important to note, however, that there is a dearth of reliable and systematic information to support these contentions, especially the last. In particular, the data which are generally used to support the ecological part of the diagnosis are the least reliable and systematic, but they typically receive the greatest emphasis in any discussion of the problems of pastoral development.

The history of the problem

Both historically and ecologically, pastoralism is in many ways the opposite of irrigated agriculture. In particular, it is an essentially extensive form of land use, and is not susceptible to the intensification of (natural) resource use and of investment characteristic of the industrial age. It does not demand large-scale investment, and the opportunities in it for development are very different. Its great importance from all points of view- especially that of development- lies in the fact that it can exploit almost all land, including vast arid and otherwise unproductive areas, and its products are of great nutritional significance. But perhaps no other traditional technology presents such difficult problems of economic integration and ecological viability. The discussion here is concerned less with specific projects than with the general causes of lack of success so far (especially in Iran, where because of the recent economic growth rate the problem has received most attention in South-west Asia), and with the relationship between social and environmental problems.

It is important to notice that pastoralism in South-west Asia presents somewhat different problems from other areas such as East Africa, most especially because it has a longer history (See Nyerges 1982). For both historical and ecological reasons, pastoralism in the Middle East generally has always stood in a close economic relationship with agriculture. Despite their economic inter-dependence, however, and the fact that there has been considerable interchange of population between them, relations between pastoralists and farmers have generally not been easy. This condition may be attributed to the difference in perception engendered by the differences in land use. Traditional forms of pastoralism have generated varying degrees of nomadism based on small social units with a high degree of structural flexibility. The nomad is concerned with detailed understanding of large expanses of natural vegetation. He is not interested in investing in the modification or improvement of the natural resources he exploits except. perhaps. to provide watering points (See Spooner. 1973). Agriculture, on the other hand, ties individuals to specific resources - land and water- and requires them to cooperate in a more stable way in larger social units and invest in the improvement of specific resources.

The conflicting perceptions engendered by these differences in man-land relationships caused farmers to fear nomads in the past (when they often appeared as raiders or mercenaries), and now hamper economic planning since, insofar as the planners are local, they are invariably from agricultural stock and view nomadism accordingly. Therefore, the "credibility gap" between planners and pastoralists is greater than between planners and irrigation farmers. For these reasons also, pastoral development in South-west Asia presents enormous difficulties of planning and organization though perhaps from the point of view of technology and investment it may be simpler than in Africa. But if these difficulties could be resolved, the results would be of very great significance for the economic and social development of the whole area and beyond.

The development record

Once again, corrective measures so far have been directed towards the treatment of symptoms as perceived by specialists trained in a different cultural and economic environment. This perception has led to the introduction of a number of programmes of management and rehabilitation based on experience in other parts of the world, especially the American West: specifically, protection and reseeding of poor quality rangeland, demonstration projects, administrative measures to decrease and control stocking rates, extension services, animal health sevices, and the introduction of more productive breeds. Many of these projects have had some limited success, but the impact on the overall situation does not appear to be significant. Whether or not the experience of the American West, or of other similar areas of expert training, is appropriate to the natural conditions, it is highly inappropriate to the social and cultural conditions because it was based on the removal of the earlier populations (Cf. Baker 1976). The idea of removing existing populations in order to achieve a more productive and ecologically viable economy may sound preposterous, but it is by no means unheard of. It is worth emphasising that even if it appeared desirable from the point of view of the national economy, there may be alternatives which would be more feasible politically and more acceptable morally. Such alternatives will be found through social rather than ecological research.

The pastoralist's perspective

In order to provide better information for dealing with these and other problems of rural development in the more arid parts of Iran, the Department of the Environment (Tehran) embarked in 1975 on a comprehensive ecological research programme in an area known as Turan, some 500 kilometres east of Tehran (See Iran 1977, Sandford 1977a, Spooner et al. 1980, Spooner and Horne 1980 and Spooner and Mann 1982). The research area, which comprises some two million hectares on the northeastern edge of the central deserts, includes important winter grazing for transhumant flocks which produce meat for Tehran. The topography is diverse. Vast plains vary in altitude from 700 to 1,500 meters and mountain peaks rise to 2,200 m. The 200 mm isohyetose passes roughly through the middle. The whole is generally classified as steppic-subdesertic, and resembles other plateau areas of South-west Asia that are regularly subject to subfreezing winter temperatures. During the mid 1970s some 150,000 sheep and goats wintered in Turan from November to May. Of these, 25,000 belonged to the local settled population of about 2,000 and remained in the area through the summer. There was a close relationship of interdependence between the settled and the transhumant populations.

