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

Matthew D. Turner, John G. McPeak, Augustine Ayantunde

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

77 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)231-247
Number of pages17
JournalHuman Ecology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2014


  • Agropastoralism
  • Climate variability
  • Sahel
  • Vulnerability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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