A Conference of the Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers)

The Sahel - 25 years after the great drought. Assessing Progress - Setting a New Agenda

The conference took place on Wednesday 13th May 1998
Royal Geographical Society, 1 Kensington Gore, London SW7 2AR, UK.

Proceedings were published as a special issue of Global Environmental Change, detailed below.

A one-day conference convened by Andrew Warren (Department of Geography, UCL awarren@ucl.ac.uk) and Simon Batterbury (SAGES, Univ of Melbourne, www.simonbatterbury.net)

CONFERENCE REPORT by Simon Batterbury

With kind support from  the Department for International Development (West and North Africa Department) the Drylands Programme at IIED ;  the Developing Areas Research Group of the RGS-IBG and  British Airways

It is time to reassess the nature and direction of research into the African Sahel's problems. This region is frequently viewed as a microcosm for the 'African crisis', and indeed the Sahel was devastated by the major droughts and resultant food shortages of the 1970s. Since that time, the international research and donor community has redoubled its efforts to understand and provide solutions to human and environmental disasters and persistent poverty, and to comprehend the Sahel's dynamic - and successful - economic and social adaptations.

·        Two sets of questions arise:
Firstly, in retrospect, have the most important issues been addressed by the research and policy community? Have the links between research and practice been too weak in the past?

·        Secondly, in prospect, will new research methods and paradigms be more effective ? is it helpful to contest established views on development trajectories, environmental change, international aid transfers, and political models? should more attention be paid to institutions and policies, such as for land tenure, decentralisation, macro-policies, and community participation ? This meeting brought together prominent European and African experts from different research traditions to re-consider Sahelian research priorities.

An article setting out current trends in the Sahel of West Africa, and providing guidance on the themes of the conference, was published in the May 1998 issue of The Geographical magazine. Here is a longer version of the text by Simon Batterbury.

The conference papers are published in an issue of Global Environmental Change (2001) v11, no 1, 1-95, edited by Simon Batterbury and Andrew Warren.  




The African Sahel 25 years after the great drought: assessing progress and
moving towards new agendas and approaches

Simon Batterbury, Andrew Warren

1 -- 8

Societies and nature in the Sahel: ecological diversity and social dynamics

Claude Raynaut

9 -- 18

Climatic perspectives on Sahelian desiccation: 1973-1998

Mike Hulme

19 -- 29

The Sahel in West Africa: countries in transition to a full market economy

Jean Marie Cour

31 -- 47

Farmer adaptation, change and `crisis' in the Sahel

Michael J. Mortimore, William M. Adams

49 -- 57

Resource limitations in Sahelian agriculture

Henk Breman, J.J.Rob Groot, Herman van Keulen

59 -- 68

Sahel pastoralists: opportunism, struggle, conflict and negotiation. A case study from eastern Niger

Brigitte Thébaud, Simon Batterbury

69 -- 78

Soil erosion in the West African Sahel: a review and an application of a "local political ecology" approach in South West Niger

Andrew Warren, Simon Batterbury, Henny Osbahr

79 -- 95

The speakers were:

Chair: Dr. Camilla Toulmin, Drylands Programme, International Institute for Environment and Development, London and Edinburgh

Camilla Toulmin is (since 2003), Director of IIED a collaborative research and policy organisation. An economist by training, she has worked mainly in the francophone West African Sahel, on agricultural, pastoral, and tenure issues, including several years spent in Mali with the Bambara. Her many books include Cattle, Women and Wells (Oxford, 1992) and Sustaining the Soil (ed. with Chris Reij & Ian Scoones, Earthscan, 1996). Her current work includes research on land tenure in West Africa: promoting indigenous soil conservation practices in Africa: and sustainable rural livelihoods in Mali. Email camilla.toulmin@iied.org

KEYNOTE ADDRESS Is the Sahel prepared to meet the challenges of the 21st Century?
Dr Gaoussou Traoré: Institut du Sahel, Bamako, Mali

Gaoussou Traoré works on agriculture and economic change at INSAH. He is involved in the ROSELT project (Reseau d'Observatoires de Surveillance Ecologique a Long Terme), which monitors short and long term changes in the interelations between ecological and socio-economical systems and land degradation, and the Regional Food Security Program in dryland West Africa. Email gaoussou@padres.insah.ml

