Niger: How dry wastelands and science are changing women’s lives in the Sahel

For most women in the Sahel, if the husband passes away his closest family or his male children inherit his possessions. If a woman starts a vegetable garden and it proves successful, the husband can expel his wife from the garden and take it over. Women are also denied the right to own croplands. A programme called the Bioreclamation of Degraded Lands (BDL) system initiated by ICRISAT (International Crops Research Institute for the Semi Arid Tropics) Niger has developed new ways to use land in the Sahel, this otherwise 'waste' land to improve food production and nutrition while at the same time improving women's status and income. The degraded lands however are communal lands owned by the village under the authority of the village chief. He can allot the "waste land" to organized women groups resulting in women ownership of land. Once a women's association is registered, it can negotiate the ownership of a parcel of degraded land with the help of NGOs or CBOs. The association leases each of its members a plot of land in the BDL. The degraded lands are allotted to the association, not to individual women. So, husbands can no longer take over from their wives' successful economic activities since the land belongs to the association. Women learn how to use degraded land to produce high value hardy rain-fed fruit trees and vegetables.
Source publication: 
International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics