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Changing Places? Women, Resource Management and Migration in the Sahel
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This fieldwork took place in 25 villages across the Sahel, and variability in conditions, responses, perceptions and strategies was evident not only between regions and countries but between villages and groups, and even between families. Major findings: Male out-migration in the Sahel has diverse forms and effects. Male out-migration does not create large numbers of female headed households. Its effects are felt by women in general rather than by migrants' wives in particular. Out-migration leaves women and children as the greater proportion of the stable working population. Male out-migration has no significant effect on patriarchal patterns of decision-making nor on the normative gender division of labour. Few generalizations can be made about the effects of male out-migration on labour availability for agriculture in rural areas. The effects of male out-migration on women's natural resource improvement activities are diverse and in each case depend on the gender division of labour, land tenure, women's decision-making power and women's workloads. Remittances are not usually in agriculture. Male out-migration does not increase pressure on renewable natural resources through off-farm income-generating activities. Out-migration does not necessarily lead to the freeing -up of land in rural areas. Male out-migration postpones initiatives to improve agriculture in the village. Migration is a strategy which sustains rural livelihoods. Conclusions: Beyond the great variability mentioned in the first sentence which should be strongly noted, it must be noted that there was no attempt to answer macro-economic and macro-sociological questions, rather to provide a micro-level thick description accounts of the case study areas. Some general conclusions are worth emphasising: Firstly, although male-out migration is leaving women and children as, often, the greater proportion of the stable working population in the countryside, it is not creating "women heads of households" as an identifiable category in significant numbers. Secondly, migration seems to be neither overwhelmingly negative or positive for rural communities. Thirdly, the survival strategies of rural communities are inextricably inter-linked with the cash economy, as long as there are little or no opportunity for off-farm employment in rural areas, it is highly unlikely that migratory movements will decline or cease. Fourthly, male-out migration is resulting in a demographic disequilibrium in many rural areas of the Sahel; Women are the stable players in village life. Fifthly, the research clearly illustrates the major disincentive to women's participation in natural resource management and natural resource improvement activities. On a wider scale, the research shows that the juxtaposition of national land tenure laws and traditional tenure systems seems to have led to confusion at village level. --excerpts from the author's introduction