Tuesday 6
Trajectories of resilience
Craig Allen
› 15:40 - 16:40 (1h)
Threat to the future of the Inner Niger Delta socio-ecosystem: how to break a rigidity trap?
Pierre Morand  1@  , Famory Sinaba  2@  , Amaga Kodio  3@  
1 : Institut de Recherche pour le Développement  (IRD - UMI Résiliences)  -  Website
Institut de Recherche pour le Développement
32 avenue Henri-Varagnat 93143 Bondy cedex -  France
2 : Institut d'Economie Rurale  (IER)
3 : Institut d'Economie Rurale  (IER)
Bamako -  Mali

With aim to understand the persistence of structural features and the apparent low capacity to change in a great tropical socio-ecosystem, the Inner Niger Delta (IND), we examined the trajectory it has traveled since 1960 by using the three-dimensional resilience model of Fraser (2009).

The IND is a large Sahelian wetland which is known for its richness in ethnic groups as well as for its high natural productivity that comes in the form of diverse resources (grass, fish and rice). It is also known for its high sensitivity to inter-annual hydro-climatic fluctuations, which are strong in this part of the world. But such variability goes together with an outstanding persistence of the general structure of the socio-ecosystem, particularly when viewed from the angle of human dimensions. Indeed, a retrospective analysis of the evolution of the Delta during the past 50 years shows that despite dramatic episodes of crisis such as the Great Drought in the Sahel (1980-1993), the basic features of social and economic organization in this region have not changed, since they are still organized around the same three pillars: (i) a pastoral system led by potent Fulani families, (ii) some commercial fisheries that remain the prerogative of specialized ethnic groups (Bozo, Somono), (iii) a subsistence agriculture admittedly distributed among several communities but which is still mostly based on traditional crop practices of low productivity. Some technological innovations, e.g. intensive rice farming during the off-season in irrigated perimeters (introduced in the mid-90s), have not been the subject of widespread adoption, benefiting only a few villages.

Analyzing such data and other known facts throughout the Fraser model has led to a holistic interpretation of periods of improvement and crisis since 1960. Moreover, it brought out the hypothesis of a "rigidity trap" in which would be "confined" the livelihood strategies of the various groups, preventing the rising of new opportunities. This trap effect could be related to a high degree of sophistication in the cross definition of roles and activities as a result of a stacking process of social and technological trade-offs that have occurred in the past among the groups and between practices. Such an historical process may be driven by the search for social peace under strong environmental constraints in the management of productive sequences, reminding the complexity and the seasonality of the IND ecosystem.

In the foreseeable future, the socio-ecosystem IND will suffer a worsening of environmental stressors with a consistent reduction of flooded areas that will result from the increase in hydraulic and irrigation systems upstream. If rigidities observed until now remain, it is feared that the groups who are most impacted by the negative effects on environment would have to leave the Delta – as it has already occurred in the eighties with emigration of many bozo fishermen.

Thus we have to examine policies that should be implemented to accompany the environmental changes, with the hope of breaking the rigidity trap so that each indigenous communities will get opportunities for sustainable adaptation within the IND.

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