The structure of the local population and of its relationships with the larger society outside the desert areas is complex. Some 2,000 people are divided among 36 settlements. Traditionally several groups of pastoralists have used the area with different transhumant regimes. Some were entirely nomadic and tent-dwelling, moving into and through the area seasonally with their families and belongings. Others sent their flocks in for the winter with shepherds. All interacted economically with the local villagers in one way or another. This economic interaction was embedded in networks of personal relationships that spread beyond the boundaries of the small isolated social groups and (together with a shared moral system) provided the basis for the fluctuating degrees of security that obtained. These personal networks had a patrilineal bias, but matrilateral relationships were also important and women's labour was essential for a number of seasonal pastoral and agricultural tasks, especially milking, milk processing, and harvesting. The patrilineal bias was greater among the nomads, providing in genealogies the stability of social forms that the villagers found in land ownership. There is a close relationship between the structure of the population and the division of labour.

Turan exports substantial quantities of livestock and livestock products, cotton, and tobacco. It imports paraffin, consumer durables, clothes, sugar. tea, small amounts of other foods, fertilizers, and feed barley. Although over 80 per cent of the animals that use the area belong to non-residents, some 30-40 per cent of the proceeds from the production of these animals returns to residents in the form of shepherds' wages; and a further small proportion may return as payment for feed barley grown or bought in the area.

The history of human activity in areas like these can be understood only as part of a larger area drawn to include urban and political centres that have provided markets and sources of investment and sought to control and exploit their hinterlands and secure the arterial routes that passed through them. The rise of the nation-state, with its more powerful political organization and technology, has modified this relationship. The desert outback is now much more consistently controlled from the city, rather than providing an economic and political balance to it. Further, new urban opportunities now cause additional pressure on the desert economy. Conventional recipes for pastoral development increase these pressures, without succeeding in their aims. They accelerate the process of disintegration of the desert economy.

The majority of the present population of Turan are probably happy to remain in the desert, so long as they do not feel they are missing out on attractive urban opportunities and services. On the other hand, city dwellers will not move to the desert except in return for large economic incentives, and even then will not have either the experience or the interest to exploit it well. If the present population leaves in pursuit of a better standard of living in the cities, it may be possible to reorganize pastoral production on the basis of imported labour. But a reconstituted population is likely to be less conservationist. Development is more likely to work ecologically if pursued through traditional forms with the existing population. Finally, the evidence suggests that ecological degradation is more a function of exogeny, originating from the urban market, the political power of the nation state, and the authority of urban values, than from the actual productive activities of the local populations (See Dennell 1982, Horne 1982 and Martin 1982b).

Information from preliminary surveys (made in 1971 at the height of the 1968-1973 drought) were interpreted to suggest that the natural resources of the area were deteriorating and the quality of life was falling further behind that of neighbouring, less-arid, and less-isolated areas. The vegetation cover was judged to be degraded and possibly still deteriorating in quality and quantity as the result of excessive exploitation by both settled and transhumant populations. The terms of trade between the pastoral, agricultural and industrial sectors in the national economy had changed during the decade to the extent that the transhumants were finding it difficult to hire shepherds, with the result that the traditional technology was being practiced less efficiently, but the overall pressure on the range had not diminished.

Compared to areas of traditional pastoralism in other parts of the world, Turan appears to have a reasonably healthy economy. Standards of housing, health and hygiene are relatively high. Wage rates for hired shepherds ran at Rials 120,000-200,000 in 1978 (approximately is $1,750-2,850 per annum, except that they often do not work throughout the year), plus food. Most shepherds also make some additional income from the village farming activities of their families. However, shepherding as an occupation carried a certain stigma, because it implied an arduous and uncomfortable life without modern facilities. Very tentative estimates of net income from one village in Turan, on the basis of an average livestock and land holding, suggest a possible family income in that village from livestock and cultivation averaging about US $450-625 per year. Such farm income could be supplemented by employment outside (for example, in carpet weaving) although opportunities were very few.

