Pastoralist Knowledge Hub

West and Central Africa

Western and Central Africa is considered pastoral with approximately 13% of its inhabitants being nomadic or semi-nomadic, including the Tuareg, Fulani, Peuls, Maures and other ethnic groups. The Sahel covers about 5.7 million hectares between the Sahara and the wetter savannah to the south. It is characterized by an alteration of a long dry season (8-9 months) followed by a short rainy season (3-4 months) which directly impacts the available vegetation and fodder resources. They follow long mobility routes, crossing multiple countries from the edge of the Sahara to the coastal countries. 

Camel, cattle, sheep and goats are kept in pastoral and agropastoral production systems in this region. Livestock production accounts for at least 25% of the GDP of countries such as Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Chad. Animal source products are the leading item in the food industry trade and the second most important in the overall commercial trade in the Sahel. It provides employment to 80% of the population, produces meat and other commodities, and provides draught power. The sector also generates tens of billions of West Africa CFA francs in terms of value addition in coastal countries such as Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, and Togo. 

These days the Sahel is seeing increased herder-farmer conflicts in agro-pastoral areas. Disruption of mobility routes, land acquisition for agro-industrial projects, increasing climate fluctuations and adverse policies have increased the vulnerability of pastoral communities, and concentration in certain resource zones leading to increased threat of violence. These conflicts often tend to also be associated with religious extremism and ethnic violence. Many youths from pastoral areas are now migrating to cities or other countries, including Europe.

Several regional initiatives for supporting pastoralism are active in this region. The countries are part of the ECOWAS and are also served by CILSS. Projects such as PRAPS (Regional Sahel Pastoralism Support Project) and PREDIP (Regional Dialogues and Investment Project for Pastoralism and Transhumance in the Sahel and Coastal countries of West Africa) are also active in the region. The region has also developed a strong pastoral constituency at the regional level as counterpart to these initiatives. Several regional networks such as Association for the Promotion of the Livestock in the Sahel and the Savanna (APESS), Réseau Billital Maroobe (RBM), Confederation of Traditional Herder Organization of Nigeria (CORET), Réseau des Peuples Pasteurs du Sahel (PRPS) are active in this region and are well represented in decision-making processes. For example, at the 4th high level meeting in West Africa in 2017, RBM and APESS put forward the proposal to implement mechanism and facilitate coordination between the Sahel and Coastal countries for a peaceful transhumance. Pastoralists have been issued transhumance certificates to allow cross-border movement.

In October 2019, livestock experts from 17 countries across ECOWAS-West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA)-CILSS area gathered at the 6th high-level meeting on the theme, “Peaceful transhumance and livestock mobility in the Sahel and West African coastal countries.” Several counties such as Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger are developing Pastoral Codes to regulate resource access and mobility. Representatives from the regional civil society networks have also participated in policy processes such as the Committee on World Food Security, Global Agenda on Sustainable Livestock, as well as technical meetings at the regional level. 

The Hub has worked extensively with the regional civil society networks. The Hub supported:


  • The RBM to organize a regional meeting of pastoral representatives in Bamako, Mali in January 2015.
  • A study on perennial fodder sources with National Institute of Agricultural Research (INRAN) in Niger and facilitated a study of the indigenous food system in Mali.
  • Through the IFAD funded project on Pastoralist Driven Data Management System and in partnership with RBM, a country-wide study of pastoralism data in Chad.
  • Various FAO initiatives in the region such as the VGGT implementation and capacity building and a study on youth migration from pastoral areas in Chad and Burkina Faso.
  • The development of a white paper on the benefits arising from transhumance in the region to support advocacy initiatives promoting cross-border mobility.