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Photo Essay: Communication for Social Change Helps Defuse Conflicts In Niger

In Niger, the growing population and water shortages have heightened competition for natural resources, leading to conflicts among nomadic herders, farmers and ranchers. The Nigerien-German community programme (LUCOP), financed by the German Federal Ministry, uses the communication for social change approach to help defuse these conflicts. CFSC Consortium consultant, Dominique Thaly and LUCOP communication adviser, documented recent events using the Consortium's approach.

Niger's Peuhl and Tuareg people, nomadic, desert stockbreeders and herders, gather yearly in the North-Western Region of Niger, a dry, primarily desert area, to feed their animals on the saltpans of Saharan pasture. These joyful and celebratory gatherings, known as the "Salt Cure,"¯ are a highlight of their nomadic life.

Families and friends meet again, renew old ties and celebrate marriages.

Men of the Peul Wodaabé perform a courtship ritual, for which they decorate their faces, wear special clothes and move rhythmically to ritual chanting.

UNICEF, UNFPA and other organisations do educational work and vaccinate children at these gatherings.

Until recently, the gatherings performed a vital function"”serving as a forum for groups to settle conflicts over how best to share common, and scarce, natural resources. More recently, pressures of modern life have almost entirely eliminated these forums as part of the gatherings. Deadly conflicts replaced peaceful communication.

The Nigerien-German Poverty Alleviation Programme, Armutsbekämpfung im ländlichen Raum, or "poverty fight in the rural area"¯ (LUCOP), is working to restart the tradition of using the gatherings for communication to settle conflicts peacefully. The LUCOP recently organised two such discussions.

The LUCOP staff attended those gatherings to learn about the commitments of the various communities: traditional rulers, mayors, representatives of herders and NGOs. The organisation also financed a drama to popularise those commitments, another communication for social change technique.

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