Pastoralism in West Africa

Marching towards social justice in West Africa


Find out how marginalised and too often excluded communities in West Africa organize themselves and work towards upholding their fundamental rights, in particular their Right to Food. In this documentary film, people and groups empowered by ACORD and its local partners illustrate how community-owned response is a key success factor for lifting the most marginalised out of poverty and for ensuring their sustainable development.
March with us towards social justice...

Pastoralism in West Africa

A pastoralist and his cattle in Mauritania - Photo © J. Russell

Pastoralism is a viable means of livelihood for pastoral communities in West Africa. But because of their unique way of life, pastoralist communities are often marginalised in countries were poverty is already striking. In Mauritania, Mali and Burkina Faso, despite strategies seeking to develop this important sector (between 12 to 14% of their GDP), small producers, have still no access to information on their rights, to production techniques, tools, technologies, infrastructures or credit schemes that could help them enhance their production, increase their income and ensure their livelihood.

The impact of climate change is aggravating the already severe degradation of ecosystems, in particular causing shorter and more unpredictable rains in the drylands, hence reducing grazing and fodder for dairy cows. It affects production levels and increases food prices which are already too high for poor rural communities. Moreover, competition from imported and non taxed international dairy products has destabilised national markets where costs of production are still very high by lack of investment and capacity building of the producers.

Mrs. Maïga - President of a women group in Bouskiri, Mali - Photo © CARMAV

Pastoralist women have traditionally been responsible for dairy production. Their income is greatly depending on this activity, especially during the transhumance period (6 to 9 months) when men travel with their cattle to better quality grazing areas leaving women on their own with only a small livestock. Unfortunately, this main source of income, together with limited vegetable gardening and craft, is not sufficient for women to cope with the basic needs of their households and a great proportion are suffering from food insecurity and malnutrition.

In remote pastoral areas, often far from basic services, the level of illiteracy is one of the highest in the world, reaching up to 90%. This is a real handicap and it reinforces the limited social role pastoralists are traditionally given preventing them from being involved in the decision making processes and limiting the space to enjoy their rights.

Pastoral communities are also very vulnerable to HIV/AIDS. Most of pastoralist people have heard about it but the majority don't know how to protect themselves, how to detect if they are infected and how they could have access to treatment and care. Their perpetual migration, the use of cutting instruments for mowing grass or marking animals, polygamy, forced marriage, FGM, the taboo around HIV and the lack of information on the propagation and the prevention from HIV/AIDS expose them strongly to infection. In pastoral areas, the impact is even more dramatic as once infected, people have even less capacity and strength to ensure their livelihood.

ACORD works since three decades with pastoralist communities in the most marginalised areas of Mauritania, Mali and Burkina Faso. Together with local authorities, technical services (health, agriculture), traditional and religious leaders, farmers and pastoralist groups, we empower those communities so they can gather to make their voice heard through to break the cycle of their poverty. By giving them the initial investment they deserve (tools, infrastructures, improved livestock or agricultural inputs, access to credit scheme) but also by sharing information on their rights and duties as citizens and facilitate training  on improved production, process and commercialisation, we open the space for their own-development so they can ensure their sustainable livelihood.