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 kilometers 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, farmers no longer keep cattle routes clear and have started using land that 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 that 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 settling conflicts is the establishment of clearly marked cattle corridors. In the department of Mayayi in the south of the country, for example, about 450 kilometers 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

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

More material on Niger’s Rural Code from AGTER


Donors of globalagriculture Bread for all biovision Bread for the World Misereor Heidehof Stiftung Hilfswerk der Evangelischen Kirchen Schweiz Rapunzel
English versionDeutsche VersionDeutsche Version