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29 Sep 2011 - by A4ID

Securing land rights in Niger

In Niger pastoralists are often unable to secure their land rights, threatening access to food and livelihoods. But new legal research has helped to empower the community and protect their rights.

Background

Niger has many pastoralist communities whose members often don’t have access to secure land rights, threatening their food security and livelihoods.

As a result there is often conflict amongst herders and farmers because of competition for the same pasture, farmland and water resources.

In the Abalak province of south-east Niger, farmers and herders are supported by Jeunesse en Mission Entreaide et Devéloppement (JEMED).

JEMED works with the international NGO Tearfund – an A4ID development partner – to provide local communities with access to water and education, and securing natural resources in line with the Millennium Development Goals.

Partnership

When the Niger Parliament announced a new Pastoral Code, JEMED decided to take action to support the rights of this vulnerable group.

Tearfund put them in touch with A4ID and we set up a partnership with lawyers from Weil, Gotshal and Manges, who conducted research into the land rights of pastoralists under existing laws in Niger and made recommendations on how to revise the Pastoral Code.

Increasing awareness

The consensus of this research was that the law gave priority use of the land to pastoralists but that this was not always implemented at the local level.

In light of the legal research, JEMED decided to raise awareness about land rights and about who had the responsibility to uphold those rights.

JEMED translated the lawyer’s research into the local language and used it to train and raise awareness among local people at community meetings.

Getting rights upheld

At the same time, JEMED met with local and national government officials to explain the problems with the proposed law.

They presented the research that had been done by our legal partners and their recommendations for how the law could be improved.  For example, the lawyers had suggested setting up land committees which could resolve disputes between people.

As a result of the lawyers’ and JEMED’s work, a land tenure commission was set up in Abalak and five local land management committees have since been established. These ensure the priority use of the pasture and water rights for five local communities and resolving local disputes over land and resources.

Driving legal change

JEMED’s lobbying at the national level led to the agreement by the government of Niger that the new Pastoral Code would only be approved following full consultation by the government with those local communities who are going to be most directly affected by it.

Because of this tireless work the land rights of people from the Abalak province are now more widely understood and better secured thanks to local land committees, and set to be strengthened further as the government consults pastoralists about its legal reforms going forward.

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