Although Fatima Sidikou works in Niamey, the capital, she hails from further north in Niger, where her tribe, the Fulani, have been breeding cows since time immemorial.
To protect the rights of pastoralists, she decided in 2012 to resume presidency of the Association of Pastoralists in Niger. In June 2013, Fatima Sidikou also became the administrative and financial head of the Permanent Secretariat of the Rural Code, a structure supported by the SDC through a programme of the African Union aimed at providing institutional assistance to producers’ organisations.
Fatima Sidikou was amongst the invited speakers at the SDC annual conference in Lugano on 27 September 2013.
What is unique about animal husbandry, also known as pastoralism, in Niger?
Mobility and transhumance are at the heart of pastoralism. The pastoralist is a nomad, but he does not go just anywhere – he avoids areas which are too humid or disease-ridden, and favours good pastures instead. In the rural areas of Niger, everyone is a pastoralist by tradition. Sometimes this activity is combined with another source of income. Pastoralism can generate significant profit for farmers who go about it the right way. Indeed, pastoralism is the second largest export sector in Niger.
What difficulties are pastoralists currently facing?
The main difficulty is the depletion of their grazing land which for centuries has been situated in the northern part of Niger and is protected by law. Farmers, who themselves are sedentary, are settling more and more onto these territories, particularly because of population growth. At the same time, the pastoralists travel south to escape the cyclical droughts which occur every three to four years. Unfortunately, farmers who occupy land illegally are rarely sanctioned.
What is the goal of the Rural Code you manage?
Niger is currently facing significant land pressure internationally. Many people are trying to sell grazing areas which belong to the state and in this context, pastoralists are marginalised and often live in fear. They must therefore have their rights recognised. That is why the SDC is supporting the Rural Code, a legal tool created by the authorities in Niger 20 years ago. The code regulates rural and urban areas which were previously divided based on an ancient oral culture. It is used to list all land belonging to the state and to define its purpose. To this end, it can be used to regulate conflict between nomadic pastoralists and sedentary farmers.