Modelling the impacts of group ranch subdivision on agro-pastoral households in Kajiado, Kenya

P. K. Thornton, S. B. BurnSilver, R. B. Boone, K. A. Galvin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


Pastoral communities in East Africa are facing considerable challenges arising from shifts in land tenure policy from communal to individual landholdings and high human population growth rates. Over the last 30 years, livestock-to-human ratios have generally declined to levels that will no longer support pure pastoralism. Many Maasai have thus diversified into cultivation, wage labour, and small businesses. Livelihood expectations are rising, with concomitant increases in the need for cash. We describe the modification of PHEWS, a simple rule-based model that tracks cash flow and calories in agro-pastoral households. We use it, coupled to Savanna, a sophisticated ecosystem model, to quantify some of the effects of subdivision and land fragmentation on household livestock numbers and on food security. For the group ranches simulated, model outputs indicate that subdivision results in substantial reductions in livestock numbers, partially because households have to sell more animals to generate the cash needed, with serious long-term consequences on herd sizes and food security. If subdivision occurs, even to parcels as large as 196 km2, livelihood strategies may need to be modified to maintain current levels of household well-being. Model results have been discussed in community meetings in southern Kajiado, but more work is needed on communication mechanisms to utilise more effectively the results of imperfect but useful integrated assessments of complex problems concerning land use and human well-being.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)331-356
Number of pages26
JournalAgricultural Systems
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Household model
  • Kajiado District
  • Savanna
  • Subdivision

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Agronomy and Crop Science


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