This article addresses the question of whether the aménagement/gestion de terroir approach, as it is currently being promoted by government, and. development organisations in the French-speaking countries of Sahelian West Africa, is compatible with the realties that agro-pastoralists in those countries face day-to-day. It is particularly concerned with three characteristics of life in the Sahel that have important implications for how agrarian populations manage resources, and whether the terroir approach, which, aims ostensibly to increase the effectiveness of local-level natural resource management, addresses or fails to address these characteristics. First, the Sahel is characterised by considerable agro-ecological diversity and socio-economic differentiation. Second, Sahelan populations are often very mobile as a result, of their efforts to deal with changing opportunities and constraints that affect their pursuit of a livelihood. And, third, Sahelian populations commonly use multiple strategies for risk management, including, but. certainly not limited to, those which focus on the terroir villageois.
In exploring; this question the term ‘action space’ Is used to describe the geographical and temporal distribution of the combination of more or Jess viable options that, smallholder agriculturalists and pastoralists exploit, as they pursue their livelihood. The concept of action space is more inclusive and more flexible than the concept of terroir villageois; and, as such, offers greater promise for understanding and addressing empirical realities in. the Sahel.