Land, investment and migration: a portrait of village life in Mali


The effects of the climate crisis, new technologies, and land grabs have altered the livelihoods and prospects of villagers living in Central Mali. IIED hosted an online event on Wednesday, 17 June to discuss how people survive and thrive in the uncertain and risk-prone Sahel, through the findings of a long-term study on the village of Dlonguebougou.

Last updated 21 June 2020
Two women draw water from a well

Early morning in Dlonguebougou, Mali, in December 2010 and two young women draw water from a well (Photo: Camilla Toulmin, IIED)

In the last 35 years Dlonguebougou, a rural community in the drylands of central Mali, has experienced significant social, economic and environmental change. The effects of the climate crisis, new technologies, and land grabs have altered the fortunes of individuals and families living in the community, prompting new investments for some and migration to town for others.

Camilla Toulmin has studied long-term change in the Malian Sahel since the early 1980s, examining the transformations to land use, people, and livelihoods in Dlonguebougou. Toulmin’s book Land, Investment, and Migration, Thirty-five Years of Village Life in Mali brings together her findings to tell the story of a changing community.

This event on Wednesday, 17 June 2020, the UN World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, explored the findings from this study and reflect on the drivers of change.

Event coverage

You can see a video recording of the complete event below, including the question-and-answer session with webinar participants, and on IIED's YouTube channel.

Among the questions the webinar explored were:

  • How do the people of Dlonguebougou survive and thrive in the uncertain and risk-prone Sahel?
  • What can we learn from this and other long-term studies about how lives change over generations?
  • How have pressures of land affected patterns of farming and land use?
  • What shifts in people’s values and attitudes have impacted on household organisation and social resilience?
  • What messages from this study would bring more sustainable landscapes and livelihoods for Sahelian people, especially given the worsening conflict across the region?

About the speakers

Camilla Toulmin is an economist with particular expertise on dryland Africa, and is a former director of IIED.

Bara Guèye is a rural economist, with more than 35 years of experience of development practice in Francophone West Africa.

Professor Nicholas Stern is the chair of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment and head of the India Observatory at the London School of Economics.

Andrew Norton (chair) is director of IIED. He is an applied anthropologist working on a range of issues related to social and environmental justice.

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Juliette Tunstall (, internal engagement and external events officer