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Herding territories in Northern Cameroon and Western Burkina Faso: spatial arrangements and herd management

Aime-Landry Dongmo1*, Eric Vall2, Mohamadoun Amadou Diallo3, Patrick Dugue4, Aboubakar Njoya5 and Jean Lossouarn6

Author Affiliations

1 Institut de Recherche Agricole pour le Développement, BP 415 Garoua, Cameroun

2 UMR SELMET, CIRAD, Campus de Baillarguet, F-34398, Montpellier, France

3 CIRDES, 01 BP 454, Bobo-Dioulasso 01, Burkina Faso

4 UMR Innovation, CIRAD, Avenue Agropolis, F-34398, Montpellier, France

5 CORAF/WECARD, 7 Avenue Bourguiba BP 48, cp. 18523, Dakar, Senegal

6 UMR SADAPT, AgroParisTech, BP 01, 78850, Thiverval-Grignon, France

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Pastoralism: Research, Policy and Practice 2012, 2:26  doi:10.1186/2041-7136-2-26

Published: 3 December 2012


In Sudano-Sahelian Africa, Fulani pastoralists who settled down massively in less densely populated zones during the 1970s and 1980s have recently increased the mobility of their herds in response to an extension of cropping areas, a shortage of pasture and problems resulting from crop damage by cattle. Today, they annually exploit a set of areas located both near to and far from their dwellings that constitutes their ‘herding territory’. This article aims to clarify how Fulani pastoralists conceive, organize and manage their herding territory and to discuss the future of pastoralism within the local and regional legal framework. The study was carried out in northern Cameroon and western Burkina Faso over three years following a participatory research approach. The results show that the herding territory is mainly composed of three sub-elements endowed with different access rights: the ‘attachment territory’ and ‘peripheral territory’, with rangelands that are exploited by ‘house herds’ on a daily basis, and the ‘territories distant from the residential area’ that serve for transhumance and the relocation of a second group of herds known as the ‘bush herd’. These territories and herds are managed by mobilizing local knowledge and juggling a combination of factors, including the availability of plant biomass on different pastoral units, access rights and agreements with local stakeholders regarding resources, the date the rains arrive and the progress of sowing and harvesting in the fields. If pastoral systems are to be maintained in a sustainable manner in this region, any change to existing spatial arrangements must take into account the knowledge, expectations and needs of pastoralists on one hand and the evolving legal and institutional framework in western Africa on the other.

Territory; Livestock; Fulani pastoralists; Sudano-Sahelian Africa; Northern Cameroon; Western Burkina Faso; Decentralization; Pastoral law