On the move : mobility, land use and livelihood practices on the Central Plateau in Burkina Faso

M. Breusers

    Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU


    Chapter 2 situates the scene by presenting the historical background to the research area. First, a brief outline of the research village's history is provided. The main part of the chapter is devoted to the elaboration of case material relating to a number of conflicts over land, along the border between the kingdom of Ratenga and the kombere of Piugtenga and in which the village of Ziinoogo has been involved. The purpose is to bring to the fore the diverse motivations which encourage people to move and occupy land 'elsewhere' and to demonstrate how different processes of geographic mobility interlock and imbricate. After having outlined tentatively the history of Pullo presence in the region, the chapter concludes with some observations concerning the dichotomy between 'traditional' and 'modern' processes of geographic mobility.

    The next two chapters focus on land tenure arrangements and the interplay between geographic mobility, on the one hand, and the securing and extension of rights to land on the other hand. The land use pattern within which land use practices are enacted is described in chapter 3. This pattern is conceived of as a structuring spatial structure, i.e. both constitutive of and constituted by social practice and social organization.

    First, it is attempted to establish what territorial entity might be understood to constitute a 'village territory'. It is concluded that, for the present research, the village territory can be conceived of as an aggregation of lineage lands. However, there is no consensus among actors on the meaning of 'lineage land' ( yaab ziiga ), which allows for the co-existence of different interpretations of the village territory's land use pattern. The shifting meanings of 'lineage land' appeared to be correlated with the shifting meanings of the categories 'strangers' and 'people of the village'. It is, then, concluded that the measure in which actors control land is closely related to the date of arrival of the lineage segment to which they belong. Finally, Saaba and Fulbe are shown to occupy relatively marginal positions with respect to the outlined land use pattern.

    In chapter 4, different land use strategies and related geographic mobility processes, in particular with respect to the extension and securing of claims on land, are studied through the analysis of four cases. A partial explanation for the existence of different strategies can be found in actors' differing degree of 'autochthonousness'. A fuller comprehension of the distribution of rights to farm land is obtained by supplementing the 'autochthonousness principle', which can be understood as a principle of 'group seniority' (determined by the date of arrival of the different lineage segments in the village), with the principle of seniority within the group (determined by actors' positions within a particular lineage segment). Based on this double seniority principle, each actor may be understood as occupying a certain position in what I call a 'hierarchy of choice' regarding access to farm land.

    From this it can be concluded that, whereas all who actually live on the village territory have a right to sufficient land for farming, the degree of control an actor exercises over this land differs according to his position in the hierarchy of choice. Still, the land use paths followed by individual actors suggest that 'lineage lands' are further subdivided and that rights to land are transfered from fathers to sons, which, however, is not the same as the transfer of land as such .

    Although it certainly seems true that, with the growth and diversification of the village's population, a progressive fragmentation of the village territory took place, this did not happen in a mechanistic way and did not give way to an unequivocal distribution of land whereby particular plots are associated with particular production units. Particular plots appear most often to be subject to a multiplicity of claims, albeit not necessarily all of the same weight. Moreover, these claims are shifting and merging over time. Securing and extension of rights to farm land are shown to be inextricably linked up with actors' geographic mobility. Conversely, the options open to actors as where to move to, depend on where they or their kin have already established rights to farm land and these places may be situated well beyond the village territory, i.e. actors have access to land in a 'pool of territories'.

    Chapter 5 starts from the observation that securing and extension of rights to land depend heavily on labour availability. It is explained how labour is distributed within a farm and how additional labour may be mobilized through fosterage. It appears that fostered children, notably sisters' sons, have a right to farm land with their foster father. This raises the question of the nature of these rights and of the rights to land of married women on the territories controlled by their own patrilineal kin group. It is argued that the latter rights are best captured by the term 'submerged claims', which may be realized either by a woman herself (e.g. at divorce or widowhood) or by her husband or sons. It follows that a man not only has potential access to land at places where his patrilineal kinsmen (members of his yiiri ) control a territory (discussed in chapter 4), but equally so at places where his affines or in-laws do so. The latter thus constitute potential destinations in case a man wants or finds himself obliged to move.