These figures compare well with other sectors. They may be even better, since this type of comparison can be misleading. It is necessary to bear in mind that in statistical comparisons of this kind the real value of housing, water supplies, and domestic fuel tends to be underestimated in published figures, which give an unduly poor impression of rural life. When figures are evaluated by comparison with per capita GNP, it must be remembered that GNP (which in this case would make these income figures look low) include much expenditure on government services and investment which is not applicable to family income and expenditures. A more meaningful comparison can be made by looking at figures for annual private expenditure per head. In 1973, such expenditure amounted to about US $490 (Rials 34,000) per person for Iran as a whole, which is an aggregate of $800 (Rials 60,000) in the urban sector and of $210 (Rials 15,000) in the rural sector. On the basis of these figures and those given in the previous paragraph, and assuming that family size is about five persons in Turan, it appears that real incomes in Turan might be at least equal to, and perhaps considerably greater than, the figures for Iran as a whole. They may approach the level of the working class in urban areas, whose total consumption is only about 50-70 per cent of the average figure for all urban classes.

The major economic activity in Turan is the winter grazing of the transhumant flocks. Besides many that pass through Turan to areas further to the south-east, between three and four hundred of these flocks enter the area between mid-October and mid-November. The flocks average 400 head, consisting of approximately 80-90 per cent sheep and 10-20 per cent goats. They lamb in late February, take full advantage of the spring in Turan till midApril to mid-May, and then slowly follow the spring back up into the mountains to the west, taking some six weeks to cover 450-600 kilornetres. The animals are milked in the summer pastures only. Lambing percentages (live births) average 85 per cent of breeding females; of these, 85 per cent probably survive to weaning, and (in the case of males) to sale. Of the combined sheep and goat prelambing flock, some 70 per cent are breeding ewes, 3 per cent sires and 27 per cent replacement females. According to the general opinion, flock size and animal population throughout the area among the transhumants is constant from year to year. Variation occurs in the quality of the range and in the amount of barley consumed as supplementary feed. But the main problem today appears to be in the efficiency of labour, because of the growing competition with urban sources of employment.

Unlike the transhumants, the local residents' flocks vary widely in size. On average, breeding ewes form a lower proportion, since some holdings are primarily fattening rather than breeding and dairy operations. Lambing percentages in resident flocks appear slightly higher (possibly reflecting genetic as well as managerial differences). They also avoid the strain of long migration, but are forced to make do with inferior vegetation throughout the year. Mortality may be lower, as may feed costs, because of the availability of crop straws. The local owners rarely give their animals supplemental barley grain. The value of milk production per ewe or doe is higher than in the case of transhumants, reflecting both the fact that the animals are milked for a longer period, and the difference in breed. The proportion of the flock sold is slightly lower (since female animals on average are kept longer), but the unit value is higher, reflecting higher weights at sale. A local resident who gives roughly equal emphasis to pastoralism and agriculture in his economic strategies is likely to have a minimum holding of 30 animals, mainly goats, and to do somewhat better from them per animal than the larger owners.

The agricultural crops of the local population appear to be more important for supplying domestic needs than generating income, with the exception of cotton and tobacco (which are cultivated explicitly as cash crops) and surplus grains from dry farming in good years. The amount sown per year by individual families fluctuates according to several factors. The most important factor is the availability of water. Given water, the ability to command labour at the right time is probably the most critical factor and severely restricts the opportunities of some families. But there is always the possibility of adding several hundred dollars to the annual family income by these means. Once again, labour- the human resource - appears to be the crucial factor in this situation when viewed as a human use system, rather than as an ecosystem.

The implications for policy

The purpose of development is to increase economic productivity and ecological viability. Besides labour, to what extent do other factors inhibit expansion in Turan? Are the natural, the social, or the cultural predominant? Prices of livestock and livestock products, relative to the prices of other goods, were not unfavourable in comparison with prices elsewhere in the world. There may be some scope for reducing costs and margins in the marketing chain, but high costs or margins were not conspicuous.

Other factors were difficult to assess. Losses from livestock diseases did not appear to be serious on the whole, though there were exceptions. Fertility, especially of sheep, was somewhat low in comparison to some countries. but the rate appeared to be as much due to the low incidence of twinning as to absolute infertility. More twins may not be desirable, given the levels of feeding. Proper data on weight gains do not exist but it would appear that male lambs can be sold off at about 25-30 kilos live weight at six months without supplementary feeding, and that, with feeding, a live weight of 50 kilos at 11 months can be achieved. But there is great variation between breeds and different breeds are kept for different purposes. For example, non-transhumant pastoralists placed a major emphasis on milk production, a large proportion of which was consumed locally.

