Going Where the Grass Is Greener: On the Study of Pastoral Mobility in Ferlo, Senegal

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Based on a case study from Ferlo in Senegal, this paper discusses how pastoral mobility can be studied and understood with special emphasis on the use of GPS data. It has a dual objective: first, to investigate the methodological potential of using
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  Human Ecology, Vol. 30, No. 2, June 2002 (  C   2002) Going Where the Grass is Greener: On the Studyof Pastoral Mobility in Ferlo, Senegal Hanne Kirstine Adriansen 1,2 and Thomas Theis Nielsen 1 BasedonacasestudyfromFerloinSenegal,thispaperdiscusseshowpastoral mobility can be studied and understood with special emphasis on the useof GPS data. It has a dual objective: first, to investigate the methodological  potential of using GPS data; second, to discuss the analytical use of GPSdata for understanding mobility. The methodologicalpotential for using GPSdata is related to quantifying mobility and characterizing mobility patternsin space and time. Analytically, GPS data can be used in combination withqualitative information to make method triangulation. The GPS data can beused both prior to qualitative interviews to make informed questions about mobilityandtheycanbeusedafterqualitativeinvestigationstoillustratepointsmade or to reveal inconsistencies. The study shows that cattle walk about  5000 km per year (excluding night grazing) and different mobility patternsoccur depending on the season. Issues such as “the cattle complex” and thenotion of the independent, nomadic pastoralist are discussed in relation to pastoral mobility. Although cattle are of major importance to the Fulani, it is not important for them to walk with their animals, which are left to roam freely or supervised by paid herders. It is necessary to take into account all these issues if we want to go beyond the simple understanding of mobility asa means to find pasture and water. KEY WORDS:  Pastoralism; Senegal; GPS; mobility; method triangulation. 1 Institute of Geography, University of Copenhagen, Oester Voldgade 10, DK-1350Copenhagen, Denmark. 2 To whom correspondence should be addressed; e-mail: hka@cdr.dk. 215 0300-7839/02/0600-0215/0 c  2002 Plenum Publishing Corporation  216 Adriansen and Nielsen INTRODUCTION Mobility has been regarded as an important characteristic of pastoralproduction systems in Africa. Yet the interpretation of the rationale and im-portance of pastoral mobility has changed along with changing discourses,and the interpretation varies with the professional background of the re-searcher (e.g., Cribb, 1984; Irons, 1968; Le Hou´ erou, 1989). Recently, pas-toralmobilityinAfricahasbeendiscussedaspartofthe“newparadigm”forthe study of dryland ecosystems and pastoral production systems. In the late1980s and early 1990s, there was a paradigm shift in rangeland ecology andpastoralism (e.g., Behnke  et al. , 1993; Ellis and Swift, 1988). Subsequently,most studies have emphasized the ecological rationality of traditional pas-toral production. Mobility is perceived as a flexible solution which enablessoundutilizationofvariableresources(Scoones,1995).Manyresearcherstryto legitimize mobility (e.g., Niamir-Fuller, 1999) or to prove that mobility isa flexible response in dryland environments (e.g., Adriansen, 1999). At thesame time it is argued that pastoralists become sedentary and that mobilityis hampered (e.g., Ayantunde  et al. , 2000; Swallow, 1994).This study focuses on how and why Fulani pastoralists use mobility inFerlotoday.Ourpurposeisnottolegitimizemobilityortoprovetheecolog-ical rationale of mobility in dryland environments, but rather to investigatepastoralists’ reasons for their actions, and their values and preferences, etc.,to assess the likelihood that they will continue their practice in the future.We also want to map mobility using GPS and compare observed practicewith the pastoralists’ own perception of their mobility. STUDY AREA AND FIELDWORK The study is based on fieldwork carried out in Ferlo, northern Senegal.ThemajorityoftheinhabitantsareFulanipastoralists,whoowncattle,sheep,and goats (for further description of pastoralists in Ferlo see e.g., Ba, 1986;Barral,1982;andSantoire,1983).TheFulaniaresemisedentary,whichmeansthat their rainy season camp is permanent, but during the dry season theyeither stay in the camp or move around depending on the progression of theseason, the herd composition, and the preferences of the household.Ferlo is located in the Sahelian zone. The climate is characterized by ashort, relatively well-defined rainy season, where the greatest precipitationoccurs in July, August, and September. Hot, dry periods occur before andafter the rainy season in April–June and October–November. November–March is a cool, dry period. The north–south rainfall gradient is approxi-mately 1 mm/km, and the mean annual rainfall for the period 1986–96 was  Study of Pastoral Mobility in Ferlo, Senegal 217 approximately 200 mm in the north and 400 mm in the south. However,the coefficient of variation is above 33%, which means that the area can beassumed to be characterized by disequilibrium dynamics (Ellis  et al. , 1993).Historically the rangelands of Ferlo were utilized as a pastoral areabecause of the low and variable precipitation and lack of permanent wa-ter supplies. In the rainy season, Ferlo served as a grazing reserve for verymobile pastoralists pursuing large-scale migrations. Pasture in the area wasabundant, but as temporary water holes dried out during the dry season,pastoralists moved north to the Senegal river valley or south and west totheso-calledpeanutbasin(FreudenbergerandFreudenberger,1993).Inthe1950s, the French colonial administration made the first boreholes equippedwith motor pumps in Ferlo, which meant that the area could be used on apermanent basis. The possibility of staying in the area during the dry sea-sonmeantthatpeoplebecamesemisedentary,settlingaroundtheboreholes.Rainfedagriculturewastakenup,especiallyinthesouthernpartofthearea,and more boreholes were established. Since the great drought of 1973 therehas been a decrease in