    Chapter 6 is devoted to a detailed analysis of the meaning of migration to the Ivory Coast in a historical perspective. It starts with a localized history of this migration, concentrating on a relatively short period in the colonial history (1937-39), during which the administration demonstrated willingness to liberalize its labour policy. Next, the relations between migration to the Ivory Coast and changes in social life in general and land use practice in particular in the research village are described. Whereas migration to the Ivory Coast initially had a disruptive effect on village life (until the 1950s), and subsequently was not immediately accepted by all, notably not by elders, it seems that more recently, from the 1980s onwards, it linked up with village life. It came to constitute one among other routine activities of members of a village farm, whereby village farm enterprises and migration enterprises are often well integrated, exemplified by the way in which actors try to distribute labour over the different enterprises.

    Furthermore, migration to the Ivory Coast appears fully integrated into wider kinship networks and youngsters' migration before marriage is considered as integral to their education. Concurrently with these changes of the meaning of migration to the Ivory Coast for village life, changes also occurred in age, gender and marital status of migrants. Moreover, migrants came to pursue a 'career' in the Ivory Coast, thereby aiming at establishing themselves independently, notably through the purchase of land for a cocoa or coffee plantation. The existence of such plantations owned by kin again has consequences for migration perspectives of actors in the village. The routine character of migration to the Ivory Coast implies that it interferes little with agricultural land use practice, notably regarding labour mobilization and land tenure, which is not to say that, in previous decades it did not contribute to the maintenance or even furthering of extensive land use practice.

    Whereas in chapter 6, emphasis is placed on the integrating aspects of contemporary migration to the Ivory Coast, chapter 7 begins with a brief discussion of how this migration may nevertheless also contribute to fission and how rights to land acquired in the Ivory Coast are more 'individualized' than rights to land on territories as discussed in chapter 4 and 5. Next, migration to the south and west of Burkina Faso is analyzed in detail, i.e. both 'spontaneous' migration and migration in the context of large scale resettlement schemes. Although at first sight these migrations seem to point to a growing 'atomization' of production units - notably because complete farms tend to be moved over prolonged periods, without economic links with the farms 'at home' seemingly persisting - a closer look shows that this is not necessarily the case. Again, migration appears well integrated in kinship networks and initially 'atomized' units may at a certain moment link up with one another again (for instance, through joint livestock management and through the fact that land used by the migrants in the south and west of Burkina Faso enters their lineage segment's pool of territories). Although it is demonstrated that migrants often do not settle definitively in the south or west, this migration nevertheless implies an attenuation of land scarcity in the region of origin as the pool of territories to which actors in the village have potentially access often is extended.

    The pursuit of a monetary income undoubtedly constitutes one main motivation of migrants to the Ivory Coast in particular, but, albeit to a lesser extent, of migrants to the south and west of Burkina Faso as well. Chapter 8 deals with how incomes and remittances from migration to the Ivory Coast and the south and west of Burkina Faso are spent. Although some investments are made in agricultural tools (carts, ploughs), it will be demonstrated that the main interest of both migrants and those who stay behind is with investments in livestock, notably cattle. In order to understand the impact of these investments on land use practice and social relations it appeared indispensable to analyze relations between Moose and Fulbe. It is demonstrated that differential accumulation of cattle has led to tension within the Moaga community, which tends to be covered up. The covering up is made possible by the entrusting of cattle to Fulbe herdsmen. The analysis provided in this chapter also permits one to put in perspective some commonly held views on the deterioration of relationships between Moose and Fulbe in a context of mounting pressure on natural resources.

    In chapter 9, the major findings of this study are recapitulated, firstly, in more theoretical terms (frontier perspective, neighbourhood/locality), and, secondly, with respect to the policy issues of land reform and integration of agriculture and animal husbandry.

    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Awarding Institution
    • Long, N.E., Promotor
    • den Ouden, J.H.B., Promotor, External person
    Award date2 Mar 1998
    Place of PublicationS.l.
    Print ISBNs9789054858362
    Publication statusPublished - 1998


    • social mobility
    • migration
    • land use
    • agricultural land
    • households
    • decision making
    • farm management
    • burkina faso


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