Pastoralism can be evaluated in terms of performance per animal, or per unit of investment (including feed), labour, or rangeland. Are we using the most appropriate measure in Turan? Livestock specialists tend to stress the importance of performance per animal (for example, milk yield per lactation per ewe, daily rate of live weight gain per head). Where the most important costs (such as labour, feed, medicines, shelter) are proportional to the number of head kept, this emphasis on productivity per animal is useful. Where the most critical scarce resource is feed, however, it may be more useful to emphasise conversion efficiency (feed into milk or meat or wool) and not performance per head per day. Conversion efficiency is hard to measure. Livestock specialists argue that it correlates very closely with performance per head per day, and that selecting in terms of productivity per head is in fact tantamount to selecting for conversion efficiency. It is possible to demonstrate this correlation under conditions where ample feed is available in front of the animal's nose, but where feed is scarce and difficult to find (hidden away in crevices and under thorny bushes), the correlation may not hold, since eight legs (two small animals) may gather more food than four legs (one large). The conversion rate applicable is then not "product per feed consumed" but "product per feed available if looked for" (Sandford 1977a).

The last two paragraphs argue that, while the present performance of livestock in Turan is not impressive (whether or not it is presently causing degradation), it may not be very easy to improve it without a radical change in the level of feeding. Whether such improvement in feeding can be obtained by ecological management (that is, protecting, rotating, reseeding, etc.), or whether it would require a complete change to intensive feeding (that is, economic management), and the abandonment of the range to wildlife, is obviously a matter for discussion. But any such discussion should take into account the interests of the existing population and their value as a resource (that is, socio-political management as well as ecological management), as well as the need to determine the most productive use of the resources of dry lands in the long term.

In any case, presently it is not clear whether feed is the critical constraint on livestock production. The relatively intensive use of barley feed (an innovation originating in changes in the national economy and in the spread of motorized transport in the 1960s) suggests that it is. On the other hand, the fact that payments for the rent of sheep pens (rent for grazing has been illegal since the nationalization of rangelands in 1963) are low, a mere 3 per cent of the value of output, suggests that it is not. When they discuss reasons for limiting the size of flocks, both livestock owners and shepherds stress the shortage of labour, not of feed or forage (though they do pay close attention to the forage quality, and rights to good grazing are a major source of conflict in the area). However, it is important to remember that recent years have been good climatically, and this view could change in less favourable years.

The main pressure on existing pastoral systems in Turan appears to come from a growing scarcity of labour and the consequent rise in the cost of shepherds. In the mid-1970s transhumant pastoralism appears not to have been competing well with urban industries for labour. In Turan costs were estimated to come to 70 per cent of the value of output, and 55 per cent of total cash costs were labour costs. There are also non-cash costs such as the labour required for milking. But it could be worth while for the transhumants to abandon milking in favour of concentration on meat production, since there should be some compensatory gains in heavier weights of lambs at sale.

There appears to be some scope for increasing labour productivity in shepherding, with the implication that unless total livestock numbers could be increased (which, for ecological reasons is not likely), a lower human population would be supported by pastoral activities. Whether or not there are valid technical reasons behind the transhumants' determination of 400 as the optimum flock size, output per head of sheep could almost certainly be improved if that were decided on as a primary objective. Even if increased output per animal did not generate greater output per unit area, it might give more output per shepherd. As it is, the transhumants consider the ideal labour complement to be five shepherds for every two flocks of 400 each. (The local flocks are able to stretch their labour and expenses much further because they are not competing in urban meat markets.) Undoubtedly, additional equipment and communication devices, and more frequent watering points, could lead to reduction in the need for "assistant shepherds," and probably a 50 per cent gain in labour productivity could be achieved in this way, although at the expense of some capital investment and higher equipment costs, and possibly more pressure on the range.

This review suggests that the outlook for transhumant pastoralism in Turan is uncertain unless productivity can be increased and shepherding made more attractive. It is uncertain both ecologically and socially. Economically, the self-employed resident mixed farmer presently does fairly well. However, the viability of mixed farming during the coming decades will depend on the stability of the local communities - the interest of the younger generation and the attraction of the cities. Apart, therefore, from arguments concerning the ecological efficiency of these two adaptations, transhumance and mixed farming, there is room for serious doubt about the social as well as the ecological survival of either, unless they are included and encouraged in long-term management and development programmes.

