Doctoral Dissertation Research: Variable Spatial and Temporal Strategies for Livestock Management

Project: Research project

Project Details


This doctoral dissertation research project will focus on the role of women in pastoral herd management strategies. Despite the global scope of pastoralism and the fact that two-thirds of the world's 600 million poor livestock keepers are women, little is known about how women contribute to livestock management. While much is known about the ways in which male herders manage inputs (forage available to livestock) and expenditures (distance required to move to access that forage), there is little information on the ways that output (milk yields) and investment (future energy stores for cows, their calves, and for human sustenance) are managed. This doctoral dissertation research project will focus on milk production and management strategies to reveal the ways in which women's diverse socio-spatial and environmental knowledge affect herd-production strategies within the household. Studying a region in southern Kenya, the doctoral student will employ mixed methods, including ethnographic and physiological data collected in focal households, semi-structured interviews, and focus groups to assess how livestock management strategies vary by gender and how decisions by women regarding output and investment shape livestock management strategies. Strategies to be examined include intra- and inter-household negotiations to wean calves earlier or later in the season depending on anticipated or uncertain drought, ensuring that proper rest for cattle showing signs of joint stress or disease, and ensuring that both young calves and humans have access to adequate amounts of milk on a daily basis.

This project will enhance basic research about gender and development and human-environment relations by integrating theories and perspectives from political ecology, feminist and gender studies, and environmental physiology to analyze the relationships between humans and animals in heterogeneous dryland environments. The project will yield qualitative and quantitative reports about pre-and post-milking strategies, milk yield and quality scores, animal health indices, and animal behavioral observations in order to better understand the gendered nature of livestock management practices. This project will produce new information and insights regarding how herd management practices are related to livestock well-being and maintenance, particularly given the nutritional, economic, and social significance of milk for food security in pastoral communities. The research will contribute to policy development by enhancing existing analyses of livestock-based development efforts that tend to focus more on herding and grazing patterns rather than milking processes. Societal benefits are expected to include new knowledge that facilitates enhanced food production in parts of the world where maintenance and expansion of food supplies are critical for human health and welfare. As a Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement award, this project will also provide support to enable a promising student to establish a strong independent research career.

Effective start/end date9/1/132/28/15


  • National Science Foundation: $12,878.00


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