ECOPAST (2011-2014)

Pastoral herding strategies and governmental management objectives: economic incentives and production in the Saami reindeer husbandry (ECOPAST)

The project was funded by the Research Council of Norway under the program Independent projects (FRIPRO) for Social Science (FRISAM), project number 204174.



The relationship between nomadic pastoralists and both national states and markets have been increasingly discussed in the literature.

Nevertheless, few studies have quantified their effects on pastoral adaptations.

The quantification of such effects is extremely important because pastoral development schemes are predominantly economic or political in nature.

Aim and Goals

The proposed project aims a filling this gap by investigating how economic inputs like:

  1. governmental production subsidies;
  2. predation compensation; and
  3. prices for reindeer meat, influence individual herders’ strategies in the reindeer husbandry in Norway.

Moreover, this project will also explore how regional differences in environmental conditions (e.g. climate; pastures; and abundance/density) interact with governmental management policies and influence individual herders’ production strategies.

Results and Management Implications

The Norwegian Government has an explicit aim to develop an ecologic, economic and cultural sustainable reindeer husbandry, and in order to achieve this goal the government is aiming to reduce the number of reindeer.

The underlying rationale is connected to the recent increase in reindeer abundance: while the number of reindeer in Norway has been characterized by considerable temporal variation (especially in the northernmost part of the country): from the early 1900 there was a decreasing trend that reached a minimum around the Second World War.

Afterwards, while fluctuating, there has been an upward trend that peaked in the early 1990s, decreased until 2000/2001 and has experienced an increase in recent years (in 2010 the number of reindeer again reached a historical high level).

The Norwegian Government uses two important tools to reduce the number of reindeer:

  • Economic incentives and subsidies aiming to stimulate reindeer herders to slaughter as many reindeer as possible; and
  • Redistributing semi-common winter pastures to smaller managerial units as clear area designations are assumed to be important for establishing the highest number of reindeer that herders’ can keep and still be ecological sustainable.


The project period was 2011-2014 (march). Below is a list of publications that grew out of the project. It will be updated as more become published.

  • Bårdsen, B.-J., Næss, M. W., Tveraa, T., Fauchald, P. & Langeland, K. (2014). Risk sensitive reproductive allocation: fitness consequences of body mass losses in two contrasting environments. Ecology and Evolution. 4(7):1030–1038.
  • Næss, M. W., Bårdsen, B.-J. (2013). Why Herd Size Matters – Mitigating the Effects of Livestock Crashes. PLoS ONE 8(8): e70161.
  • Næss, M. W. (2013). Climate Change, Risk Management and the End of Nomadic Pastoralism. International Journal of Sustainable Development & World Ecology 20(2):123-133.
  • Næss, M. W., Bårdsen, B.-J. & Tveraa, T. (2012). Wealth dependent and interdependent strategies in the Saami reindeer husbandry, Norway. Evolution and Human Behavior 33(6): 696-707.
  • Næss, M. W. (2012). Cooperative pastoral production – reconceptualizing the relationship between pastoral labor and production. American Anthropologist 114(2):309-321.
  • Næss, M. W. (2012). Tibetan Nomads Facing an Uncertain Future: Impacts of Climate Change on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, in Lamadrid, A & Kelman, I. (eds.), Climate Change Modeling for Local Adaptation in the Hindu Kush-Himalayan Region, Environment and Disaster Risk Management, Volume 11, pp. 99-122. Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
  • Næss, M. W., Bårdsen, B.-J., Pedersen, E. and Tveraaa, T. (2011). Pastoral herding strategies and governmental management objectives: predation compensation as a risk buffering strategy in the Saami reindeer husbandry. Human Ecology 39(4):489-508.

MWN © 2013


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