Cattle, Women, and Wells: Managing Household Survival in the Sahel

ISBN : 9780198853046

Camilla Toulmin
312 ページ
156 x 156 mm

How people adapt and survive in the harsh environment of the drought-prone Sahelian region to the south of the Saharan desert forms the subject of this book. The author concentrates on the choices facing farmers in a small village in central Mali, West Africa. These farmers have had continually to adapt their farming methods in order to survive. The study shows how such changes have taken place and why some families are more successful than others in surviving and prospering. It provides an analysis of millet yields, and of returns to investment in ploughs, wells, and breeding cattle. Decisions regarding marriage, child-rearing, and household organization are discussed within an economic framework to demonstrate the strong economic rationale behind choices made in these spheres. The book concludes that larger, more diverse households found within this society (containing as many as forty to sixty people) are much better able to resist the risks of drought and illness than are small nuclear family groups. Environmental issues are shown to be crucial to the longer term viability of such a community.


1 Introduction
Part I: The Village Setting
2 Background to the Village of Kala
3 Climate, Cultivation, and Household Income
Part II: Farm Production
4 The Farming System
5 Millet-production Analysis
6 Returns to Farming
Part II: Farm Investment
7 Introduction
8 Well-digging
9 Oxen Plough Teams
10 Investment in Cattle-breeding Stock
11 Farm-investemnt Strategies
Part IV: Managing the Family
12 Fertility and Child-rearing
13 Marriage
14 Bambara Household Organization
Part V: Conclusions
15 Conclusions
Appendix: Levelling Mechanisms within Bambara Society


Camilla Toulmin is a British economist, specialising on African agriculture, drylands, tenure and climate change. She became a Senior Associate at the International Institute for Environment & Development (IIED) in 2017, after 12 years as its Director. She has been appointed Professor in Practice at the University of Lancaster's Environment Centre (LEC) and is currently an Associate at the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET). She has recently completed her term as Fellow of the Open Society Foundation (OSF). In her roles as Associate and Professor, she is engaging in a series of research, board and advisory activities, building on 40 years' work at the interface between the environment and development, and spanning local and global scales.