Flexibility in Domestic Organization and Seasonal Migration among the Fulani of Northern Burkina Faso

Article excerpt


Migration patterns among the Fulani of Burkina Faso have changed over recent decades from predominant transhumance, involving whole families, to seasonal rural-to-urban labour migration of young men. This article uses a combination of quantitative and qualitative data to examine the relationships between the new forms of migration and domestic organization. Specifically, it asks the following questions: (1) How do households accommodate the temporary loss of productive members? (2) Does the out-migration lead to new forms of domestic organization, and to changing roles and power relations within sending households? Various forms of flexibility in domestic organization are identified, which serve to maintain viable economic units in the face of the temporary absence of substantial numbers of young men. These include: flexibility in the processes of household division; rapid, temporary restructuring of domestic units; and drawing on extra-household support networks. One consequence of this flexibility is that intra-household gender divisions of labour and power have remained largely unchanged in the face of seasonal labour migration. The extent to which this will remain the case if migration becomes more widespread is uncertain.


Les schemas de migration observes chez les Foulanis du Burkina Faso ont evolue au cours de ces dernieres decennies, la transhumance autrefois predominante, impliquant des families entieres, faisant place a une migration rurale-urbaine saisonniere de main-d'oeuvre masculine jeune. Cet article se sert de donnees quantitatives et qualitatives pour examiner les relations entre les nouvelles formes de migration et d'organisation domestique. Il pose en particulier les questions suivantes : (1) Comment les menages s'accommodentils de la perte temporaire de membres productifs ? (2) Cette emigration externe conduit-elle a de nouvelles formes d'organisation domestique et a une evolution des roles et des rapports de force au sein des menages de migrants ? L'article identifie diverses formes de flexibilite dans l'organisation domestique destinies au maintien d'unites economiques viables en l'absence temporaire d'un nombre significatif d'hommes jeunes. Parmi ces formes figurent : la flexibilite dans les processus de division des taches menageres; la restructuration rapide et temporaire des unites domestiques; le recours aux reseaux de soutien extramenager. L'une des consequences de cette flexibilite est le caractere largement inchange de la division intramenagere des taches et du pouvoir entre les sexes face a la migration de main-d'oeuvre saisonniere. On ne peut en revanche pas savoir s'il en restera de meme, et dans quelle mesure, si la migration prend de l'ampleur.


There is a long tradition of rural-urban migration in much of sub-Saharan Africa (Caldwell 1969; Murray 1981; Cordell et al. 1996). The impact of rural out-migration on livelihoods, and on the development of sending areas, has been an area of much debate. Many studies suggest that the exodus of young, productive adults leads to the underdevelopment of rural areas and, sometimes, to the collapse of livelihoods (Maliki et al. 1984; Cleveland 1991; Cordell et al. 1996). Others paint a more optimistic picture, in which rural production is boosted by injections of capital from migrants' earnings (Lucas 1987; Ruthven and Kone 1995; Hampshire and Randall 1999). Rural outmigration may also have impacts on social and domestic organization in sending areas. How do households accommodate the loss, temporary or permanent, of some of their most productive members? Does rural outmigration lead to new forms of domestic organization, and to changing roles and power relations within sending households?

Several studies have shown that larger households are in the best position to accommodate out-migration, since labour can be spared more easily (Saint-Pierre et al. 1984; Gaye GuinGuido 1992; Toulmin 1992; David 1995; Knerr 1998). …


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.