Nature, work, culture: Labour utilisation in agriculture and off-farm employment among the Fulani in northern Burkina Faso

Simon Bolwig*, Bjarke Paarup-Laursen

*Corresponding author

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftTidsskriftartikelForskningpeer review


The article is an interdisciplinary study of the interaction between man and nature with work as a central focus. Work is understood both in relation to agricultural production and in relation to the social and cultural aspects of society. Using the case of Fulani Rimaybe agro-pastoralists in northern Burkina Faso, the broader objective is to understand the conditions and dynamics of agriculture and livelihood in the Sahel. The article combines ethnographic fieldwork with a comprehensive labour allocation survey of 33 male adults. Farm and off-farm work are examined as to 1) the Rimaybe's socio-political status in Fulani society, and 2) family status related to age and seniority. Labour allocation strategies employed to cope with uncertainty and resource scarcity are also discussed. The study showed that the Rimaybe have a pragmatic attitude to both millet cultivation and livestock husbandry in that the most able-bodied workers in practice spend little time in these activities. Relatively low efforts are associated with the Rimaybe's historical emphasis on off-farm work. Off-farm incomes earned by junior males in the local gold-mines are a key factor for agricultural performance and economic well-being. Cash incomes have also been central to the Rimaybe's attainment of higher status in Fulani society in that they have enabled the purchase of land from their former Fulbe masters and landlords.
TidsskriftGeografisk Tidsskrift
Udgave nummerS2
Sider (fra-til)27-41
Antal sider15
StatusUdgivet - 1999
Udgivet eksterntJa


  • Age
  • Burkina Faso
  • Ethnicity
  • Fulani
  • Labour allocation
  • Livelihood
  • Livestock husbandry
  • Millet cultivation
  • Off-farm employment
  • Sahel
  • Work

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