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Pastoralism is the branch of agriculture concerned with the raising of livestock. It is animal husbandry: the care, tending and use of animals such as camels, goats, cattle, yaks, llamas, and sheep. "Pastoralism" generally has a mobile aspect, moving the herds in search of fresh pasture and water (in contrast to pastoral farming, in which non-nomadic farmers grow crops and improve pastures for their livestock).
Pastoralism is a successful strategy to support a population on less productive land, and adapts well to the environment. For example, in savannas, pastoralists and their animals gather when rain water is abundant and the pasture is rich, then scatter during the drying of the savanna.
Pastoralists often use their herds to affect their environment. Grazing herds on savannas can ensure the biodiversity of the savannas and prevent them from evolving into scrubland. Pastoralists may also use fire to make ecosystems more suitable for their food animals. For instance, the Turkana people of northwest Kenya use fire to prevent the invasion of the savanna by woody plant species. Biomass of the domesticated and wild animals was increased by a higher quality of grass.
Pastoralism is found in many variations throughout the world. Composition of herds, management practices, social organization and all other aspects of pastoralism vary between areas and between social groups. Many traditional practices have also had to adapt to the changing circumstance of the modern world, including climatic conditions effecting the availability of grasses. Ranches of the United States and sheep stations and cattle stations of Australia are seen by some as modern variations.
Pastoralism was created from mixed farming. Bates and Lees proposed that it was the incorporation of irrigation into farming which ensued in specialization. Advantages of mixed farming include reducing risk, spreading labour, and re-utilizing resources. The importance of the advantages and disadvantages differ to the sociocultural preferences of the farmers and to the biophysical conditions as determined by rainfall, radiation, soil type, and disease. The increased productivity of irrigation agriculture lead to an increase in population and added impact on resources. Bordering areas of land remained for animal breeding. Large distances had to be covered by herds to collect sufficient forage. Specialization occurred as a result of the increasing importance of both intensive agriculture and pastoralism. Both agriculture and pastoralism developed alongside of each other with continuous interactions.
There is another theory that states pastoralism is created from hunting and gathering. Hunters of wild goats and sheep were knowledgeable of herd mobility and the needs of the herd animals. Hunter gathers were dependent on food for subsistence. Hunters of wild goats and sheep were mobile and ensued herds on their seasonal round. Undomesticated herds were nominated to become more controllable for the proto-pastoralist nomadic hunter and gatherer groups. Hunter gathers strategies have been very diverse and contingent upon the local environment conditions. Foraging strategies have included hunting or trapping big game, hunting or trapping smaller animals, fishing, gathering shellfish or insects, and gathering wild plant foods such as fruits, seeds, and nuts.
Pastoralism occurs in uncultivated areas. Wild animals eat the forage from the marginal lands and humans survive from milk, blood, and often meat of the herds.
Pastoralists do not exist at basic subsistence. Pastoralists often compile wealth and participate in international trade. Pastoralists have trade relations with agriculturalists, horticulturalists, and other groups. Pastoralists are not extensively dependent on milk, blood, and meat of their herd andee . McCabe noted that when common property institutions are created, in long-lived communities, resource sustainability is much higher, which is evident in the East African grasslands of pastoralist populations.
Mobility allows pastoralists to adapt to the environment, which opens up the possibility for both fertile and infertile regions to support human existence. Important components of pastoralism include low population density, mobility, and vitality, and intricate information systems. The system is transformed to fit the environment rather than adjusting the environment to support the "food production system." Mobile pastoralists can often cover a radius of a hundred to five hundred kilometers. Pastoralists and their livestock have impacted the environment. Lands long used for pastoralism have transformed under the forces of grazing livestock and anthropogenic fire. Fire was a method of revitalizing pastureland and preventing forest regrowth. The collective environmental weights of fire and livestock browsing have transformed landscapes in many parts of the world. Fire has permitted pastoralists to tend the land for their livestock. Political boundaries are based on environmental boundaries. The Maquis shrublands of the Mediterranean region are dominated by pyrophytic plants that thrive under conditions of anthropogenic fire and livestock grazing.
Different mobility patterns can be observed:
Nomadic pastoralists have a global food-producing strategy depending on the management of herd animals for meat, skin, wool, milk, blood, manure, and transport. Nomadic pastoralism is practiced in different climates and environments with daily movement and seasonal migration. Pastoralists are among the most flexible populations. Pastoralist societies have had field armed men protect their livestock and their people and then to return into a disorganized pattern of foraging. The products of the herd animals are the most important resources, although the use of other resources, including domesticated and wild plants, hunted animals, and goods accessible in a market economy are not excluded. The boundaries between states impact the viability of subsistence and trade relations with cultivators.
Somali pastoralists keep their animals in of the harshest environments but they have evolved of the centuries. Somalis have well developed pastoral culture where complete system of life and governance has been refined. There are many Somali poetry depicting humans interactions, pastoral animals, beasts on the prowl, and other natural things such the rain, celestial events and historic events of significance.
