THE RECENT TRENDS IN LAND tenure policies have shifted from mainly efficiency-driven policy reforms toward more sustainable resources policies. This shift has been accompanied by a recognition of traditional resource management systems and the necessity to pass resource control to local communities. During the 1980s, many attempts were made by Sahelian governments and donor communities to organize and empower local communities in the management of their resources. These efforts, which were conceptually right, completely ignored local customary institutions and production strategies.
The 1993 land and institutional laws in Niger are new attempts by the Nigerian government to bridge the gap of prior reform policies. The Principles of Orientation of the Rural Code (93-015 Law) recognizes that customary rights are equal to formal rights and the Status of the Chieftaincy (93-028 Law) empowers customary institutions to take over resource management and control. Accounting for local customary rules and institutions, wherever they continue to work efficiently, is essential. However, this land reform approach should not be viewed as a panacea, because rural communities in the Sahel went through many changes while living with colonial and post-colonial policies. Failure to account for such changes will increase conflicts in rural areas and impede the implementation of these laws.