National Geographic : 1975 Aug
the dusty soil, there was plenty of water left. Cattle, sheep, and goats of the Fulanis, largest of the ethnic groups in the Inland Delta, or bited around improvised wells. Having heard reports of heavy livestock losses, I found this a startling sight. Obviously some of the Fu lanis-known in French-speaking Africa as the Peul-had outwitted the drought. These people have long been pastoralists who move with the seasons. Along the Niger, however, they have compromised. Young herders, sons or servants, roam with the cat tle, while parents and owners remain in their villages of dome-shaped huts, thatched with straw and lined with mats. Among the young Fulani herders at one well I recognized Amadou Yide, whom I had met at the village of Dialloube before the drought. There we had watched a traversee, a mooing, shouting chaos of horns and swirl ing sticks. Young men swaggered past the grandstand and proudly displayed to officials and admiring girls their livestock, while a long line of amber-bejeweled maidens swayed to the music of flutes. During a traversee, herds are driven past a checkpoint so authorities can control the drive to verdant pastureland. Dates for each traversee are set months ahead to prevent a wild rush. A festive air reigns in Dialloube when the herds pass the official grandstand. I asked Amadou whether the wives of wealthy cattlemen had sold their golden finery when the drought ravaged the herds. "Times were bad," he said, "but they never got that bad. Many of us took refuge in camps, but others drove the herds to pastures far south, where there was forage and water."