Syracuse University Magazine


Maxwell School professor John McPeak (on right) meets with a group of farmers and herders outside of Gao, Mali. 

Research Report

Project: Managing River Systems for the Future

Investigator: John McPeak

Department: Public Administration and International Affairs

Sponsor: Livestock-Climate Change Collaborative Research Support Program/U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)

Amount Awarded: $699,997, project runs until April 2015.

Background: Riverine systems in arid and semi-arid lands serve as key resources that support livestock and crop production. The importance of these resources will only grow in response to the vegetation, rainfall, and livelihood changes expected under predicted climate change scenarios. For herders, rivers flowing through drylands are critical for producing vegetation that serves as dry season grazing reserves and essential sources of permanent water. For farmers, the waters allow for cultivation of land through both the recession of floodplains and irrigation. Due to increased population pressure and changing rainfall patterns in the Senegal and Niger river basins, the agricultural economy based on these riverine systems in Mali and Senegal has come under the kinds of stresses that climate models predict may become more widespread in the future.

Impact: By investigating the impact of climate change on the vegetation of these riverine systems to date, an international team of researchers will make recommendations for long-term planning that addresses change and adaptation, and develop an understanding of likely outcomes in similar environments. By documenting the migration patterns of herders and their use of riverine resources, researchers will work together with development partners and local communities to reduce conflict between herders and cultivators, decrease crop losses to livestock, enhance the viability of livestock production, and improve land-use management planning and implementation. By identifying how to best develop livestock production systems, researchers seek to improve human nutrition through enhanced milk access and increased income, particularly for women. By analyzing the benefits and costs of different methods of irrigated rice production, researchers will identify ways to increase food security in riverine production systems. The project also provides technical support to development partners in Senegal and Mali. Notably, this project includes collaboration in Douentza, Mali, with the Near East Foundation, illustrating the kinds of integrated research and development outcomes that motivated the foundation’s recent move from New York City to Syracuse. Finally, education and training are an objective of this program as students at universities and research institutes in Mali and Senegal will be integrated into the research agenda, thus enhancing the capacity of the host countries.

mali.jpgMcPeak (right) conducts a tour of the weekly livestock and produce market in Kati, Mali, with the project’s local market monitor and other project members.