Publications

Changing population mobility in West Africa : Fulbe pastoralists in central and south Mali

Bruijn, M. de; Dijk, Han van

Summary

Mobility is the most important response by the inhabitants of the Sahel to climatic adversity. This 'condition sahélienne', characterized by unstable climatic circumstances, irregular rainfall patterns and periods of drought, has an important influence on people's decision-making processes regarding their livelihood. Migration studies mainly focus on labour migration to urban areas. Although mobility is part of the repertoire of Sahelian people, the form it takes varies considerably between social groups and individuals, and over time. In this article we focus on a neglected and almost invisible category of rural-rural migrants in the Sahel, more specifically on Fulbe pastoral people and their developments over the last three decades in the Sahel and the Sudan zone of West Africa and the economic and social conditions in which they find themselves. It concludes that these rural-rural migrations are deeply engrained in cultural patterns in West Africa, exemplified by specific institutions for dealing with hosts and strangers. However, mobility is often not a planned process, and all kinds of survival strategies are used in a very flexible manner. The phenomenon has given rise to a specific character of cultural dynamics and ways of defining identify for the people involved.