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Volume :34 Issue : 129 2008      Add To Cart                                                                    Download

Grazing Groups in Suman and Northern Parts of Saudi Arabia: A Study of Their Demographic Characteristics and Social and Economic Attributes

Auther : Prof. Rshood M. Khraif-Dr. Abdullah N. Al-Mutairi-Dr. Hamad M. Al-Ashaikh-Dr. Abdullah S. Al-Zahrani-Dr. Abdullah Al-Hajouj

     Population studies concerned with grazing groups in general and the Bedouins in particular are scarce. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to present the demographic, social and economic characteristics of families that are grazing or owning herds of animals (i.e., camels, sheep, and goats) in both Suman and Northern parts of Saudi Arabia (i.e., parts of Al-Jouf and Nothern Borders). The Study is also concerned with their views and intentions towards settling down in nearby villages and towns. It utilized the data of field survey that was conducted in Suman and Northern parts of Saudi Arabia during the last three months of 2005 and covered about 452 families. Based on the survey data, it was found that a large proportion of heads of grazing families were born in the desert (i.e., outside cities and villages of the country) with some difference between Suman and Northern part of the Kingdom. It was also found that 64% of heads of families were living permanently with their herds. A larger proportion was found in the Northern part of the Kingdom, while a smaller proportion was noticed in Suman. This reflects changes that the nomadic life style has witnessed, which means that not all heads of families were living with their herds in the desert anymore. That is, some heads of families were still living permanently with their herds, while others were living in villages and towns and come from time to time to observe their animals. On the other hand, the age composition of heads of families seemed to be old. About 95% of them were over 30 years old. The mean age of all heads is about 55 years. The illiteracy rate was very high among heads of households; it reaches 62% among all heads. Most heads (72%) had no other jobs beside grazing their herds, but variations existed between areas.

     With regards to all family members included in the sample, the picture seems to be different. A little more than half of the families indicated that they were living permanently with their herds of animals. Arab traditional tents were most common housing type among families who were living permanently with their herds. On the contrary, villas were the most common housing type among families living in towns and villages in permanent basis. The illiteracy rate is relatively high among members of grazing families. About 46% of all individuals (15 years or older) was illiterate. It was also found that 73% of all individuals (15 years or older) was neither employed nor enrolled in schools or colleges with some geographical differences between Suman and the Northern part of the Kingdom. On the other hand, the family size is relatively large, reaching about nine individuals on average. The size of was families living permanently with their herds even larger than (10 individuals). On the opposite, families living temporarily with their herds were smaller (i.e. less than 9). It was also found that having a house maid was uncommon among grazing families in general. Only 14% had a maid for helping with house works. Larger proportion of families (25%) was noticed in Suman, while only 5% of families living in Northern parts of the Kingdom had a maid.

     With regard to the issue of settling down in villages and towns, the majority (70%) of heads of families living permanently with their herds did not wish to settle down in villages and towns.

     In general, social and economic changes in the Bedouin way of life were clearly witnessed. The traditional grazing type, where families follow their herds, was not as widespread as it was once existed

     Finally, several recommendations and suggestions were drawn. First, it is important to pay ample efforts in order to develop a national strategy that is concerned with grazing environment in general, emphasizing its three important components (i.e., people, animals, pasture or grazing land). Second, programs and policies to encourage settlements of Bedouins should continue. Third, efforts to provide necessary services should be enhanced. Finally, more studies in the area of nomads demography and their way of life, in addition to studies that find means to conserve and develop grazing land should be encouraged.

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