Overgrazing the Range? Ethnoveterinary Medicine and Changing Views of Rangeland Ecology

EPA Grant Number: U915142
Title: Overgrazing the Range? Ethnoveterinary Medicine and Changing Views of Rangeland Ecology
Investigators: Davis, Diana K.
Institution: University of California - Berkeley
EPA Project Officer: Lee, Sonja
Project Period: January 1, 1997 through January 1, 2000
Project Amount: $102,000
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (1997) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Fellowship - Geography , Academic Fellowships , Ecological Indicators/Assessment/Restoration


The objectives of this research project are to: (1) compare the Aarib camel nomads' local knowledge of range ecology as revealed in their ethnoveterinary knowledge and practice with some of the most recent advances in "scientific" ecological research in arid rangelands to elucidate the similarities; and (2) show whether or not the rangelands in southern Morocco are suffering from intense degradation due primarily to "irrational" overstocking and overgrazing by pastoralists in the region.


Interdisciplinary methodologies that combine quantitative and qualitative approaches are incorporated into this research. Four main methods are being used, including: archival/documentary research, survey interviews, ethnography, and physical analysis. Research is being conducted with two different pastoral groups generating a comparative analysis, which elucidates the effects of the different levels of "modern" and "traditional" veterinary knowledge and practice on ecological knowledge and on patterns of rangeland resource use. Historical/archival research provides information that allows me to construct the history of the livestock sector and the development of rangeland policy in Morocco.

Formal interviews provide data to document ecological and ethnoveterinary knowledge as well as practice and how this knowledge differs by gender, age, and wealth. I am conducting 100 interviews, 50 with each of the two groups mentioned above using random sampling methods. Ethnography, consisting of oral histories and participant observation, provides important diachronic information. Detailed oral histories are being conducted with women and men in each location to show how local knowledge and practice has changed over time in response to social, political, and economic changes. Participant observation, especially when movements of livestock are occurring, provide key information on how resource use decisions are actually made by pastoralists.

Physical analysis of the regional ecology (drawn from published studies on pollen and sediment analysis, rainfall and drought patterns, and ecological change, as well as ongoing research at Moroccan scientific institutions) and ethnoveterinary medicine (including diagnostic exams, postmortem exams, and collection and analysis of ethnoveterinary treatments—botanical, mineral, and animal) provide data, which further explain local perceptions and classifications of livestock disease and local ecology and resources. These data augment the information obtained by other methods.

The results of this research aim to show if land degradation is occurring in the pastoral zones of southern Morocco, and whether it is due to herder irrationality or to forces such as changes in national agricultural policies, which may be based on misunderstandings of the regional ecology.

Supplemental Keywords:

fellowship, ethnoveterinary medicine, rangeland ecology, arid rangelands, southern Morocco, overstocking, overgrazing., RFA, Scientific Discipline, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Monitoring/Modeling, Environmental Monitoring, Ecology and Ecosystems, rangeland security, conservation, land degradation, environmental stress, land use, grazing, land management

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 1997
  • 1998
  • Final