Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The last straw

"High fodder prices, drought and government policies have caused a sharp drop in livestock numbers in Jordan in the past year, affecting livelihoods and meat prices, agriculture experts say.

"Many livestock breeders slaughtered their animals after the government's decision last year to slash fodder subsidies to livestock breeders," Ahmad al-Faour, president of the Jordan Farmers' Union (JFU), told IRIN.

"The abrupt decision left the farmers confused and many of them chose to slaughter their animals because they couldn't afford to buy animal feed at high global prices," he said.

"Jordan is a rural and Bedouin society. Many people rely on animal husbandry to make a living. It is a traditional way of life. It is difficult to abandon it and switch to something else," he said, adding that slaughtering the animals and selling them did not benefit livestock breeders who ended up being exploited by middlemen, according to al-Faour.
" (Thanks Rania)

It has been a bad year for people who keep small ruminants (sheep and goats) in full or semi grazing systems. Forage prices have been very high and the poor rainfall wasn't sufficient to enrich pastures. Straw prices have been exceptionally high this year all over Lebanon, as sheep and goats compete with the more capital intensive cow production. Bedouins suffer most because semi-nomadic sheep production is essentially the food system many rely on for their livelihoods. I have heard horror stories from Syria where one Bedouin flock-owner committed suicide because he could not afford to feed his 1,000 heads of sheep and they were emaciated and dying like flies. Historically, Bedouins have been the most affected social group in case of droughts. This has often led to violence. Check previous posts on this issue here and here and here and here. By the way this is evolving into a real research project. I presented a review of the impact of environmental change on the Bedouins of Jordan in Oxford
last April, and will be presenting a paper on the Bedouins of Lebanon and Jordan in Berlin in late October and in Cairo in early November.

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