Managing land and water use together: nomadic herdsmen and farmers in Niger

In the Sahelian country of Niger, the rural population comprises of sedentary farmers and nomadic herdsmen. During the dry season, the nomads used to travel several hundred kilometres with their herds from the northern region to the farming areas in the south, where their cattle could graze on the harvested fields. With the onset of the rainy season, the herdsmen would then head back so that the farmers could cultivate their land again. However, recurrent droughts and a rapidly growing population have caused these once complementary systems to increasingly come into conflict. Due to the mounting pressure on natural resources, the farmers no longer keep the cattle routes clear and have started using land which was previously reserved as a grazing area for the livestock. As a result, the herdsmen feel compelled to drive their cattle over the arable land.

In 1993, the government of Niger passed the Rural Code to prevent land conflicts between the different groups. It is a framework law which regulates land use rights for the local rural population and, at the same time, secures space for livestock farming. In the beginning, implementation was slow but in recent years it has gained momentum: The establishment of land commissions at all administrative levels, an essential element of the law, has today become an important instrument for jointly managing and administering land and water use by involving all parties concerned. The commissions, which are comprised of representatives from government as well as the different user groups, certify land use rights, control the legitimate use of resources and mediate in the case of land conflicts. This has ensured legal certainty for the rural population.

A successful approach to settle conflicts is the establishment of clearly marked cattle corridors.“Conflicts between nomadic herdsmen and sedentary farmers have occurred for thousands of years. (…) The development of living fences/hedges to protect valuable food crops and regenerating trees has the potential to enhance production for the sedentary farmers, however if the nomads’ need for continued access to wells, watering holes and dry season fodder is not managed at a regional scale, it may lead to worsened conflict. In this situation, effective integration of crop and livestock systems has to make provision for alternative sources of dry season fodder (e.g., fodder banks), and corridors to watering holes and grazing lands. Participatory approaches to decision making can avoid such conflicts between sedentary and nomadic herdsmen.” (Global, p. 177).In the department of Mayayi in the south of the country, for example, 450 kilometres of corridors for the cattle herds were established and secured step by step between 2011 and 2015. These corridors are defined in a broad participatory consultation process and are demarcated with boundary posts and live hedges.
Access to water also leads to repeated conflicts between sedentary farmers and nomadic herdsmen. To ease the situation, wells were built along the corridors and are managed by competent committees consisting of all relevant actors.

HEKS is working to improve the livelihood of farmers and livestock breeders in Niger

From conflict to consultation

Watch the film "The Rural Code experi- ment in Niger” (39 min., scroll to middle)

More material on Niger’s Rural Code from AGTER


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