Niger: Redistributing Land to the Needy

More than 18,000 impoverished, landless households, will have access to farmable land during the next winter season, thanks to a land redistribution project proposed by the World Food Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organization, with the support of USAID. 

Tahoua – Hoe in hand, Binta Issah, a 40-year-old mother of eight, works the soil with a group of women. The smile on her face contrasts with the harshness of the land.  The soil in the Alakaye area is rocky, but the World Food Programme is organizing a rehabilitation program to make it usable for farmers in the area.

“The soil here has never been worked – it is degraded and stony. But people want to recover it and use it,” explained Zayaba Ango, with WFP in Tahoua.

Binta has helped build half-moons, stone bunds, and walls to retain water in the fields and create a better environment for producing food staples.  She is one of the people that WFP has reached through its cash distribution projects for producing assets, like the half-moons, during the pre-winter season when the granaries are empty.

“I am relieved.  Previously, I had to search for wood to sell or pound millet for others in hopes of feeding my family.  But with the money that I receive now, I am at ease – I can provide at least two meals per day for my children,” said Binta.

Bineta has never owned her own land.  Each year, she cultivates land for others, but must in return give them part of the harvest. Now, she has found a better solution.  Part of the rehabilitated land will be given to her for free to cultivate for five years.

“We have discussed and signed agreements with local authorities and landowners for the land benefits,” explained Benoit Thiry, WFP representative in Niger. "The innovation of the project is that the rehabilitated land will be redistributed to poor households for five years.  They should benefit from their work."

The partnership between WFP and FAO will allow the households also to benefit from the aid of FAO, who provides the seeds, fertilizer, and technical support necessary for agricultural output.

For Binta, now water is the only concern. She is thankful that the rains have been abundant.  With the financial aid from USAID, projects like mini-dams will be constructed so that water can penetrate the soil, allowing the people to cultivate vegetables as well.  This will help to diversify their diets and provide an additional source of income.

This project is taking places in communities where together a set of integrated programmes – school meals, nutritional care, and food security projects – have been put in place to strengthen people’s resilience.