Livelihood diversification: continuity and change in the Sahel
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- Elmqvist, B. & Olsson, L. GeoJournal (2006) 67: 167. doi:10.1007/s10708-007-9043-6
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Livelihood diversification can be crucial for poor rural households in the African Sahel. Migration is a common diversification strategy during the dry season, but there are also areas with significant strategies on the farm, such as incomes from gum and resins. Sudan is a country where the income from gum arabic, the gum from the Acacia senegal tree, has played a large economic role for smallholders for generations, but there are signs of a declining production which is detrimental if people have no alternative incomes. The results showed that in parts of the country, the 1984 drought caused an event-driven change resulting in a discontinuation of production. However, in other parts of the country, the agricultural system providing gum arabic proved to be more resilient to the drought and the incomes from gum arabic still play a large role. The results illustrated a complexity of driving forces, regional differences and a large variability in incomes between households. Some causes were indirect such as prices, drought, precipitation and locust, whereas the others were direct and hence more controllable by households. This study underlined the direct causes, such as how labour input is prioritised between livelihood activities, which have not been given as much attention in previous literature. Secondly, the need for a holistic view of livelihoods is underlined in order to understand the future of gum arabic production. Empirical data were collected from extensive fieldwork.