Settlement Structure and Landscape Ecology in the Sahel: The Case of Northern Yatenga, Burkina Faso
This chapter describes general patterns of settlement evolution in northern Yatenga as illustrated by the experience of three distinct communities—Banh, Toulfe, and Sodin. In all three cases, a combination of socio-economic and other forces have produced dramatic land-use intensification and even possibly “agricultural involution”. The chapter attempts to elucidate the links between settlement structure and cultural-ecological and agricultural change. Most pre colonial settlements in Yatenga as well as housing patterns were designed, sited, and constructed with landscape ecology as well as defense and other cultural factors in mind. Yatenga’s settlement pattern strongly reflects landscape and disease ecology, i.e., population density is inversely related to distance from disease-ridden lowlands. In fact, this holds true for Burkina Faso as a whole as well as within Yatenga proper. The dominant forces affecting settlement structure appear to be those favoring dispersal in contrast to clustering or agglomeration. Sodin, the dominantly Mossi community, has experienced the most drastic dispersion and overall population growth.