The goal of this project was to understand why pastoral production is so low in anthropogenic floodplains in sub-Saharan Africa. Pastoral production systems, in which animals are taken to natural forage, are vital in sub-Saharan Africa as they provide most of the animal protein for populations in rural as well as urban areas. However, in recent decades there has been a decrease in high quality grazing areas in natural floodplains due to the construction of dams in Africa’s rivers resulting in reduced livestock production. Although the dams create anthropogenic floodplains, pastoralists have noted that cattle have a lower reproduction rate, lower milk production, and higher calf mortality than in natural floodplains. They explain these effects in terms of lower forage quality and higher parasite loads. These parasites can reduce cattle production and threaten human populations. However, there have been no studies of anthropogenic floodplains to examine these claims. We used an transdisciplinary approach that combines ethnographic, ecological, epidemiological, and spatial approaches to evaluate whether the low nutritional value of grasslands and/or the increased presence of parasites are responsible for lower livestock production by comparing cattle and pastures around Lake Maga and in the Logone Floodplain.
One Year, Two Plains
The film One Year, Two Plains (2015), is the product of a collaboration between Mouazamou Ahmadou, Albert Drent, and myself. Mouazamou Ahmadou is a visual anthropologist at Maroua University and Albert K. Drent is a Ph.D. student at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology.