• Indigenous peoples in Niger

    Indigenous peoples in Niger

    Niger’s indigenous peoples are the Tuareg, Fulani and Toubou, all of them transhumant pastoralists. Niger’s total population was estimated at 14,693,110 in 2009; 8.5% of the population, or 1,248,914, were Fulani, 8.3% or 1,219,528 were Tuareg, and 1.5% of the population, or 220,397, were Toubou.

Indigenous World 2020: Niger

Niger's Indigenous Peoples are the Tuareg, Fulani and Toubou, all of them transhumant pastoralists. Niger’s total population was estimated at 14,693,110 in 2009. Of the population, 8.5%, or 1,248,914, were Fulani, 8.3%, or 1,219,528, were Tuareg, and 1.5%, or 220,397, were Toubou.

The Fulani can be further subdivided into the Tolèbé, Gorgabé, Djelgobé and Bororo. They are mostly cattle and sheep herders although some of them have converted to agriculture since losing their livestock during the droughts. The Tuareg raise camels and goats and live in the north (Agadez and Tahoua) and west (Tillabéry) of the country. The Toubou are camel herders who live in the east of the country around Tesker (Zinder), N’guigmi (Diffa) and along the border with Libya (Bilma).

The June 2010 Constitution does not explicitly note the existence of Indigenous Peoples in Niger. The Tuareg, Fulani and Toubou are not considered a minority or marginalised communities but, in contrast, are treated like any other community in the country despite the problems associated with their nomadic way of life.1

Pastoralists’ rights are set out in the Pastoral Code, adopted in 2010. Most importantly, this code includes an explicit recognition of mobility as a fundamental right, along with a ban on the privatisation of pastureland, which poses a threat to this mobility. A further important element in the Pastoral Code is the recognition of priority use rights in their pastoral homelands (terroirs d’attache). Niger has not signed ILO Convention 169 but did vote in favour of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

 Climate change

 In January 2019, Mr Peter Maurer, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), conducted an eight-day visit to the Sahel (Mali and Niger). On his return to Geneva, he noted: 

The effects of climate change are exacerbating inter-community conflicts in both Mali and Niger, resulting in a worsening of poverty, a decline in public services and the disruption of traditional ways of life. Tensions that have long pitted herders against farmers are intensifying due to climate change, with a decline in available productive land and water sources becoming ever more unreliable. Climate change is further complicating the situation in this region where under-development, endemic poverty, and widespread crime and violence are already exposing the population to immense risk.2 

Temperatures are increasing 1.5 times faster in the Sahel than in the rest of the world. Rainfall is irregular and the rainy season becoming ever shorter. According to UN estimates, around 80% of the Sahel’s agricultural land is now degraded while some 50 million livestock-dependent people compete for the territory.

Land and natural resource management 

A workshop to launch the rural land policy drafting process was held on 21 March 2019. The workshop, organised by the Permanent Secretariat for the Rural Code with the technical and financial support of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), was aimed generally at launching the process for producing a rural land policy.3

The workshop was the result of a commitment made by the Niger government in June 2018 with regard to producing a rural land policy and it has been supported by the FAO. Implementation is envisaged to begin in 2020. Its aims are as follows: 

  • to maintain the status and vocation of the pastoral zone;
  • to establish an interministerial committee to review and harmonise all texts governing rural land;
  • to increase the state’s budgetary allocation so that rural land issues are taken into better consideration;
  • to operationalise the rural land courts;
  • to create a national multi-actor watchdog on rural land issues; and
  • to ensure technical and financial support for the process of producing and implementing the rural land 4 

On 3 August 2019, the Billital Maroobe Network ran a capacity build ing workshop in Dosso for magistrates from the regions of Dosso and Tillabéry on issues of pastoral land law in Niger.

