Exploring Integrated Assessment Approaches
Edited by Desmond McNeill, Ingrid Nesheim and Floor Brouwer
Chapter 7: Land Degradation and Irrigation Practices in the Office du Niger, Mali
Youssouf Cissé, Muriel Bonin, Ingrid Nesheim, Jean-Philippe Tonneau and René Verburg PROBLEM DESCRIPTION Pastoral and agricultural areas are increasingly overlapping in the Sahel area, due to the intensification and spread of agricultural space (Lamprey and Reid, 2004; Meaux, 2004). In many cases the pastoral communities are being squeezed, with loss of grazing land for their herds leading to overgrazing and absence of vegetation cover. A large part of the East and West Africa Sahel region is affected by human-induced soil degradation due to such overexploitation of the natural resources (Oldeman et al., 1990). The case study area, the Office du Niger (ON) in Mali, provides an example of an increasingly more severe case of overlapping of pastoral and agricultural areas. The area presently produces more than 45 per cent of the national rice production, and is thus of major importance for food selfsufficiency in the country. This rice production, in an area which by nature can be characterized as semi-desert, has been made possible due to gravity irrigation from the Markala or Sansanding dam. By tradition, however, farmers in this area are agro-pastoralists and keep some animals (cattle, sheep and donkeys) for various purposes. The herd is viewed as an asset, a form of savings. Thus, a head of cattle may be extracted from this herd, sold, slaughtered or given away, to satisfy financial, social or cultural needs. But in parallel with the increasing trend of rice production, livestock numbers have been increasing too, despite the decreasing trend of pasture...
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