This research takes the case of the Southern Lowlands of Ethiopia, and explains the current situation with elements identified at three distinct levels: the narratives that dominate the common understanding of the pastoral livelihood; the history that brought the situation considered to be as it is now; the impact of the development and modernisation processes. The research highlights the importance of the interaction of different power, knowledge and value system. The viewpoint adopted, of "development as interface", looks at the social transformation, and at the role of development within it, and not only at the "development industry" as such. The institutional mechanisms that make aid happen are seen in their "process" dimension, where the modes in which the knowledge is produced fully reflect the institutional setting where that process takes place. Some of the mechanisms observed appear therefore rather in terms of "physiology" of the aid systems, rather than "malfunctioning"