From 12-14 November 2019, an international conference was held in Niamey on “Preventing and managing conflict around natural re source governance in West Africa: challenges and opportunities”. This conference was organised by the Civil Service for Peace and the Frexus Project, both supported by GIZ (Deutsche Gesellchaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit Gmbh). It was aimed at informing and creating synergies among the different actors in West Africa through a sharing of their conflict prevention, reduction and transformation capacities with regard to natural resource management.5

In November 2019, the Billital Maroobe Network published its newsletter on the pastoral situation in the Sahel. For Niger it highlighted:

  • A fodder deficit in the pastoral zone of northern Niger;
  • A persistence, and even aggravation, of insecurity and difficulties in accessing natural resources in the tri-border area (Sahel and east of Burkina Faso, Gao in Mali, Tillabéry in Niger), and the Mali-Niger cross-border region;
  • Herds have not yet generally begun cross-border transhumance and are still in their pastoral homelands (terroirs d’attache); and
  • Market prices are largely satisfactory, stable or increasing for livestock and falling for grain, hence favourable terms of trade for pastoralists6


On 12 September 2019, the World Bank approved support of US$80 million to Niger for refugees and host communities. Niger currently has more than 280,000 displaced people on its territory, including almost 158,000 refugees, 109,000 internally displaced persons and 16,000 Niger citizens who fled Nigeria to escape Boko Haram. The Refugee and Host Community Support Project (PARCE) aims to help Niger improve refugees’ and host communities’ access to basic services and economic opportunities in 15 communes of the Diffa, Tahoua and Tillabéry regions, and to provide institutional support to the local, regional and central authorities in these three regions and Agadez.7


Notes and references

  1. “Rapport Du Groupe de Travail De La Commission Africaine Sur Les Populations/Communautes Autochtones: Mission en Republique du Niger”. Indigenous Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA), page 14, February 2006: https://www.iwgia.org/images/publications//ACHPR_Niger_FRE.pdf
  2. “Mali-Niger : changement climatique et conflits forment un cocktail explosif au Sahel”. Comité international de la Croix-Rouge, 22 January 2019: https://www. org/fr/document/mali-niger-changement-climatique-et-conflits-forment- un-cocktail-explosif-au-sahel-0
  3. “Atelier de lancement du processus de formulation de la politique foncière rurale au Niger”. Landportal, March 2019: https://landportal.org/node/85445
  4. “Le Niger s’engage dans l’élaboration d’une politique foncière rurale”. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), 21 June 2018: http://www.org/niger/actualites/detail-events/en/c/1142165/
  5. “ConférencePrévention et gestion des conflits liés à la gouvernance des ressources naturelles en Afrique de l’Ouest: défis et perspectives”. Water, Energy and Food Security Nexus, 12 November 2019: https://www.water- energy-food.org/news/conference-prevention-et-gestion-des-conflits-lies-a- la-gouvernance-des-ressources-naturelles-en-afrique-de-l-ouest-defis-et- perspectives/
  6. “Bulletin de veille”. Réseaux Billital Maroobé, November 2019: http://www.maroobe.com/index.php/acceuil/historique/8-maroobe/50-bulletin-de-veille- novembre-2019
  1. “Niger: la Banque mondiale approuve une aide de 80 millions de dollars en faveur des réfugiés et des communautés d’accueil”. The World Bank, 12 September 2018: https://www.banquemondiale.org/fr/news/press- release/2018/09/13/niger-world-bank-approves-80-million-to-support- refugees-and-host-communities


Saidou Garba Bachir is a journalist and photographer specialising in development, gender, youth and food security. He is communications and mobilisation coordinator for the Association for the Revival of Pastoralism in Niger (Association pour la Redynamisation de l’Elevage au Niger / AREN). 

Patrick Kulesza is Executive Director of GITPA, the Groupe international de travail pour les peuples autochtones. Since June  2019  he  has been coordinating a publication, as part of GITPA’s Indigenous Issues Collection, on  “The  Future  of  Fulani  Nomadic  and  Transhumant Pastoralists in the Sahel and Central Africa”.


This article is part of the 34th edition of the The Indigenous World, a yearly overview produced by IWGIA that serves to document and report on the developments Indigenous Peoples have experienced.  Find The Indigenous World 2020 in full here



IWGIA - International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs - is a global human rights organisation dedicated to promoting, protecting and defending indigenous peoples’ rights. Read more.

Indigenous World

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