The effects of resource availability on the subsistence strategies of Datoga pastoralists of north west Tanzania
Many early anthropological studies treated pastoralist populations as egalitarian, however there is considerable variation in the resources available to individual households. This thesis considers how resources influence the subsistence system of the pastoral Datoga of Lake Eyasi. The two categories of resources considered are wealth and labour. The labour available to Datoga households does not influence the herding strategies of those households. In turn, the herding strategies do not affect the dynamics of cattle herds. This is because households that are short of labour can arrange for their animals to be herded by members of different households, and there are no discernible costs associated with this. Wealth, defined by livestock holdings, can be measured either as total household wealth, or as wealth per capita. These are conceptually distinct. Among the Datoga, households that are wealthy in terms of total livestock holdings, are also wealthy in terms of wealth per capita, but not proportionally more so. Once households have about five livestock units per capita, any increase in household wealth is used to attract new people to the household, rather than to increase the wealth of existing household members. For many aspects of the production system overall household wealth and wealth per capita have a similar effect, but this is not always the case. In some instances overall household wealth can explain variation between households, whereas wealth per capita cannot. This occurs when the absolute number of animals belonging to a household is important. In terms of provisioning the household and household economics, per capita wealth explains more of the variation between households. Overall the Datoga are struggling to survive. They have been alienated from more fertile areas, and consequently they are poor, and herd productivity is low. This is due to the low reproduction rate of cattle, and the high commercial offtake rate of both cattle and small stock. The high commercial offtake rate is driven by subsistence needs and most income is used to buy grain and veterinary products. However, there is considerable variation between households, and compared to poor households, wealthy households have a comparatively low offtake rate of livestock, in terms of both mortality and sales. Consequently, they are managing to retain their livestock holdings, or in a few cases to increase the size of their herds. However, wealthy households are in the minority, and the majority of households are caught in a declining cycle of poverty, and will eventually be forced to drop out of the pastoral system.