Five questions to Saa Gado
Gender and social involvement expert for the Livestock development support programme in Niger
© Enabel au Niger - Saa (front left) takes the floor during a village meeting.
Can you describe which challenges your programme addresses?
In Niger, the livestock sector and agriculture in general are still mostly traditional, which makes it harder to boost production. There is another issue at stake too: In Niger, stockbreeding is traditionally nomadic or semi-sedentary. Every year, in the transhumance season, tensions arise between farmers and breeders because harvesting is not completed yet and there is much competition for land and water. Appeasing these tensions between breeders and farmers is essential for all value chains to boost their productivity.
The stockbreeding development programme ‘Kiyo Arziki’ (which in the Haoussa language literally means ‘stockbreeding is wealth’), in which I am involved, aims to accompany smallholder stockbreeders in the Tahoua and Dosso regions to make their stockbreeding systems more resilient, sustainable and performing. On the one hand, we must work with the government and breeders to identify development opportunities for the livestock value chains which have a potential for production growth and at the same time respect nomadic livelihoods. On the other hand, we contribute to developing transhumance corridors and pasture land and to building infrastructures such as livestock watering wells, pumping stations and integrated poultry slaughtering and commercialisation entities. This four-year programme is in its second year of implementation.
'In order to increase production in agriculture and the livestock sector, tensions between farmers and nomadic livestock farmers must be reduced.'
© Enabel/Tim Dirven
How is implementation going?
First, we looked at identifying which livestock value chains were promising. This is quite a complex matter, because you have to permanently compromise between potential markets and whether it is locally feasible. We know, for instance, that there is potential for reproduction, but there are many obstacles too, particularly regarding animal health:
We now know that there is too high a rate of chronic diseases and that litter rates are lower than normal. Improving hygiene and monitoring pregnancies and newly-borns on the one hand and fighting chronic diseases on the other hand are indispensable to help breeders reduce mortality and boost production. Mind, we do not start from a blank sheet! The programme can fall back on earlier studies in Niger and in other similar countries. For instance, we found several studies on goat and cattle breeds that were more resistant and better adapted to nomadic life.
© Enabel/Tim Dirven
That phase is now closed. So what are you going to do next?
Before launching into anything, we must first ask local people and communities whether they want to adhere to the programme. Our programme worked with local technical state departments and with local municipalities. First, we listed priority infrastructure for the three priority value chains: live cattle, dairy and poultry..
Second, social engineering work is needed. That work starts with informing and raising awareness, not only about the programme in general but also about the works planned and the advantages they will bring to the beneficiary populations. Next, we proceed to identifying and clarifying the land situation of each piece of infrastructure, and finally we can sign social agreements. The latter ensure the legal protection of the scheduled works so we can develop them without risking protest or opposition.
That is what social involvement, which I am responsible for in the Dosso region, implies. I will give you a good example: For marking a transhumance corridor, all neighbouring villages must agree and accept its arrangement and commit to fully participate in the process. The idea is to show them which advantages come with a safe corridor: If a corridor is marked and herders commit to respecting the marks when passing with their flock, farmers are guaranteed not to have livestock on their fields anymore. In exchange, they must also respect the rules and avoid growing anything in the corridors. We also endeavour to put in place pastoral infrastructure management committees with stockbreeders, farmers and others who are concerned by such infrastructure.
'General village meetings bring together shepherds, farmers, administrative and traditional authorities. Everyone can give his or her opinion there. This results in local social agreements.'
Such topics are discussed during general village meetings which are attended by stockbreeders, farmers and administrative and traditional authorities, by men, women and youths, and where all can voice their concerns. Their commitments and the arrangements resulting from such village meetings are laid down in a social contract which is explained, in the local language, to village leaders in the presence of the populations who sign the contract. Once everyone has expressed agreement with the content of the text, the village leaders sign the document, which is subsequently submitted for signature by the mayors of the various municipalities.
Such an approach requires stamina and diplomacy. Some communities already have experience open conflict, which makes matters harder to address: A dialogue must be launched to have all parties understand what they can gain in the deal. For women there is the additional challenge that the pastoral sector is still very masculine. I am the sole woman in the technical expertise team and often the only woman in the general village meetings.
© Enabel/Tim Dirven
Right, since we talk about women, your mandate also implies the empowerment of women and youths. How do you do so?
You must know that in the villages women and youths own plots of land that they exploit for family stock. So, women and youths are definitely involved in jointly managing the common land. In general, including them in discussions is not too difficult: We ask women and youths to attend the general meetings, to give their point of view, to make proposals. Also, in the livestock value chain, we try to target women groups in order to foster, once again, a positive change of mind.
Have you already found new approaches in that livestock value chain and launched pilot projects?
Right now we work at five pilot projects: one project regarding employment with the Union of women groups of N’Gonga, in rural Harikanassou; two modern poultry projects in Loga and Niouga in urban Dosso; one diary project with the Tchipal Union in Doucthi; and one modern slaughterhouse project in Dosso.
We worked on modernisation of activities with these five promoters. The idea is to really break with traditional livestock and increase production by improving quality of care and food, with solutions that are adapted to the local situation. Everything is gradually being put in place and, for me, an important element will be to share the experience gained through this project so that others, in Niger or elsewhere, can be inspired in future and contribute to the development of modern livestock breeding that is adapted to local reality.