Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (Two Years)), 20 credits / 30 HE credits
The ability of population to deal with climate change is topical. In the case of Niger, recent research showed that the changes in agricultural practices are behind the recent increase in biomass production also called greening process in the Sahel. But other social phenomenon such as de-agrarianisation (long-term process of livelihood diversification; social identification and spatial relocation of rural dwellers away from agricultural-based livelihood, Bryceson) also plays an important role in the social structure of the rural areas. Then what are the consequences of the changes in the correlation between the agricultural production and off-farm activities for livelihood strategies? This question is investigated at the scale of rural families of the district of Mayahi, Maradi, Niger. Participatory rural appraisal and individual interviews where used to collect data on livelihood strategies, farm and off-farm activities, coping strategies at the present time and on their evolution during the past 50 years. Villagers perceive strong decrease in the yields since the 1950’s. As a response to the uncertainties of their agricultural production, villagers developed a whole range of coping strategies, which allow them decreasing their dependence on degrading agricultural productivity. The off-farm coping strategies have a growing importance in the livelihood strategies of the villagers. The remittances from migration and the benefits of small business are either reinvested in agricultural intensification either in off-farm activities development. At the same time, the growing importance of off-farm activities changes the social pattern in village, affecting the traditions (solidarity and women seclusion), the social classes, and the identity of the people. Greening and development of off-farm activities are coexisting at different scales in the villages; their reciprocal impacts on livelihoods are very different in time. The diversification of activities brings immediate benefits to the households, while the increase of tress doesn’t change the soil fertility degradation process. Hence, the question of re-greening should not only be studied with an agrarian perspective but it should include the diverse socio-economic aspects of rural livelihoods.
Key words: re-greening, livelihood diversification, agricultural production, coping strategies, small business, migrations.