Transhumance is the seasonal migration of livestock and pastoralists between higher and lower pastures. The rest of the group of pastoralists are able to remain in the same location which results in longer-standing housing.
Mobility throughout regions and the resulting precipitation differences are evaluated by pastoralists. In East Africa, different animals are taken to specific regions throughout the year that correspond to the seasonal patterns of precipitation.
All pastoralist strategies typify effective adaptation to the environment.
Pastoralists are constantly moving, which puts them at odds with sedentary people of towns and cities. The resulting conflicts could result in all out war for disputed lands. These disputes are recorded in ancient times in the Middle East.
Mobility was an important strategy for Ariaal; however with the loss of grazing land impacted by the growth in population, severe drought, the expansion of agriculture, and the expansion of commercial ranches and game parks, mobility was lost. The poorest families were driven out of pastoralism and into town and worked the odd job. Few Ariaal families benefited from education, healthcare, and income earning.
The ability for careful control was eliminated with colonization. Mobility was limited in the Sahel region of Africa with settlement being encouraged. The population tripled and sanitation and medical treatment were improved.
Pastoralists have maps drawn out in their minds mark out the value of specific environments at different times of year. Pastoralists have an understanding of ecological processes and the environment. Information sharing is vital for creating knowledge through the networks of linked societies.
Tragedy of the commons? 
Pastoralists in the Sahel zone in Africa were held responsible for the depletion of resources. The depletion of resources was actually triggered by a prior interference and punitive climate conditions. Hardin's paper suggests a solution to the problems, offering a coherent basis for privatization of land, which stimulates the transfer of land from tribal peoples to the state or to individuals. The privatized programs impact the livelihood of the pastoralist societies while weakening the environment.
Pastoralism supports human existence in harsh environments and represents a sustainable approach to land use.
See also 
- Nomadic pastoralism
- Pastoral—Literary treatment of pastoralists
- Pastoral farming
- Holistic management
- Moran, Emilio F. (2006). People and Nature: An Introduction to Human Ecological Relations. Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishing. p. 52. ISBN 978-1-4051-0572-9.
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- "Mixed crop-livestock farming".
- "Hunting and Gathering Culture". Encyclopædia Britannica.
- (Bates, 1998:105)
- Moran, Emilio F. (2006). People and Nature: An Introduction to Human Ecological Relations. Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishing. p. 123. ISBN 978-1-4051-0572-9.
- (Bates, 1998:104)
- Moran, Emilio F. (2006). People and Nature: An Introduction to Human Ecological Relations. Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4051-0572-9.
- Pyne, Stephen J. (1997) Vestal Fire: An Environmental History, Told through Fire, of Europe and Europe's Encounter with the World. Seattle and London: University of Washington Press. ISBN 0-295-97596-2
- Moran, Emilio F. (2006). People and Nature: An Introduction to Human Ecological Relations. Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishing. pp. 51–52. ISBN 978-1-4051-0571-2.
- Fagan, B. (1999) "Drought Follows the Plow", Chapter 11 of Floods, Famines and Emperors: Basic Books.
- Townsend, Patricia K. (2009). Environmental Anthropology: From Pigs to Policies. United States: Waveland Press. pp. 57–58. ISBN 1-57766-581-3.
- Wilson, K.B. (1992) "Rethinking Pastoral Ecological Impact in East Africa". Journal of Tropical Ecology, 8, 4
- Hardin, G. (1968) "The Tragedy of the Commons". Science, 162, 1243–1248
- Fratkin, E. (1997) "Pastoralism: Governance & Development Issues". Annual Review of Anthropology, 26
- Fagan, B. (1999) "Drought Follows the Plow", adapted from Floods, Famines and Emperors: Basic Books.
- Fratkin, E. (1997) "Pastoralism: Governance & Development Issues". Annual Review of Anthropology, 26.
- Hardin, G. (1968) "The Tragedy of the Commons". Science, 162, 1243–1248.
- Hole, F. (1996). "The context of caprine domestication in the Zagros region'". in The Origins and Spread of Agriculture and Pastoralism in Eurasia. D. R. Harris (ed.). London, University College of London: 263-281.
- Lees, S & Bates, D. (1974) "The Origins of Specialized Nomadic Pastoralism: A Systematic Model". American Antiquity, 39, 2.
- Levy, T. E. (1983). "Emergence of specialized pastoralism in the Levant". World Archaeology 15(1): 15-37.
- Moran, E. (2006). People and Nature: An Introduction to Human Ecological Relations. UK: Blackwell Publishing.
- Pyne, Stephen J. (1997) Vestal Fire: An Environmental History, Told through Fire, of Europe and Europe's Encounter with the World. Seattle and London: University of Washington Press. ISBN 0-295-97596-2.
- Townsend, P. (2009). Environmental Anthropology: From Pigs to Policies. United States of America: Waveland Press.
- Wilson, K.B. (1992) "Rethinking Pastoral Ecological Impact in East Africa". Journal of Tropical Ecology, 8, 4.