Analysis of the evolutions of agropastoral land tenure policies and laws in West Africa

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Published in August 2023 by the "Land Tenure and Development" Technical Committee, this report by Olivier Barrière (IRD) and Bernard Bonnet (Iram) looks at the contrasting paths taken by policies to secure pastoral land tenure in West Africa.

In West Africa, the issue of "pastoral land tenure" is frequently in the news, particularly through the agro-pastoral conflicts issues, which are often deadly. The issue is rarely approached with the required attention and a detailed understanding of the complexity of the situations and relationships between resource users. Far from being insensitive to these growing tensions, several countries, particularly in the Sahel, have developed and try to implement major land policies to contain the rise of violent conflicts (especially since the mid 90’s). In many cases, the analysis of agro-pastoral conflicts questions the practice of the law by institutional stakeholders. It raises interrogations on legislative texts relevancy and the way in which they are implemented.

The historical and contemporary analysis of the evolution of the recognition of the pastoral management or relationship to land brings additional elements. It creates space to question both the content and the appropriateness of legislation and public policies, in their relationship with the land and the resources it supports. This relationship is rooted in the various socio-cognitive representations and socio-cultural patterns that legal regulation catalyses in all its dimensions. We shall see in this paper that political trajectories emanate from a form of legal colonialism that underpins them.

However, a wide range of situations emerge in terms of relationship with and management of land: from the extreme case of Nigeria, which is subject to a genuine tragedy of appropriation, to the more nuanced case of Niger, which is opening to a more shared relationship with land and where the land is not just a space, but also a support for resources. This report proposes a fundamental rethink of the way in which relationships to land are conceived, to go further in the regulation and policies governing access to natural resources.

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