This chapter argues that the environmental constraints of variable rainfall and low bioproductive potential in the West African Sahel need to be placed alongside 2 operational constraints (those of labour and capital) in order to understand the challenge facing smallholders who produce crops and livestock. It considers what Sahelian communities can do for themselves to improve their management of constraints and to invest in enhanced productivity. Evidence is provided, by drawing on studies in northeast Nigeria and in semiarid Kenya, that adaptive capacities exist to deal with rainfall variablity (e.g., in the manipulation of genetic resources), low-bioproductivity (e.g., in nutrient management), capital scarcity (e.g., in many forms of incremental investment in landscape transformation), and the labour constraint (e.g., in flexible management of farm labour and opportunistic allocation of labour to income diversification through migration).
In Benjaminsen, T.A. and Lund, C. (eds) Politics, property and production in the West African Sahel: Understanding natural resources management.