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Written by: Clara Jamart
Organizations: Association pour contribuer à l’Amélioration de la Gouvernance de la Terre, de l’Eau et des Ressources naturelles (AGTER), Agence Française de Développement (AFD), Inter-réseaux Développement Rural, Association pour le Développement de l’Enseignement du Perfectionnement et de la Recherche à l’Institut national agronomique Paris-Grignon (Adeprina), Association pour la Redynamisation de l‘Elevage au Niger (AREN), LandNet West Africa, e-sud development
Type of document: Paper / Document for wide distribution
Lessons Learned from Niger’s Rural Code: An educational kit.
Niger : a Primarily Rural Sahelian Country
Niger is a landlocked West African Sahelian country. It is bordered by Algeria and Libya in the north, Chad in the east, Nigeria and Benin in the south and Burkina Faso and Mali in the west. It possesses various natural resources, mostly mining deposits, most of which remain untapped. The country draws most of its income from uranium exports and the exploitation of large deposits located in the north, in Arlit and Akouta. Phosphates are also being extracted from the Niger valley, as well as coal and tin. Traditional salt industries operate near Agadez and Bilma, and on the banks of lake Chad. There is also iron and copper deposits, and oil has been discovered at the Libyan border.
Niger nevertheless remains one of the poorest country in the world. Its economy is based mostly on food-producing agriculture and animal husbandry. Nearly 84% of the population lives in rural areas in 2010, and the primary sector hires almost 87% of the population. Livestock production is the second most important source of income for the country, with uranium production as the first one. Agriculture comes third.
National area : 1 267 000 km²
Dryland zone = 65 %
Agropastoral zone = 20 %
Agricultural zone = 15 %
Agriculture prevails in the southern area, a region that represents about 15% of the national territory but concentrates nearly three quarters of the population. Nigerien agriculture mostly rests upon small-scale family-owned farms. Work in the fields is not mechanized, and uses sometimes animal traction (but most of the time it is performed by hand). On an average-size farm -5 ha- about 12 persons dwell while 6 are considered labour force. Millet, sorghum, manioc, cowpeas and rice (in the flood-recession areas of the river) are produced for local consumption. The average output reached 411 Kg/ha for millet and 290 Kg/ha for sorghum in 2009. Out of about 2.7 millions hectares of land fit for cultivation, only 40 000 are irrigated, which limits de facto off-season crops and induces strong rainfall dependency. Cash crops (groundnuts and cotton) are specific to the southern area that enjoys higher rainfall. Groundnuts are the main export crops with an output of 431 kg/ha.
Animal husbandry is practised in dry and semi-dry areas and covers the whole northern part of the country. In 2006, livestock amounted to 2.4 million cattle units, 4.9 million ovines, 7,7 millions caprines, 439 000 camels and 106 000 horses. However these figures can vary a lot from a year to another, depending on climate conditions. About 75% of livestock breeding activities can be described as nomadic and transhumant, with a high level of mobility for men and cattle, including cross-border flows. Herders are driven by their search for the water and natural pastureland that constitute most of the livestock’s diet. Rainfalls therefore determine moves and stops, whether at a smaller or larger scale.
Great Challenges for the Future
The Nigerien political system has been particularly unstable for the past 50 years, both because of historical and political reasons. Like other countries of the sub-region, Niger suffered from the consequences of a fast-moving, complex and disruptive decolonization process. While this process was peaceful in appearance, the former colonies remained highly dependant on their ex-colonizers and international institutions. The political system inherited from the colonial era –no efforts were made to adapt it to local conditions - has failed to provide stability for the newly independent States, to enforce the populations’ fundamental rights, and to foster appropriate development for States and societies.
Like for other countries of the sub-region, Niger’s debt, added up to widespread corruption and poor outcomes from the exploitation of resources (most of the time administered by foreign companies from the North) have kept the country highly dependent on international aid.
Niger’s national debt represented nearly 18% of the GDP in 2009 and its foreign debt more than 2 billion US dollars. The debt service reached 10% of the country’s goods and services in 2007 and accounted for about 30% of the State’s total expenditure. Meanwhile, Official Development Assistance amounted to 542 million dollars in 2007, about 13% of the Nigerien gross national income.
The greatest challenges that Niger faces now are obvious : to build a truly democratic system adapted to the country’s specificities and difficulties, to achieve financial independence, but also to tackle poverty and end chronic food insecurity.
Despite extensive agropastoral activities, 32% of Nigeriens have no access to food security in 2010, half of them facing conditions of severe food insecurity.
Paradoxically, the most vulnerable households are those engaged in food-producing agriculture or small-scale livestock production. The net cereal production per person reaches about 160kgs per year, while requirements amount to 250kgs : there is a 36% net gap to cover the country’s global needs. Moreover production yields vary a lot and depend on climate conditions. The soaring population growth rate -3,3% per year, one of the highest in the world- exacerbates land disputes, with a terrible impact on food security for most of the population. Shrinking farmland and the subsequent end of bush-fallow rotation systems lead to soil-surface degradation and lower agricultural outputs, as well as a gradual encroachment of farmland over pastureland, and even more disputes between herders and farmers, but also farmers and other farmers, herders and other herders. Moreover, successive ecological crisis and especially the terrible droughts of 1973/1974, 1984/1985 and 2004/2005 created new pressures on land and natural resources. Droughts have an impact on cattle movements, and flocks tend to push south for water and pastureland, causing damage to crops before harvests, and once more heightening tensions within the rural world.
In this context, and in the absence of a real capacity to change the demographics, one of the most urgent step to take in order to tackle poverty and food insecurity in Niger consists in promoting a concerted rural and agricultural development policy, as well as securing the rights of small farmers and herders on land and natural resources.
This context explains how crucial the development of a Nigerien Rural Code was, and we provide here some educational material to document the issue.
This paper is part of a educational kit, that is complementary to a film about the Lessons Learned from Niger’s Rural Code. This work is the result of a collective project initiated by AGTER, E-Sud Development, AREN, and the LandNet West African network. The project was initiated within the context of the Capacity building project for agricultural organizations networks, focusing on agriculture, food and rural policies funded by the French Development Agency. The contractor for this project is the ADEPRINA/Inter-réseaux Développement rural.
niger_-_paper_1_-_introduction.pdf (170 KiB)