Waiting for the Rural Code: Perspectives on a Land Tenure Reform in Niger
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Since 1986 serious efforts have been made in Niger to prepare for reform of land tenure. This reform, the rural code, has so far not been implemented, yet preparations, scientific and political discussions have made the code a widely known political issue throughout the country. This paper aims to outline some of the problems facing successful implementation of the rural code in Nigeria and to sketch out some of the social and institutional trends which emerged in one part of the country, the arrondissements of Mirriah and Mataméye in the Zinder department of eastern Niger. The fieldwork on which this paper is based will be followed by a more extensive period of 5-6 months, the data currently used having been collected during January-February 1993. The paper contains the following sections: (1) a background to the discussion; (2) the emergence of the rural code; (3) its institutional consequences; and (4) a brief examination of old and new traditions. The paper makes the following observations: that the indecision surrounding the code has increased the level of insecurity regarding land tenure; and that the rural code should be based on traditions known and recognized by the people concerned. Also, the paper stresses the need to recognize the political aspects of the approach aimed to give people a recognition of the finite nature of resources. Lastly, the advent of the rural code has has an impact on social trends, causing conflict, migration and also raising questions of how the increasing move toward democracy will mesh with the traditional power of the chiefs.