This synthesis forms a part of the Kano-Maradi Study of Long-term Change in which six hypotheses on population density, markets, technological change, integrated agriculture, income diversification and resource tenure/institutions are tested in the context of dryland management. In Maradi Department, a pessimistic scenario of rainfall decline and drought, increasing population pressure, land scarcity, and degradation of natural resources was widely accepted in official and scientific circles in the 1970s and 1980s. The impact of policy on dryland management and the livelihoods of small farmers and livestock producers is examined, focusing on economic management and prices, land tenure and forestry.
The evidence for a transition in natural resource management, investment, livelihood strategies and sustainability is examined. Crop and livestock production trends have been positive, particularly in view of the decline in rainfall and closure of the land frontier, and food sufficiency has been maintained on average, though not in poor households. Income diversification has been vigorous; technology has adapted to both ecological change and new market opportunities; farm incomes have been re-invested to a significant extent; and there are indications of improved productivity per hectare in some situations. Soil nutrients are managed sustainably on a significant proportion of farmland, and where this is not so, farmers aspire to do so; trees on private farms are conserved and harvested, in contrast to woodland of open or common access. Livestock production is taking more intensive forms and becoming more integrated with crops. Private title to natural resources has adapted to changing circumstances. In the family, greater individualisation is a slow trend in response to market participation, and attitudes to a defective education curriculum are strongly pragmatic. In conclusion, the six hypotheses (with one unproven exception) are upheld in a framework which recognises a major system transition from extensive to more intensive production systems, together with income diversification and greater participation in markets, linked with the influence of Kano and the Nigerian market system. While not discounting the continuing existence of poorer households, this transition offers an opportunity for development policy to create the conditions for them to mobilise their resources.