the annual precipitation (Equipe ECOSSEN, 1997),which means that many pastoralists find cultivation unprofitable. Further,this has changed the strategies employed by the pastoralists including mo-bility. Their semisedentary lifestyle and the lack of predators mean that thecattle can be left to roam freely (Tour´ e, 1990). Hence, many pastoralistschoose not to herd their cattle when they are in an area that the cattle know,and instead spend their time on other activities. Small ruminants, on theother hand, are still herded, because they can get lost, stolen, or eaten by jackals. While cattle usually are the responsibility of the head of the house-hold, children or young men herd the small ruminants.Ferlo has been divided into management units centered on the bore-holes called pastoral units ( unit ´ e pastorales ). Today, water is supplied fromthree sources: temporary water holes (ponds), boreholes, and pipes ex-tending from the boreholes, called antennas. The ponds can be used freeof charge, but there is a fee for water from the boreholes and antennas(Alissoutin,1997).Theboreholesareusuallycloseduntilthepondsaredriedout. Mobilitypatterns thereforechangeinaccordancewith the dryingout of ponds.Fieldwork was carried out in the area on several occasions during2.5 years from October 1997–April 2000. The study can be described as anintensive study (Sayer, 1992), or as a case study (Mitchell, 1983) involvingone household, that of Birame Nguesa Ka, who lives in a camp called BelelNelbi with his parents, three wives, and children. Birame is the head of thehouseholdbecausehisfatheristooold.Oneofhissonsisgrownupandliveswithhiswifeinthecamp.BelelNelbiislocatedinapastoralunitcalledThielapproximately 12 km from the borehole and 7.5 km from an antenna (see  218 Adriansen and NielsenFig. 1.  The location of the pastoral unit of Thiel and of the camp Belel Nelbi fromwhere the GPS measurements were made. Fig. 1). The family herd consists of 50–100 head of cattle and 100–200 smallruminants, an average herd size for Ferlo. They also have eight donkeys forcollecting water and Birame received a horse for his GPS work. They do notpractice any cultivation at all.Birame conformed to herding practices described in the literature (e.g.Tour´ e, 1990). His younger children herd the small ruminants, while he, hisadultson,orapaidherderlooksafterthecattle.Frequently,thecattlearenotherded at all, only guided in the right direction. However, during transhu-mancetheyareherdedallthetimeotherwisetheywouldgetlost.Thismeansthat the cattle and the small ruminants have different mobility patterns. Aswe wanted to investigate the potential of using GPS data for mapping andquantifying mobility, Birame was trained to use a handheld GPS. BecauseBirame was not involved in the herding of the small ruminants it was onlypossible to measure the mobility of the cattle. We agreed that he should fol-lowthecattleandtakeGPSmeasurementsonedayeveryweek.Themethoddoes not include night grazing, which other studies (e.g., Ayantunde  et al. ,2000) have found to be important for cattle. Further, Birame was asked totake notes for every measurement, describing the landscape unit or location(e.g., a borehole, a pond), and time of the measurement.During the 2.5 years of fieldwork, we returned at different times of yearandadministratedquestionnaires,conductedqualitativeinterviews,andmadeparticipatoryobservationsconcerningmobilityinparticularandliveli-hood strategies in general. We also collected GPS data and Birame’s notes.  Study of Pastoral Mobility in Ferlo, Senegal 219 METHODOLOGICAL ASPECTS OF USING GPS Studiesofpastoralmobilityhavetraditionallybeendominatedbycoarsespatiotemporal investigations (e.g., Johnson, 1969; Niamir-Fuller, 1999;Stenning,1957).EventhoughGPSdataprovideaccuratespatiotemporalin-formation, this type of information is of limited value for studying pastoralmobility because it does not reveal the underlying decision-making pro-cesses. Therefore, we have used the data in combination with other spatialdata. Centre de Suivi Ecologique (CSE) in Dakar, Senegal, kindly provideduswithaGISwiththelocationofboreholes,ponds,villages,andadministra-tive boundaries. Together with the notes made with the GPS measurements,this provides a framework for understanding mobility based on the locationof pasture and water. Thus, the explanations given in this section emphasizethe resource availability component as we interpret it. In the next section,these explanations are challenged and elaborated with Birame’s own expla-nations and ideas about mobility.The GPS used was a GARMIN 12 XL, which provided UTM coordi-nates, dates, and times for the measurements as well as a number for eachmeasurement.ThenotesthatBiramemaderefertothesenumbers.TheGPSmethod has some benefits as well as several built in limitations that must beaddressed before the data can be utilized and the results interpreted. BENEFITS AND LIMITATIONS OF GPS DATA The main benefit of GPS data is that they provide spatial informationthat can be used in combination with other spatial data such as satelliteimagery,whichbynatureisgeo-referenced.Thiscombinationofdatasourcescould provide valuable information about the dynamics and use of pasture.It is, however, beyond the scope of this paper to pursue this issue further.A limitation of this data set is that the herder measured the movementsof the cattle, which means we only have data from the times he was herdingthe cattle and do not know the whereabouts of the cattle the rest of the time,most notably at night. The fact that Birame made measurements at regularintervals once a week supports the assumption that the data he recorded areunbiased by his own preferences and that they represent the actual locationof his herd at various points in time. Some of the sampling problems couldhave been avoided by the use of a GPS collar for cattle, but we could notfind an appropriate product at a reasonable price.Since the cattle spend only part of the night in the camp and in theearly morning leave on their own, the first GPS measurement was madewhere Birame found his herd in the morning and the last measurement
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