Farming and Meaning at the Desert’s edge: Can Serer Agricultural and Cultural Systems Co-Evolve towards Sustainability

Authors: Jean Faye*, University of Oregon
Topics: Agricultural Geography, Cultural Ecology, Human-Environment Geography
Keywords: agro-ecology, culture, hybrid systems, sustainability
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/14/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Studio 5, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Indigenous agroecosystems (IAES), or the intentional use of trees and livestock in croplands, have a long history in the West African Sahel. In many locations, they have long contributed to food security and climate change resilience. But a century or more of cash cropping and use of modern agricultural inputs and tools has meant that no such IAES remain intact, and many are extinct. In west-central Senegal, the Serer historic mixed farming and pastoral strategies provided resilience to cyclical droughts and colonial-era agricultural and economic change, but are now neither intact nor extinct. This study examines closely the current state of Serer agroecosystems, considering who uses what elements of the old systems who has introduced what elements of non-indigenous farming systems and whether this combination of local and imported farming systems is a coherent and sustainable fusion, or an incoherent pastiche on a path toward agrarian collapse. This mixed-methods study draws upon literature from cultural ecology, agroforestry, socio-ecological resilience, and history, and links these ethnographic findings to empirical analysis of soil science, and land use change. It finds that farmers who integrate new models with the technical and cultural elements of the old system, generate a coherent fusion, with positive implications for sustainability, climate change adaptation, soil replenishment, crop yield and livelihood resilience.

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