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January 9, 2013

Mixed Farming

This paper analyses mixed farming in the context of pure pastoralism and crop production. In many parts of the world today i.e. Western Australia, most parts of Asia, and East and West Africa; peri-urban pastoralist today have intensified livestock rearing by feeding the animals farm products. Consequently, the animal manure is used in the farms. There is, however, some differences areas, which livestock-crop interaction can be explained through Bourdieu’s’ theory of habitus and capital (Bourdieu, 211).

Crop and livestock production can be looked at from evolution of mix –farming and not pastoral farming. There is a difference between mixed farming and intensive pastoralism. This paper analyses the difference through Bourdieu’s theory. Mixed farming has been driven by population pressure over land resources. Animals serve several purposes in mix farming such as production of manure, tillage of land, transportation means, and a source of farm monetary capital. Patrol farming, on the other hand can be intensified on its own and not as a comportment of mixed farming. It can be developed with major focus over animal husbandry.

Pastoralist in many countries have encroached agricultural lands and, conversely, agricultural have also moved into pastoral lands. As a result, social and geographical systems are developed in the two processes. The work of agricultural extension officers has also intensified the processes. Mixed farming has majorly been viewed as a practice born out of reduction of pastoral land forcing the pastoral communities to settle down in farming rather than an intensification of pastoral farming. Contrary, pastoral system can be intensified through intensification of labour, capital investment and technological adaptation.

Bourdieu’s theory of distinction and practice can be applied in understanding of mixed farming and intensive pastoral system. Concepts of habitus, structure, practical logic, practice, and social, economic, cultural and symbolic capital have been applied to create this understanding. Practice theory determines the different decision making systems between intensive pastoral communities and mixed farmers. Distinction theory can create understanding on the way some pastoral communities draw capital for extensive pastoral activities (Bourdieu, 233).

Practice theory determines how systems and individuals shape one another. Practice is developed under the concept of habitus and practice. Habitus are acquired disposition system of an individual. They are acquired in through experiences and interactions within the society. Habitus determine everyday life an individual. Practice can be understood by taking life as a game. Games are governed by rules; however, the rules do not shape the way and individual play. Players achieve their maximum potential through constant practice and experience. Players play differently, likewise, their teams. Cattle in farming communities are seen as source of capital, manure, food and transport. Contrary, pastoral communities see cattle as symbolic value and part of social structures. The conceptions, influences each individual’s habitus but cannot influence decision made by each group.<…>

Pastoral communities faces a lot of insecurity challenges, as result, some permanently split their animals and employ herdsmen who takes care of the animals in the plains. However, entrusting herders with animals offer other challenges as some cannot be trusted with animals. At home, they aggressively search for fodder at the most possible cost effective means. Some even farm some land to grow fodder for their animals.

Habitus and history of pastoralist in West Africa and East Africa show that West Africa communities are Islamic communities who preferred to herd around urban centres. The East African communities on the other hand kept their animals in the bushes far away from major populated areas. The culture of West African pastoralist encouraged commercial activities as compared to the East African group. Each and every group of pastoralist communities have distinct cultural, economic and social systems that gear their everyday lives (Bassett and Turner, 36).

Population pressure and challenges of insecurity has made Peri-urban pastoralists have their unique way of making decisions. Peri-urban pastoralist does not herd themselves but their experience and knowledge enable them manage their animals through trusted herdsmen. These pastoralist communities have their unique values and goals that act as a root to decision making. Their decisions are quite different with the decisions of mixed farmers. They struggle to get cotton seed primarily for survival of their animals while mixes farmers aim to increase milk and meat production for commercial purposes. Habitus also shapes the social links of the Peri-urban pastoralist with their communities and entrusted herders. Consequently, mixed farmers’ social interaction is geared toward commercial links i.e. their customers and suppliers.

Bourdieu habitus theory shows that there is a distinction between communities engaged in mixed farming and those of Peri-urban pastoralists. Mix farmers use livestock to support their farming, conversely, pastotal intensification use crops to support their livestock. Mixed farmers values crop production more that their livestock while Peri-urban pastoralists’ value their animals more than crops. As such, the cultural, economic and social drivers of the two groups are different. The differences can be seen from the aspect of the community’s values and attitudes toward crops and livestock and their decision making system. The communities also differ in practical knowledge and experiences.

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