Human Ecology

, Volume 38, Issue 3, pp 363–376 | Cite as

Household Extension and Fragmentation: Investigating the Socio-Environmental Dynamics of Mossi Domestic Transitions

  • Colin Thor West


Recent studies in West Africa and other parts of the world suggest that globalization and modernization make extended forms of domestic organization untenable in the face of modern economic and ecological circumstances. Unlike the large and extended domestic groups of pre-industrial and pre-colonial periods, households today tend to be small and nuclear. Thirty years ago, a series of case studies conducted on the Central Plateau of Burkina Faso documented this nucleation process among Mossi rural communities and predicted the decline and demise of Mossi extended households. This article tests the degree to which these predictions were correct based on ethnographic fieldwork in three villages in 2004. The results indicate that extended households indeed persist. Their persistence is explained by analyzing the roles of environmental and social change on the twin processes of household extension and fragmentation. Regional desiccation, off-farm income-generating opportunities, and agricultural intensification have created conditions that equally promote both household extension and fragmentation.


Households Domestic processes Mossi Social and environmental change Burkina Faso 



Fieldwork was funded by a Social Science Dissertation Research Fellowship from the Population Council. Write-up of this article was supported by a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate and Global Change Post-doctoral Fellowship. I would like to thank the people of Loulouka, Sakou, Kouka, and Kongoussi who graciously shared their lives with me. I would also like to thank Carla Roncoli, Mark Moritz, and Michael Kevane who helped me revise early drafts of this document. Carol G. West provided proof-reading assistance.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of North Carolina Chapel HillChapel HillUSA

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