In contrast to their sedentary image, farmers in Central and South Mali are surprisingly mobile. Many have settled in scattered farming hamlets where they are rapidly expanding the areas under agriculture. This study focuses on farmers’ mobility in relation to accessing land in two regions in Mali where farming conditions are very different regarding rainfall, population growth and opportunities for income generation. It is shown that differences in farming conditions in the two regions have shaped the different temporal and spatial dimensions of farmers’ mobility. This mobility is, however, not just a reaction to changing farming conditions but also part of local political processes, including conflict, that mediate farmers’ access to land. By highlighting the crucial role of farming conditions and farmers’ mobility in these political processes, this study adds a fresh geographical dimension to ways of thinking about access to land, land use and conflict in West Africa and beyond.