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The social nature of environmental knowledge among the nomadic Woɗaaɓe of Niger

Nikolaus Schareika, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen


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Pastoral nomads such as West Africa’s Woɗaaɓe are renowned for the impressive environmental knowledge they apply to successfully raise animal herds in arid and variable environments. We looked at such herders’ knowledge not as based on individual learning and expertise but as ultimately social in the sense that it is formed, made available, and linked to pastoral decision making in the public and interactive space of permanent talking, discussing, and negotiating among peers. Drawing on theoretical ideas from science and technology studies, a number of concrete social situations of information management and pastoral decision making were explored in detail to reveal the distinctly social character of Woɗaaɓe knowledge. Special emphasis has been given to the institutional framework of knowledge exchange; the blending of moral values and empirical facts in particular statements of knowledge; the dialogic and collaborative nature of information procurement and assessment; and the contingency of decisions reached after lengthy rounds of discussion among herders.

Key words

Fulani; local environmental knowledge; Niger; pastoral nomads; science and technology studies; West Africa; Woɗaaɓe

Copyright © 2014 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087