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Efficient versus Sustainable Livestock Grazing in the Sahel


  • Hans-Peter Weikard,

  • Lars Hein

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    • Hans-Peter Weikard is the corresponding author, and is with the Department of Social Sciences, Environmental Economics and Natural Resources Group, Wageningen University, Hollandseweg 1, NL-6706 KN Wageningen, The Netherlands. Email: Lars Hein is with the Department of Environmental Sciences, Environmental Systems Analysis Group, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 8080, NL-6700 DD Wageningen, The Netherlands. Email: We are grateful to three anonymous reviewers and the editor, David Harvey, for their thoughtful suggestions to improve our paper. All remaining shortcomings are our responsibility.


To date, there is no consensus on optimal stocking rates in the semi-arid Sahel. We develop a model for livestock management based on a detailed analysis of ecosystem dynamics, and we apply it to calculate optimal and sustainable livestock stocking rates in a Sahelian rangeland. The general model accounts for stochastic rainfall and the long-term impact of grazing on rangeland productivity. For the case study area, the model shows that the optimal stocking rate is higher than the sustainable stocking rate. Hence, with current prices, it is optimal for the pastoralist society to deplete their resource base. In our case study, we also find that the current stocking rate exceeds the optimal stocking rate, which adds to soil depletion.