Human Ecology

, Volume 42, Issue 2, pp 231–247 | Cite as

The Role of Livestock Mobility in the Livelihood Strategies of Rural Peoples in Semi-Arid West Africa

  • Matthew D. TurnerEmail author
  • John G. McPeak
  • Augustine Ayantunde


Over the past 10 years, mobility of livestock has been portrayed as increasing the resilience of rural households in semi-arid Africa to climate change and variability. With this recognition, there has been important work characterizing livestock mobility and the barriers to it. This paper adds to this work by addressing two gaps in the literature: 1. An understanding in the variation of livestock mobility practices among communities; and 2. An understanding of rural peoples’ views of the advantages and disadvantages of livestock mobility as well as the factors affecting their decisions about herd movements. A mixed-methods approach was adopted to analyze data collected by household survey and group interviews conducted in 32 multi-ethnic villages in Mali and Niger spanning the 12.5° N to 16.5° N latitudinal range. The results of regression and qualitative analyses show that: 1. A large fraction of rural households rely on livestock as part of their livelihood strategies; 2. Grazing management of a large majority of village livestock depends on movements outside of the village territory, especially during the rainy season; 3. The mobility of village livestock is not strongly influenced by the village’s sociprofessional composition (farmer, herder, fisher, artisan..etc.); and 4. The prevalence of extra-village movements of village livestock (sheep and cattle) is higher in areas of higher population density. Despite the advantages of livestock mobility cited by informants, longer-distance movements are inhibited by risks associated with climatic, land-use, and sociopolitical change. Herd managers make decisions using diverse information about potential destinations with greater trust of information gathered by themselves or close kin. The implications of these findings for livestock management and policy in the region are discussed.


Agropastoralism Climate variability Sahel Vulnerability 



We thank our research assistants and interviewed villagers for this study. Fieldwork in Mali was supported by the Office of Agriculture, Bureau of Economic Growth, Agriculture and Trade, United States Agency for International Development, under Grant No. PCE-G-00-98-00036-00 to University of California, Davis. Fieldwork in Niger was supported by CGIAR Systemwide Livestock Program (SLP) under the Project: "Identifying livestock-based risk management and coping options to reduce vulnerability to droughts in agro-pastoral and pastoral systems in East and West Africa". The interpretations and opinions in this article are solely those of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthew D. Turner
    • 1
    Email author
  • John G. McPeak
    • 2
  • Augustine Ayantunde
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of GeographyUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA
  2. 2.Maxwell School, Public Administration and International AffairsSyracuse UniversitySyracuseUSA
  3. 3.International Livestock Research Institute, ICRISAT Sahelian CentreNiameyNiger
  4. 4.International Livestock Research Institute, ICRISATBamakoMali

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