Centro de conocimiento pastoril

Pastoralist Conversations | What herding, and transhumance looks like in Niger

“Before... It was paradise here,” Mama Abdoulaye


17/11/2022 -

The Pastoralist Knowledge Hub (PKH) is an initiative that seeks to bring pastoral voices to the global agenda. This new section, 'Pastoralist Conversations', contains informative pieces of dialogue with pastoralists from different regions. The aim is to highlight the specificity of pastoralist production systems, transhumance, and the challenges they experience. Thus, providing authentic information to decision-makers on how to better support pastoralism.

In July 2022, the PKH team met Mama Abdoulaye, a herder from the region of Dosso in Niger, close to the border with Nigeria. The team was to meet Mama in his village, Farey, but because of security reasons and regulations, they met in Dosso, the capital city of the region, Dosso.

What is your name, and where do you live?

My name is Mama Abdoulaye, and I live in the commune of Farey in the region of Dosso, Niger.

What kind of animals do you herd? Do they belong to you and your family, or do you keep them for other people?

I have cattle, sheep, goats and camels. I also keep three camels that belong to a researcher from Niamey. I sold them to him because he was interested in herding, and I still keep them for him. When he comes for a visit, I give him some camel milk.

Since when have you been a herder?

I have always been a herder; I inherited it from my father, who inherited it from his father.

How would you describe transhumance in your region?

The sheep and goats leave during the dry season starting in November south to Benin, while cattle and camelids stay in the region during that time. When the sheep and goats return during the wet season beginning in June, the cattle join them and go north together towards the commune of Loga. The camelids do not go out of the region but do internal transhumance. The camelids are very resilient, and one only needs to find them salt and water, that is all. Many families turn to this kind of herding today. I am now settled down in Farey, but I have three shepherds, one for each type of animal, the small ruminants on the one side, the cattle and finally, the camels. They are all cousins close to the family because I would never entrust my animals to people I don't know. I kept the three camels home so I could use the milk for self-consumption.

 

Boubacar, a young shepherd from the commune of Rouga peulh, close to where Mama lives

Have you witnessed some changes in transhumance during the last decade?

Insecurity disrupted the country. Before, it was paradise here. I only knew about herding, but when I saw the situation changing, I decided to buy a field in the commune of Farey and settle down there. I grow some food, I own some poultry, and I adapted. My herds continue to move with the shepherds, but they don't go that far. When I was young, I would do transhumance to Benin on one side and up to the border with Mali on the other. But today, it is impossible because of insecurity. It is really a shame because the pastures in the north are really good. There are no diseases, and you only have to buy salt licks. To the south, there are a lot of diseases, so the animals have to be treated during transhumance.

What are the main difficulties pastoralists face in your region?

The main difficulty of pastoralists in the region is insecurity, particularly in the northern part of the country, because we cannot go there anymore. The second one is drought and long, lean seasons. And we also sometimes face animal thefts.

Are young people interested in becoming pastoralists?

As I said, I inherited herding from my father, who inherited it from his father. I could see that herding can make one earn a good living. For example, my father could do the Hajj[1], and so did I. But given the current situation and what is happening, I cannot encourage my children to become herders. When we settled down in Farey, I enrolled them in school. But some of them still prefer becoming herders.

How can public policies and interventions better help pastoralists?

At the local level, we would like the administrations to develop pastoral areas to ensure that there are forage, water points, and vaccination parks. When it comes to the State, we would like them to secure safe access to the rangelands and curb insecurity so that we can go north as before.