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Open Access Seeing Cattle like a State: Sedentist Assumptions of the Namibian Livestock Identification and Traceability System

This article is Open Access under the terms of the Creative Commons CC BY-NC licence.

Livestock identification and traceability systems (LITS) are an increasingly prominent component of national livestock development policies around the world. In theory, LITS allow governments to track and respond to disease and livestock theft efficiently. However, this paper argues that LITS are suffused with sedentist assumptions that are at odds with the livestock management practices of pastoralist communities. Drawing on qualitative interviews with implementing bureaucrats and affected pastoralist communities as well as one author's experience of growing up and managing cattle in a pastoralist community, we review the sedentist assumptions that animate the Namibian Livestock Identification and Traceability System (NamLITS) and describe how pastoralists in north-western Namibia perceive that NamLITS has affected their economic, social and political lives. We then show the strategies that pastoralists use to comply and circumvent NamLITS, and conclude with lessons for governments and development practitioners considering livestock tracing systems and mobile communities affected by them.

Keywords: Africa; Namibia; livestock tracing; pastoralism; sedentism

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2023

More about this publication?
  • Nomadic Peoples is an international journal published by the White Horse Press for the Commission on Nomadic Peoples, International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences. Its primary concerns are the current circumstances of all nomadic peoples around the world and their prospects. Its readership includes all those interested in nomadic peoples, scholars, researchers, planners and project administrators.
    Nomadic Peoples has a Journal Impact Factor (2022) of 0.9. 5 Year Impact Factor: 0.9.
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