Accepted paper:

Transhumant herders, translocal migrants: Rural-urban mobility as a driver of change among Fulɓe Woɗaaɓe pastoralists in eastern Niger


Florian Köhler (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology)

Paper short abstract:

This paper discusses the role of regional rural-urban migration in a group of Fulɓe Woɗaaɓe in Niger. Circulatory migration patterns and a high mobility among migrants have led to new forms of translocal connectedness and exchange with a significant transforming impact on the pastoral society.

Paper long abstract:

Based on extensive fieldwork in a group of Fulɓe Woɗaaɓe in eastern Niger, this paper discusses the impact of rural-urban migration in a pastoral society. In the literature, the Woɗaaɓe have mainly been presented as highly mobile pastoralists, specialized in the breeding of Zebu cattle. Today, they are increasingly engaged in a transformation process towards a more diversified livelihood based notably on agro-pastoralism and work migration to regional urban centres. Neither the urban strategies, nor the creation of rural proto-villages, however, have entailed the end of mobility, but rather, mobility has taken new forms and new dimensions. Many migrants move regularly between the pastoral zone and the city, keeping a balance between income-generating activities in the urban space and maintaining the social ties to their pastoral home communities. Rural and urban-based actors are connected by complex translocal social networks, their connectedness being increasingly supported by new communication technologies. The paper argues that the urban and the (agro-)pastoral sphere are today complementary spaces of resource appropriation. Migrants provide financial support through remittances, and they are involved in networking aimed at accessing new resources for their home communities, e.g. through urban contacts to development actors. Many biographies reveal patterns of circular or return migration: Multiple shifts from pastoral to urban activities and back are common and lead to flows of knowledge and ideas that have a transforming impact on the communities of origin. Returning migrants introduce change by engaging in local processes and by introducing new concepts, e.g. rural schools.

panel P067
New mobilities and translocal social practices of African (post)pastoralist societies