The question of over-grazing remains. On the basis of comparison with experience in ecologically-similar areas immediately to the north (two somewhat less arid, steppic Protected Areas known as Miandasht and eastern Khosh Yeilaq), ecologists have claimed that overgrazing has been an important factor in the history of the vegetation of Turan. Is this situation due to the fact that Turan pastoralists consistently overgraze? Shepherds and flock owners alike in Turan today deny that overgrazing can occur in the long term: they understand over-grazing; they know it would reduce their profits; therefore, they do not over-graze. However, in one particular part of the area, there is evidence that overgrazing is occurring as a conscious short-term strategy, and this is worth noting. In the early 1960s, a group of nomads whose flocks had been much reduced by the drought chose to settle in the hope that since government policy favoured the sedentarisation of nomads they would thereby attract some relief or other investment that would enable them to recover. The transhumants took advantage of their reduced circumstances and manipulated the new nationalization law and their close contacts with the central administration of the province to obtain permits to graze the areas left vacant by the nomads. Because of the commercial nature of their pastoralism the transhumants were able to adapt more efficiently to the drought conditions and build up their flocks more quickly afterwards. During the recent succession of good years, the settled nomads have built up their flocks again to the point where they are obliged to challenge the transhumants for rights to their old grazing areas. In order to make their challenge effective, they appear to have chosen to over-graze as a calculated risk.

The incidence of overgrazing, whether intended or not, appears to have varied historically in response to particular sets of circumstances but probably always, as above, derived from exogenous factors. An underlying constant has been the orientation of the pastoralist towards this basic resource - the vegetation - the nature of which is always assumed rather than demonstrated. The primary concern of the traditional pastoralist appears always to be the condition of his animals (which he considers to be his basic capital) rather than the vegetation (which he seems to assume will always recover). This concern is misunderstood, since it does in fact imply a concern for the vegetation without which the animals could not survive. But more importantly it is generally not sufficiently noticed that the vegetation is also seriously threatened by the collection of shrubs for fuel, and to a lesser extent for construction of huts and pens.

In this discussion of pastoralism in Iran, I have sought to show the relationship between a number of variables that are commonly left unrelated in the planning of pastoral development. To sum up briefly, in Turan the range has been judged by experts to be degraded and the degradation has been laid at the door of the pastoralists who are presently using the area. On the national level, pastoral products have not increased in value as fast as the cost of living and, although shepherds' wages have risen sharply, they are not high enough to compete with wages for labour at comparable levels of skill in towns (given the added attraction of urban facilities). The present result is a shortage of shepherds. But there has also been rural (as well as urban) population growth, and the animal population may have increased similarly, though there are no reliable figures. It is likely, therefore, that the stocking ratio has increased and that as a consequence herding efficiency has declined, because of lack of shepherds. This suggests that not only pressure on the range, but also the rate of degradation has increased.

As with irrigation, the perception of the planners has hindered the investigation of a number of questions that are directly relevant to the problems of ecologically- and socially-efficient pastoral development. These questions generally have to do with the definition of the problem and are of two basic types. The first concerns the significance of former practices that are no longer current. For example, there is evidence that past use of ligneous vegetation for firewood, charcoal production, and construction has been an important factor in the composition of the present vegetation. This factor has been greatly attenuated by the introduction of paraffin and the prohibition of charcoal burning. Another example is the removal of camels from the ecosystem and their replacement by motor vehicles. The second type concerns organization and decisionmaking. Little progress has been made in the analysis of the factors involved in decision-making for the individual pastoralists or the relationship between the assessments on which they base their decisions and the assessments made in scientific paradigms.

The analysis of the state of pastoralism in relation to range quality in Turan is not complete without emphasis on two points - one social, one ecological, and both interestingly comparable to the irrigation cases above:

(1) The problem of organization: Turan is an isolated area which, though representing some of the most favoured winter grazing in the northeastern quadrant of Iran and forming part of a single transhumant pastoral system with the best summer grazing in the mountains just north of Tehran, suffers from marginalisation. The problem is even more complex here than in the irrigation cases, because the area is used by several inter-dependent pastoral systems, of which only one, the transhumant, is economically significant at the national level. In order to deal with this problem of organization at the national level it is necessary to appreciate in detail how each system differs in terms of herd composition, range of products and markets, and to understand that they are all at the same time socially and economically inter-dependent (for example, for labour and services) and ecologically in competition for grazing.

(2) The problem of information: whereas the effects of irrigation on the environment are generally known and understood. there are almost no scientific data on the interaction between different grazing animals under different herding strategies and different vegetation communities in South-west Asia.


