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Ethnic Boundary Maintenance among Pastoralists and Farmers in the Western Sudan (Niger) 1

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The environment supports three major exploitative activities: horticulture, pastoralism, and mixed farming, practiced respectively by the Manga, Wodaabe, and Muslim Fulani. Because land for cultivation is available easily and without cost, anyone may farm. Muslim Fulani and Wodaabe have institutionalized means of acquiring cattle which enable them to rebuild their herds when, through disease, predation, or other loss, their numbers drop below the point where they can sustain themselves and the humans who depend upon them. The Manga, on the other hand, acquire cattle only through purchase and natural increase. The demands of their farms do not permit them to pay adequate attention to the cattle during the cultivating season, when the animals must be kept away from the planted fields. Therefore they are presented with an alternative: to abandon the farm and assume a pastoral existence, or to consign the cattle to a specialist with the tacit recognition that the herd will not increase to its natural potential, because the herder siphons off some of the animals for his own use. Those Manga who own cattle elect the latter alternative; though it minimizes the possibility of economic gain, it does not remove them from full participation in other relations, based in the village which, they explain, give their lives richness and meaning. The ethnic-ecologic mosaic is maintained as a result of conscious choices of the individuals of the region.

Affiliations: 1: State University of New York at Binghamton, U.S.A.


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