Reconciling Flexibility and Tenure Security for Pastoral Resources: The Geography of Transhumance Networks in Eastern Senegal

Matthew D. Turner, John G. McPeak, Kramer Gillin, Erin Kitchell, Niwaeli Kimambo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


The need to maintain or increase livestock mobility in arid Africa has been widely embraced by ecologists, social scientists, and more recently regional governments. These movements are seen to sustain livestock production under a highly variable and changing climate. At the same time, livestock mobility is threatened by the expansion of agriculture onto rangelands. A major conundrum raised in the pastoral development literature is the potential contradiction of the need for spatially-fixed, exclusionary forms of tenure to protect key pastoral resources with the need for socially-porous open systems of resource tenure that ensure flexible access. This has been called the "paradox of pastoral land tenure." By adopting a transhumance corridor network approach, this paper demonstrates that there is a middle ground where flexible access can be maintained within a fixed network of corridors. A transhumance network includes not only the physical paths or corridors followed by livestock herds but also the encampment sites where livestock pass the night while moving along corridors and the water sources linked to encampment site. This study mapped and characterized 5000 km of corridors, 744 encampments, and 1010 water points in eastern Senegal. These pastoral features form a network of interconnected resources providing alternative options for travel, water, and forage as herds move along a north-south trajectory. The research analyzes spatial variation in the network's ability to provide these services (water, quality forage, and travel) as influenced by rainfall variability, cropping pressure, and social institutions. Four distinct zones within the study area were compared with analyses showing variation among them in the importance of different factors shaping access. More broadly, the study demonstrates that extant transhumance networks accommodate the competing needs of pastoral tenure security by facilitating herd movements in response to changing resource availabilities through a series of spatially-fixed components (encampment sites, water points, and corridors) that can be recognized and protected through legislation. Thus, the demands for tenure security and flexible patterns of resource use can both be potentially accommodated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)199-215
Number of pages17
JournalHuman Ecology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016


  • Climate variability
  • Fulani
  • Pastoral mobility
  • Resilience
  • West Africa

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Ecology


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