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Livelihood diversification and land use change in the Sahel: an interdisciplinary analysis of gum arabic in Sudan

  • Bodil Elmqvist
Publiceringsår: 2006
Språk: Engelska
Dokumenttyp: Doktorsavhandling
Förlag: Department of Physical Geography and Ecosystem Science, Lund University


This thesis contributes to the ongoing debate about livelihood diversifi cation and the

related question of agriculture’s central role in rural development in the Sahel. It focuses

on on-farm diversifi cation during the dry season. The aim is to assess the practice and

potential of gum arabic production for smallholders in central Sudan. The agricultural

system of gum arabic production has provided smallholders with incomes, soil fertility

improvements and other advantages for generations, but for a number of reasons changes

are taking place in production, which can be detrimental if no other alternatives exist.

The methods in this thesis involve a multi-level analysis from international to local level

analysing both indirect and direct driving forces of production. An interdisciplinary approach

is applied combining different theoretical frameworks and integrating the results

from both remote sensing and interviews. The results showed that the indirect driving

forces, operating at international, national and regional levels, related to the economic

and political causes: international demand and national gum prices, and the environmental

causes: drought, precipitation and pests. The severe drought in 1984 caused an eventdriven

change that lead to a discontinuation of production in some parts, which was one

of the reasons for regional differences in production. The direct driving forces, operating

at a local level, related to the way in which input of labour and resources was prioritised

between the main livelihoods: gum arabic, crops, off-farm activities and livestock. Results

from the local level revealed that incomes from off-farm activities increased, as in

many other parts of Africa, during the last decades. Livestock was found to be diffi cult

to combine with gum arabic production since they damage the trees. A study of very

high resolution satellite images showed that the cultivated land per capita had decreased

since the end of the 1960s. No increase in yields took place, according to interviews, and

therefore a production per capita decline was concluded. The image classifi cation was

based on an object-oriented approach with high accuracy and the approach can therefore

be an alternative for regional land use studies. The relations between gum arabic, crops,

off-farm activities and livestock are complex and, for example, depend on labour division

within households. In conclusion, both direct and indirect driving forces of gum arabic

production are recognised, but the direct causes, taking into account the constraint and

opportunities of households, are emphasised. Gum arabic production can play a part in

rural development in these parts of Sudan, but the challenge is also to acknowledge the

diversity and dynamics of other livelihoods.


Geocentrum 1, Sölvegatan 10, Lund
  • Eric Lambain


  • Physical Geography
  • Sudan
  • Remote sensing
  • Livelihood
  • diversification
  • land use change


  • Lennart Olsson
  • Jonas Ardö

Box 117, 221 00 LUND
Telefon 046-222 00 00 (växel)
Telefax 046-222 47 20
lu [at] lu [dot] se

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