Doctoral Dissertation Research: Becoming Mobile Pastoralists: Desedentarization among the Ful'be of Tanout, Niger

  • Little, Peter (PI)
  • Greenough, Karen (CoI)

Grants and Contracts Details


DISSERTATIONRESEARCH PROJECTSUMMARY GREENOUGH Problem Statement: In central Niger certain Ful'be pastoralists challenge assumptions of the inevitable sedentarization of mobile people. Preliminary participation-observation in Tanout arrondissement, Republic of Niger, suggests that, in the past two decades, some sedentary households have desedentarized, giving up cultivation for a purely pastoral, mobile livelihood. This research will investigate the specific reasons for, and processes involved in a livelihood transition from sedentary agropastoralism to mobile pastoralism. Based on theories of entitlement exchange, livelihood security and the negotiation of agencies and local knowledges within households, the research hypothesizes that the transition to mobile pastoralism is a rational choice negotiated within households in an effort to improve livelihood security. Secondary hypotheses state that the households have increased their mobility as a risk management strategy, that individuals have altered their social networks, and that the livelihood transition has affected different household members in different ways. Methods and Analysis: The research uses a mixed methods approach in a comparative study, from household surveys and GPS mapping, to group interviews, in-depth individual interviews, and comprehensive participation observation. In March 2006, 40 newly mobile pastoral households and 40 sedentary households will be chosen for participation every three months in household surveys. These surveys will collect data on asset exchanges, social network links, geospatial mobility, and the economic activities, decisions and perspectives of individuals within households. Nine pastoral households will be chosen for in-depth case studies. Qualitative data will be coded and analyzed for patterns. Qualitative variables from household surveys will be analyzed quantitatively by statistically correlating different demographic variables with variables on asset exchanges, social networks and perceptions of livelihood security, mobility patterns and access to resources. Social networks will be analyzed quantitatively and qualitatively using UCINET, SPSS and Netdraw. Mobility and resource access will be analyzed through Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping software. Intellectual Merit: This research will contribute to research on mobile peoples, an interdisciplinary field of study that includes but is not limited to anthropology, sociology, geography, environmental sciences and development studies. It will also augment anthropological knowledge of household economics. Most research of livelihood transition among pastoralists studies the reasons for and effects of sedentarization. Research on desedentarization is rare, and none gives a comprehensive, in-depth analysis of the reasons for and effects of the desedentarization on different household members. This study will augment previous research with more detailed analyses on the different manifestations and consequences of increased mobility as a livelihood strategy. It will contribute to the analysis of pastoral social networks, the structural aspect of resource access, and push at the cutting edge of GPS/GIS analysis in ethnographical research. Broader Impacts: Recent paradigm shifts in the research of dryland ecology and new emphases on pastoral organizations and sustainable development have begun to shift development policy that has marginalized and discriminated against mobile pastoralists at least since colonization. Other research emphasizes the importance of understanding the dynamic relationships between the central state and settled communities on the one hand and peripheral, mobile communities on the other. This study will support the nascent shifts in development policy that favor the sustainable development of mobile peoples as reflected in a major United Nations initiative on Enhancing Sustainable Mobile Pastoralism. The resulting ethnography will be deposited with the collection at the Institut de Recherche en Sciences Humaines (IRSH) of the University Abdou Moumouni in Niamey, Niger, and will be available to national researchers and policy makers alike. The research will also augment the training of a female doctoral student. Dissertation Research: Project Summary Greenough 1
Effective start/end date4/15/063/31/07


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