Transformation and shifts in production landscapes for livelihood improvements in the Sahel: building a partnership in research

Lead PI
Dr Colin McClean
University of York, Environment
Start Date
1 January, 2009
End Date
31 March, 2010
Project Code

The agro-ecosystems of the semi-arid West Africa region provide the livelihoods for some of the most poor and vulnerable people in the world.

Within this low-productivity area 'islands' of successful land management have shown that there are untapped opportunities to upgrade the livelihoods of people in these environnments and out-scale these farming systems. However, little is understood at present about how such improvements in the farming system productivity will effect on- and off-farm ecosystem resources.

This project aimed to develop a partnership to address this knowledge gap and identify how changes to the farming systems in these regions would affect the wider environment. A project research partnership was established between the Centre for Ecology, Law and Policy (CELP), University of York, (UK), Centre Régional d'Enseignement Spécialisé en Agriculture (CRESA), University of Niamey, (Niger), The Institut de l'Environnement et de Recherches Agricoles (INERA) (Burkina Faso), the Stockholm Environment Institute at the University of York (UK), the Stockholm Resilience Centre (Stockholm University, Sweden) and Centre for International Cooperation (Vrije University, the Netherlands).

The aim of the project was to build a longer term partnership around joint research studying the opportunities and effects on overall landscape productivity and ecosystem services through the upgrading of Sahelian agro-ecosystems.

Could farmers' livelihoods improve in a sustainable way, accounting for both on and off-farm ecosystem resources, functions and services? Why had there been a trend of 'greening' in farming systems in some areas of Sahel but not others?

The project's activities within the initial 12-month period were:

  1. strengthening of the partnership through mutual knowledge exchange through small joint research initiatives
  2. the development of a 3-year research proposal allowing the partnership to investigate effectively the proposed research theme.

Key outcomes of this project were:

  • Joint publications based on pilot studies in selected pilot areas of Niger and/or Burkina Faso
  • Development of a full 3 year research partnership proposal
  • Mutual learning focussed around the potential of participatory GIS for assessing livelihood dependancies in agro-eco systems
  • A number of joint student projects which will be co-supervised by different partnersips within the project team
Name Role Organisation Country
Dr Colin McClean Algeria; Burkina Faso; Cameroon; Chad; Eritrea; Gambia, The; Mali; Mauritania; Niger; Nigeria; Senegal; South Sudan; Sudan
Dr Colin McClean Lead Principal Investigator University of York United Kingdom
Dr Jennie Barron Co Investigator University of York United Kingdom
Mr Steve Cinderby Co Investigator University of York United Kingdom