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Social transitions in the Savannah: The decline and fall of social risk management amongst Fulani in the subhumid zone of Nigeria

Ayodele O. Majekodunmi (University of Ghana, Accra, Ghana)

International Journal of Social Economics

ISSN: 0306-8293

Article publication date: 5 March 2018




The purpose of this paper is twofold: first, to explore social risk management strategies amongst Fulani in the subhumid zone of Nigeria; and second, to determine current status and nature of reciprocal exchange networks, risk pooling and social support for pastoral livelihoods in North-Central Nigeria.


Surveys of cattle productivity and pastoral livelihoods were carried out amongst Fulani pastoralists on the Jos Plateau: between 2008 and 2013 using participatory epidemiology methods and the sustainable livelihoods framework. Qualitative and quantitative data on livelihood activities, knowledge, attitudes and practices of animal husbandry and disease control, wealth grouping, herd entries and exits was gathered to determine the current state of cattle productivity and pastoral livelihoods in the study area.


Results show that reciprocal exchange networks for risk management have mostly disintegrated and patron-client relationships have become an important social risk management strategy.

Practical implications

This research has significant implications for sustainability of Fulani livelihoods and communities: decreased social risk-management strategies and increased self-reliance means that the most vulnerable households will find it more difficult to withstand shocks and climb out of poverty. Wealthier households may cope better with high incidence/low severity shocks like but are more vulnerable to low incidence/high severity shocks. Likewise, decreased social cohesion reduces the ability of communities to mobilise and act collectively in the face of community-level shocks. This is very important for engagement with the state – a crucial process, given current levels of acrimony and conflict.


Given the high levels of farmer-herder conflict and civil unrest in this region over the past 15 years this research is valuable in providing insights into economic drivers of conflict, current dynamics of pastoral livelihoods and social cohesion within and between communities.



The author would like to thank the management and staff of the Nigerian Institute for Trypanosomiasis and Onchocerciasis Research in Vom, Nigeria for their assistance facilitating this project. The author would also like to thank Dr Alexandra Shaw and Professor Susan Welburn for their support, advice and contributions to the wider project. Sincere appreciation goes to the pastoralists and community leaders of study villages on the Jos Plateau.

Funding: this study was funded by the UK’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) Grant Number BB/H009213/1under the ‘‘Combating Infectious Diseases in Livestock for International Development’’ (CIDLID) scheme.

Conflict of Interest: the author declares that they have no conflict of interest.


Majekodunmi, A.O. (2018), "Social transitions in the Savannah: The decline and fall of social risk management amongst Fulani in the subhumid zone of Nigeria", International Journal of Social Economics, Vol. 45 No. 3, pp. 535-547.



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