Eaters of the Dry Season: Circular Labor Migration in the West African Sahel


In this illuminating new work on the geography of poverty, David Rain dispels the notion that relentless human mobility is a byproduct of Western technological advances like superhighways & airports. Instead, it is much older & more deeply ingrained in the human spirit. Every year after the rainy season ends in the arid West African Sahel, hundreds of thousands of men & women leave their villages to work in the informal economies of West African cities. The seasonal flux of peasants swells urban markets & neighborhoods, as it has for centuries. These migrants, called masu cin rani in Hausa, or "those who eat the dry season," travel after their crops are harvested in order to conserve household food supplies & earn money which is funneled back to their villages of origin. These "eaters" come from all walks of life, though they are more commonly poor & living by their wits. This book focuses on the activities of the seasonal migrants, persisting as they have through colonial & postcolonial changes, & constituting an important response to uncertainty in the region. Based on a combination of survey-interviews & geographic analysis, the book regards the migrants as practical people who are simply making the best of what has been dealt to them. Contextual, panoramic, & centered on the immediacy of daily & seasonal routines, Eaters of the Dry Season delves deeper than typical alarmist accounts of African drought & famine which are all too common in current literature. It will challenge laypeople as well as scholars & policymakers to consider how actual people respond to global changes in the next century., especially for the billions who are labeled "poor." Unraveling the dynamics behind population, environment, & poverty requires us to set our sights on the intersection of the human & the physical realms, & to enter the worlds inhabited by the poor.

Additional information

Publisher: Place of publication:
  • Boulder, CO
Publication year:
  • 1999


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