The Republic of Niger is the country with the largest livestock population in the Sahel region. In rural areas, around 87% of the population make their living from livestock farming. For a long time, a mixed economy of settled farming and nomadic cattle-breeding underpinned a delicate balance between the environment, people and animals, as well as between the different needs and interests of farmers and pastoralists (in this case, nomadic herders). But four major drought periods in 1969, 1974, 1984 and 2004, coupled with increasingly intensive use of the farmland and grazing areas, demonstrated the vulnerability of the mixed economy system. Competition for scarce resources led to conflicts between sedentary farmers and pastoralists.
Resource scarcity and competition over resources are mainly attributable to:
- climate change
- the economic crisis
- demographic pressure
- the encroachment of agriculture on traditional grazing lands
- desertification and the disappearance of fallow land
- socio-cultural differences
- issues related to soil and land rights and the exclusion of pastoralists from land ownership and
- lack of cooperation among pastoralists
Creation of a “rural code”
From 1998, some 3,000 km of transit corridors have been designated and marked for pastoralists to move their herds without destroying the farmers' fields. A series of transit and grazing areas have been designated and rehabilitated in consultation with all local stakeholders. At the same time, the SDC assists the setting up of local authorities to implement regulations pertaining to soil and land rights. Experience with the project has contributed to the creation of a “rural code”.
Ensuring progress after the project’s end
The work will continue after the conclusion of the project in 2013. To ensure that progress already achieved is sustained and carried forward, results are being analysed and awareness-raising work is being carried out. The SDC's partners – such as the Rural Code secretariat and committees – are to assume greater responsibility and autonomy to ensure that progress achieved is carried forward once the PASEL project is concluded. The experiences and lessons learned from the project have also attracted the interest of Nigerien ministries and government offices with which the SDC has had a close working relationship from the outset.