Human Ecology

, Volume 36, Issue 1, pp 59–80 | Cite as

Changing Access to Labor, Pastures, and Knowledge: The Extensification of Grazing Management in Sudano-Sahelian West Africa

  • Matthew D. TurnerEmail author
  • Pierre Hiernaux


The broader ecological and social contexts within which livestock husbandry of Sudano-Sahelian West Africa operates have changed significantly over the past thirty years. This study concerns how: (1) these broader trends have affected the quantity and quality of labor investments into livestock herding; and (2) the ecological and animal nutritional implications of observed variation in labor investments into herding. The study was conducted in a 500 km2 area of western Niger using a combination of qualitative interviews of herders and herd managers, household composition surveys, herd composition monitoring, grazing management monitoring and georeferenced vegetation and livestock grazing itinerary data. Statistical analyses were performed using a two-staged approach: (1) analysis of the factors affecting the allocation of labor to herding at the level of the managing household; and (2) analysis of the effect of herd characteristics, season, microgeography and herders’ social position on herders’ effort and the nutritional and ecological impacts of these efforts. The results of these analyses support the conclusion that the changing regional context of livestock husbandry leads to a reduction in labor (quantity and quality) investment or an “extensification” of herding with significant implications for livestock productivity and the environment.


Pastoralism Nonequilibrium ecology Political ecology Rangeland management Labor shortage West Africa 



This research was primarily funded by the International Livestock Research Institute. In addition, Turner received support from the Graduate School of the University of Wisconsin and the Rockefeller Foundation. We thank Amadou Sodja, Oumarou Moumouni, Soumana Amadou, and Amadou Kalilou for assistance in data collection. We are indebted to the farmers and herders of the study area, whose patience and participation greatly improved the quality of the research.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeographyUniversity of WisconsinMadisonUSA
  2. 2.International Livestock Research Institute, ICRISAT Sahelian CentreNiameyNiger
  3. 3.Centre d’Etudes Spatiales de la Biosphère, CESBIOToulouse Cedex 4France

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