Countries Where Nomadic Pastoralism Is Still A Way Of Life

Nomadic reindeer breeders in Yamal, Russia.
Nomadic reindeer breeders in Yamal, Russia.

Nomadic pastoralism is the practice of rearing livestock by moving with the animals from place to place in search of pasture. It is believed that the practice started as a result of Neolithic revolution, also known as the first agricultural revolution. At the time, humans had just managed to domesticate some animals and therefore moved with them to places with green pastures. The nomadic way of life is still practiced by some communities in the least developed nations. Nomadic pastoralism is largely practiced in arid and semi-arid areas. Animals reared by nomadic pastoralists include sheep, goats, cattle, donkeys, camels, horses, reindeer, and llamas among others. Some of the countries where nomadic pastoralism is still practiced include Kenya, Iran, India, Somalia, Algeria, Nepal, Russia, and Afghanistan.

Countries Where Nomadic Pastoralism Is Practiced


Kenya is an East African nation where nomadic pastoralism is commonly practiced. It is estimated that 80% of land in Kenya is arid or semi-arid. Communities such as Maasai, Samburu, Turkana, Pokot, and Somalis live in these dry areas and often move their animals from one place to another looking for areas with fresh pasture. Pastoralism is deeply rooted in the people’s lifestyle that the animals’ needs dominate their lives. The pastoralists value their animals, and they depend on their livestock for food, cultural needs, religious needs, and as a form of wealth. Some of the animals that are reared by the pastoralist communities are camels, donkeys, cattle, goats, and sheep.


Iran is a nation found in Western Asia. The country has approximately 2% of its population living as nomadic pastoralists. The nomads mostly rear large herds of poultry, goats, and sheep. They walk for long distances with their animals searching for pasture. Nomadic pastoralists in Iran do not have permanent homes. Instead, they use temporary shelters such as tents as they move from place to place. In most cases, herders live and care for their animals in clusters of two or more families. The herders depend on the goats and sheep for meat, milk, and cashmere which is a luxurious natural fiber commonly used in the textile industry. The Iranian nomads encounter several difficulties in their nomadic life such as predators, disease, and hostile communities.


India is an Asian nation which is home to several pastoralist tribes. Approximately 1.2% of the country’s population is classified as nomadic pastoralists. Some communities in the country practice farming and pastoralism at the same time. The pastoralists are mostly found on the hilly and arid parts of India. Nomads in India keep animals such as camels, cattle, buffalos, sheep, goats, and chicken. The pastoralists use their animals as a source of milk, meat, fur, manure, and leather. The pastoralists also use the animals for cultural and religious activities.


Somalia is a largely arid country situated on the horn of Africa. Due to its rough terrain and harsh weather, the country’s population is predominantly made of nomadic pastoralists. Somali pastoralists keep cattle, camels, and goats. The animals are the main source of livelihood for Somali pastoralists. Some of the cattle are slaughtered and exported to Middle Eastern nations, and the nomadic communities consume others. The major challenges herders experiences are drought and diseases. The nomads in Somali contribute to the country’s economic growth through exports.


Algeria is a country in North Africa. The nation has expansive grasslands that provide pasture for its pastoralists. Algerian pastoralists have been present since the pre-colonial times. They mostly keep goats, sheep, camels, and cattle. The number of pastoralists in Algeria has been declining due to the rise of alternative ways of living. Currently, only small scale pastoralists are found in the North African country. Nomadic Pastoralism in Algeria contributes income to the country. The sector also supports desert tourism which is a growing trend.


Nepal in Southern Asia is a country with a vibrant pastoralist community. The pastoralists mostly live in the mountainous regions of Nepal. Some of the livestock reared by the pastoral communities are horses, goats, sheep, and cattle. Some few pastoralists keep poultry. Pastoralism is a major economic contributor in Nepal. Besides being economically good for Nepal, pastoralists also develop and preserve rangelands in the country. Additionally, the Nepali pastoralists are a tourist attraction. International visitors come to the country to observe the pastoralists way of life.


Russia has a small community of nomadic pastoralist. The pastoralists belong to native tribes in the remote parts of the country. The Russian nomads mostly rear reindeer, cattle, and horses. The pastoralists help in conserving the vast lands with their nomadic pastoral lifestyle. The communities of herders in Russia experience diverse challenges in their daily lives. Some of the problems the nomadic pastoralists face are environmental calamities, bad weather, livestock diseases, and many more.


Afghanistan is a Central-Asian country with many nomadic pastoralists. Approximately 80% of the land in Afghanistan is rangeland used by pastoralist communities. The country is home to 1.5 million pastoralists who represent 4% of the population. Animals reared by the nomads include donkeys, camels, horses, sheep, and goats. The animals are the main source of livelihood for the nomadic people in Afghanistan.

Challenges Faced by Nomadic Pastoralists

Nomadic pastoralists in different parts of the world often experience different hardships in their lives. Communities that practice nomadic pastoralism are mostly comprised of poor rural people. Most of them are small scale producers who rear animals for subsistence use. Some of the challenges they face are limited resources, bad weather conditions, and poor infrastructure. In most places, grazing land is lost to development projects such as roads, buildings, and mining ventures. These projects leave nomadic pastoralists with no place to feed their livestock. Besides, uncontrolled grazing results in depletion of pasture for the pastoralists. This often leads to conflict between different nomadic pastoralist groups. Bad weather conditions such as lack of rainfall, heavy flooding, and storms often lead to the destruction of pastoralists’ property which leads to massive losses for the poor communities. Lastly, nomadic pastoralists are often marginalized in their countries. Due to their minimal contribution to the economy, most governments ignore the needs of nomadic pastoralists. Research shows that many nomadic pastoralists lack access to basic amenities such as healthcare, education, and other government services.


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