The years of drought
Prof. Mike Hulme, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change & School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia

Mike Hulme worked at the Climatic Research Unit at UEA for many years, and now directs the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change. He is a research climatologist specialising in global climate change, the validation of climate models, African climate and desertification, and the development of regional climate change scenario and impact models. His works include Climates of The British Isles: present, past and future (with EM Barrow; Routledge 1997), Climate change and southern Africa: an exploration of some potantial impacts and implications for the SADC region (CRU/WWF, 1996), and The impacts of climate change on Africa (with D Conway, PM Kelly, S Subak and T Downing. SEI, Sweden, 1995). Email m.hulme@uea.ac.uk

Social change and adaptation
Prof. Claude Raynaut, directeur de recherche, CNRS (Equipe Sociétés, santé, développement - Society, Health and Development Unit), Université de Bordeaux II, France ESS, CNRS, Bordeaux

Claude Raynaut is Director of the Society, Health and Development Unit at the Université Victor Segalen Bordeaux 2. An anthropologist, he has been working on the dynamic economies of the Maradi region of Niger for over 25 years. His books include Structures normatives et relations électives: Etude d'une communauté villageoise Haoussa (Mouton, 1973), Milieu naturel, techniques, rapports sociaux (ed, CNRS, 1983) and an important synthesis volume, Societies and Nature in the Sahel (ed. with others, Routledge SEI series, 1997). He is also working on health and AIDS in Africa; see Desclaux, A. and Raynaut, Cl. (ed), Urgence, Precarite et Lutte contre le vih/sida en Afrique (L'Harmattan , 1997). Email raynaut@u-bordeaux2.fr

Resource Limitations in Sahelian Agriculture
Drs. Rob Groot, AB-DLO (Research Institute for Agrobiology and Soil Fertility), now part of Wageningen University, the Netherlands (paper co-authored with Henk Breman and Herman van Keulen).

Rob Groot's work formerly focussed on soil fertility, agriculture and food security in semi-arid regions. He is the co-editor of Nitrogen Turnover in the Soil-Crop System; Modelling of Biological Transformations (Kluwer, 1991) among other works, and then became Director of External Affairs at AB-DLO. Email j.j.r.groot@ab.dlo.nl

Sahelian farmers and adaptation
(Prof.) Mike Mortimore, partner,
Drylands Research, Crewkerne, UK.

Mike Mortimore is one of Britain's leading experts on dryland West Africa. He has over twenty years of residence and fieldwork experience in northern Nigeria, and was formerly a Professor of Geography at Bayero University, Kano. His major works include Adapting to Drought: Farmers, Famines and Desertification in West Africa (Cambridge, 1989), Roots in the African Dust: Sustaining the Sub-Saharan drylands (Cambridge, 1998), and an influential study of positive linkages between population growth and environmental quality in Machakos, Kenya; More People, Less Erosion; Environmental Recovery in Kenya (Wiley, 1994, with Mary Tiffen and Francis Gichuki). He has completed a book on comparative farming systems and agricultural intensification in Nigeria with Bill Adams (Working the Sahel, Routledge, 1999). Email mikemortimore@compuserve.com.

Sahelian pastoral systems
Dr. Brigitte Thébaud, consultant, Copenhagen, Denmark

Brigitte Thébaud is a leading expert in pastoral societies, and has conducted extensive fieldwork and completed many studies of pastoral groups in West Africa. A rural economist, her most recent work is on the animal economy and development projects in northern Burkina Faso. She is the author of Gestion de l'espace et crise pastorale au Sahel : étude comparative du Niger oriental et du Yagha burkinabé (Karthala). Email bthebaud@mail.tele.dk

The transition to a full market economy; regional trends
Jean-Marie Cour, Club du Sahel, OECD, Paris

Jean-Marie Cour, originally trained in engineering, formerly worked at the former Club du Sahel, a group within the OECD in Paris that raised awareness of the development needs and prospects of the Sahel among the international community. He was the scientific director of the West Africa Long Term Perspective Study (WALTPS), published in 1995-6; an assessment of economic and social prospects for the region to the year 2020. Email jean-marie.cour@wanadoo.fr

Back   www.simonbatterbury.net/pubs