Livestock production among urban negev bedouin

A. Allan Degen, Shaher El-Meccawi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Traditionally, Negev Bedouin were nomadic pastoralists who relied on their camels, sheep and goats for their livelihood. Today, about half of the 180,000 Negev Bedouin live in urban settlements and most men have entered the waged labour market; nonetheless, livestock are still very important in their traditions and lifestyle. In the urban settlement of Tel Sheva, 68% of the households raise animals. Women have become central actors in the production of urban livestock, handling poultry and much of the raising of sheep and goats. Why do Bedouin continue to raise livestock in the confined urban setting? Some Bedouin have large flocks and/or herds and livestock are their prime source of income. Another reason given by many other Bedouin is that keeping livestock allows them to maintain their traditional lifestyle. Furthermore, many women have to stay within the confines of the household to care for children and the home and livestock production is compatible with this arrangement. However, economic difficulties and high unemployment in the waged labour market may also provide some explanation. Incomes of urban Bedouin families are among the lowest in the country and unemployment is high. Retention of some livestock, which provides families with milk and other dairy products, as well as with meat and eggs, may be a rational choice as a supplement for those Bedouin who are financially stressed. Furthermore, this provides cash and acts as a hedge against the risk of unemployment and, if sheep, goat and camel production does become more profitable, owning some animals makes it easier to start such an enterprise.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)327-335
Number of pages9
JournalOutlook on Agriculture
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2009


  • Gender roles
  • Livestock
  • Market economy
  • Urban Negev Bedouin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Agronomy and Crop Science


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