Current Institutional Affiliation
Senior Intelligence and Risk Asessment Analyst, US Department of State

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2008
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
History, Johns Hopkins University
Landscape and Livelihood in the Lake Chad Basin: Climate Change, Pastoral Production and the Politics of Groundwater Management on a Saharan Frontier

As the effects of global warming and climate change have become apparent over the past forty years, the Lake Chad Basin, perched precariously on the southern edge of the Sahara desert, has been among the most harshly affected places in the world. Lake Chad has shrunk by over 95% since the 1968-1973 Sahelian drought, and scholars and development organizations have raised serious concerns about the viability of pastoral communities in the southern Sahara and Sahel in the face of such rapid desertification. Contrary to these doomsday predictions about the sustainability of pastoral livelihoods, the highly transhumant trade in camels between eastern Niger and Libya is larger and more lucrative today than it was before Lake Chad receded, largely replacing the cattle trade south to Nigeria. This study will explore the transition from cattle to camel herding and the associated reorientation of trade from Nigeria to Libya to better understand the impact of climate change on pastoralists in the Lake Chad Basin. It asks first how pastoralists have made changes in livelihood and modes of capital accumulation in response to rapid environmental transformations and technical innovation. I then ask how shifts in pastoral livelihood strategies have interacted with changes in the organization of local government under the auspices of decentralization in Niger, and with conflicts about the status of migrants, refugees, smugglers, and rebels in the greater Chad Basin. The study will connect household-level decision-making about herd management and patterns of spending, investment, and accumulation to the broader political and economic dynamics of commercial activity in the Chad Basin.