The Republic of Niger is establishing a vast national nature reserve in the Aïr Massif and Ténéré Desert. With its 77,360 km2, the reserve will cover a wide variety of arid-land habitats. Both rainfall and vegetation are sparse, but the area harbours a varied fauna that includes a number of threatened species. The Twareg inhabitants of the reserve subsist by raising livestock, by irrigating small gardens, and by caravanning. Their day-to-day existence relies heavily on natural resources, and their continued existence will depend on the conservation of those resources. Drought, desertification, and abusive use, are all responsible for the deterioration of those resources.
Although highly necessary, the rational management of the area's natural resources will conflict with current landuse practices. Examples of where this happens are presented, and some proposals are put forward for their solution. Ideally, a flexible management system needs to be elaborated that will satisfy both the aspirations of the zone's managers and the immediate needs of its residents. The Authors hope that work in Niger will find its application elsewhere in the Sahel, and meanwhile emphasize the need to reconcile conservation with development.