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National Science Foundation (USA) 2006

Charity or Mobility ? Changing Response Mechanisms of Herders Faced with Severe Conditions of Famine in Northern Mali and Central Niger, 1968-2005

Herders Famine Sahel


Titre : Charity or Mobility ? Changing Response Mechanisms of Herders Faced with Severe Conditions of Famine in Northern Mali and Central Niger, 1968-2005

Organismes NSF : Division Of Behavioral and Cognitive Sci (BCS)

Durée : July 1, 2006 — December 31, 2008

Diversification in African livelihood systems has been a growing phenomenon for the past forty years as people have moved from the countryside to the urban centers seeking formal and informal opportunities and, in extreme cases, food aid or other types of assistance. For some, however, the transition from rural to urban dweller has been difficult, as many face the problems of crime, unemployment, and obstacles in securing basic necessities such as food. This research examines pastoralists who have recently experienced famine in Mali and Niger and investigates how they have procured food in the past, how their strategies have changed over time and the forces that have prompted these changes. The study employs political ecology as a theoretical framework to identify the various actors that directly or indirectly affect pastoral responses to drought and famine. The concepts of power relations, access to environmental resources and vulnerability drive the relations pastoralists have with others and actions in their local communities. A pilot study will be conducted in northern Mali and central Niger to identify communities susceptible to famine by employing oral histories and structured interviews. The pilot data will then be compared against regional datasets such as the Famine Early Warning Systems and archival data to determine the relative intensity of such events in the study area versus the rest of the region and to determine whether or not the study sites might be considered representative of a broader set of pastoral communities across Sahelian west Africa. Localities that both reflect regional data predictions or archival evidence and ones that are different will be investigated further using semi-structured interviews of households to provide quantitative data used in comparison with the different study sites. Data from the semi-structured interviews will be categorized and compared through chi square analyses and regression analyses in identifying variance between the different regions. Finally, a global positioning system unit will be implemented in recording the past and present paths of mobility between different groups at these sites in Mali and Niger and this data will be compared both temporally within each field site and spatially between different study sites.
The results of this study will contribute to the larger body of Sahelian studies by investigating and analyzing how pastoralists both historically and presently respond to food shortages, how these responses have changed, and the forces that have led to historical and current food shortages in pastoral societies. Information derived from this research will enhance geographic understanding of food security among pastoralists and provide suggestions for monitoring changes in food security and vulnerability in the drier regions of the Sahel. Regarding policy making, this study can affect policy direction in governmental projects (both local and national) involving pastoral communities by illustrating how unintended outcomes of policy decisions, while well intentioned, affect herders’ abilities to respond to food crises. Also, given the very recent famines in both Mali and Niger, this type of investigation will update both the academic community and policy makers as to the status of often isolated pastoral communities. It will provide concrete suggestions for assisting such groups while ensuring their long-term food security and livelihood viability. Finally, the support provided through this award will further the dissertation and career goals of a promising doctoral candidate in the Geography program at West Virginia University.

Partenaire (s) : Brent McCusker Brent.McCusker (Principal Investigator)

Sponsor  : West Virginia University Research Corporation P.O. Box 6845 Morgantown, WV 26506-6845 (304)293-3998

Financement : $10,274.00

Présentation (National Science Foundation)

Page publiée le 7 juin 2017, mise à jour le 3 novembre 2017