2017 Volume 27 Issue 2 Pages 75-89
The purpose of this paper is to 1) understand the state and characteristics of the current dietary intake of Afar pastoralists living in the lower highland of northern Ethiopia at altitude 1,000-2,000 meters, 2) discuss their pastoralist subsistence strategy from the perspective of dietary intake, and 3) discuss how the social and economic changes are affecting their dietary intake and pastoralist subsistence strategy. Some of the characteristics of the dietary intake pattern include: 1) tendency to drink raw camel milk for breakfast, 2) heavy use of flour in cooking, 3) the key ingredients in their diet are flour, raw milk, sour milk, and butter oil, 4) lack of or very little use of meat or vegetables in their everyday diet, 5) diversification of meal contents in the recent years, and 6) sharing of meals with relatives and friends. The characteristics of their nutritional intake can summarized as follows: 1) about 70% of the caloric intake come from externally-supplied ingredients like flour, 2) food they can supply themselves consists mainly of raw milk and milk products; majority of the fat and protein in their diet come from raw milk and butter oil, and 3) even though their diet is largely based on just flour, raw milk, and milk products, the pastoralists get sufficient amount of calories, protein and fat. The study of the Afar agro-pastoralists and nomads showed that the main purpose of raising livestock is not to slaughter them for meat, but to keep them alive for their production of raw milk and milk products for personal consumption. This is the essence of pastoralist subsistence. In the 1960s before a periodic market started in a local village, their diet was approximately 80% reliant on raw milk and milk products. Today, they have become very reliant on food they purchase from outside sources, as distribution of goods increased and large quantities of food became available in the outlying market. The social and economic changes, such as development of distribution and economic liberalization have changed pastoralist subsistence from one that was fairly self-sufficient by keeping livestock alive and raising them for milk production to one that is heavily reliant on various foods purchased from outside sources and uses livestock more as trade commodity.