The droughts that ravaged many of the pastoral lowland areas of the Horn of Africa from 1997 to 2000 have drawn attention to the seemingly intractable problem of preventing famine and promoting development in these areas, which are frequently wracked by both natural and man-made calamities. Pastoralists are often among the most vulnerable groups in a society, and yet conventional approaches to the delivery of humanitarian assistance, basic services, and developmental investment are maladapted to pastoral populations, many of whom practice perennial migration utilizing patterns of movement that are only partially understood outside pastoral communities themselves. In this paper, we maintain that special models for service delivery need to be developed to meet the particular demands of pastoralists. Drawing on experiences in the Somali National Regional State of Ethiopia, we advocate for the establishment of a migrant tracking system and trace out the main components of such a system, arguing that any method for collecting and interpreting information on migratory patterns must be driven by a deep analysis of ethnic identity, group structure, and indigenous knowledge systems.

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