The case of Afghanistan

Afghanistan largely shares a common cultural heritage and geographical condition with Iran. But there are some significant differences. To begin with, Afghanistan is at the opposite end of the economic scale. With no oil income it falls in the Fourth World category of the "poorest of the poor." For that reason only, pastoralism would be much more important to the national economy in Afghanistan than in Iran. But pastoralism is also more important in Afghanistan's rural economy, providing the basis not only of meat and milk supplies but of wool and skins for the karakul and carpet industries. In what is now Iran, political power has traditionally been in the hands of the settled urbanized population; in Afghanistan, power has lain with the tribes, who form the majority of the population and have a strong pastoral bias. Thus pastoralism is much better integrated in the national life generally. We might expect, therefore, that pastoral development would not encounter the same problems in Afghanistan, and that it would be approached from a more holistic, sociologically sensitive point of view. In fact, however, it seems that the poorer the country the more technocentric, or eco-centric, the planning, and that cultural heritage has very little influence.

Livestock production in Afghanistan is estimated to contribute about 30 per cent of exports. The most economically important animal in the national herd is sheep, estimated at 14 million in 1976, down from over 21 million before the drought years of the early 1970s. The major factors limiting growth in present conditions are said to be the condition of the range and the shortage of supplementary feed, especially in winter; but once again there is no adequate information on the other factors of production, and no analysis of social constraints. Although total GNP is thought to be growing at about 3.3 per cent per annum (1965-1974), per capita GNP remains the lowest in the region, at the equivalent of about US $110 (1974). Some two-thirds of the population are involved to a greater or lesser extent in livestock production (See Sandford 1977b). The development problem is not only how to raise productivity but how to harness existing production for the national economy, especially for exports. But pastoralism is accused of causing serious environmental degradation by overgrazing and therefore, it is assumed, must be changed.

In 1974 a Livestock Development Project was begun in an area of 12,000 km2 along the Hari-Rud River in the district of Herat in northwestern Afghanistan (See World Bank 1976, 1978). At the commencement of the project, there was almost no scientific information available on the ecology of the country's rangelands, the dynamics of pastoral production and marketing, or the strategies of herding and management of the traditional pastoral systems. In 1976 the second stage of the project was expanded to cover an area of 100,000 km2. The small ruminant population of this area is estimated at 2,000,000 sheep and goats, approximately half of which are owned by villages and half by transhumant families. The main focus of the project was to raise export earnings by providing a slaughter house and sheep improvement centres and integrating them into the traditional pastoral systems. A subsidiary aim was to develop cooperatives among small producers to enable them to take advantage of institutional credit facilities. The project was supported by a comprehensive research base in the natural dimension, although it is not clear that the findings of the research were used in later work. (The Project had to be discontinued in 1979 because of the deteriorating political situation.)

The project provided for a range improvement specialist responsible for the establishment and operation of a range improvement centre with field stations. But this component does not appear to be closely integrated with the major aims of the project. However, a particularly impressive part of the results of the project is a series of reports that derive from this component. These reports go into considerable detail concerning the quantity, quality and composition of range vegetation in northwestern Afghanistan and the usage patterns and organization of work in relation to it.

Although these reports constitute one of the most comprehensive sets of data available on the interaction of traditional pastoral systems and vegetation processes on arid and semi-arid ranges, and as such are an invaluable contribution to pastoral development, there is an obvious inadequacy in their coverage. Whether or not there was any conscious intent to describe and analyse the three dimensions of the system, rather than simply the ecology and the economy, the data are exclusively behavioural. They therefore fail to explain the strategies or intentions of the pastoralists. This is of course not surprising since they were gathered according to a research design that was not socio-centric and included no provision for structuring the participation of the pastoralists in the process of planning the development of their own production systems.

Even so, the data are invaluable and the addition of the perceptual perspective could make the Herat Livestock Development Project in Afghanistan a unique step toward finding solutions to the problems of pastoral development without pressing too hard against the limits of range productivity. Like the other projects discussed in this chapter, it shows how the beginnings of a process of reorientation in the study of community environment relations can produce information that will eventually transform the development effort.

This chapter has laid out some examples of ecological problems confronting development, appraised them against the background of the three-dimensional approach and set them in historical perspective, showing how in each example the implications for ecological planning change according to how the social and cultural dimensions of the problem are assessed. Special emphasis has been given to the role of external factors (exogeny) rather than internal dynamics (adaptation) in causing both historical incongruencies and modern inadequacies of planning. In each case we have sought to provide a wider perspective by means of comparison with similar examples that differ in some but not all respects. The argument for consciously interrelating ecological, social, and cultural processes in any attempts to induce change or to account for it should by now be clear, although it might be desirable to support it with more detail for which there is not space in the present work. It remains now to summarise the significance of such an approach, from both the intellectual and the practical points of view, in the final chapter.

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