Years of drought, irregular rainfall, and environmental degradation ravaged Africa’s Sahel region in the 1970s and ‘80s, exacerbating economic, social, and environmental conditions in one of the world’s poorest regions. Coupled with an exploding population, these events provoked a collective re-think on development and conservation policy—shifting toward regional schemes to boost local capacities, establish effective land use policies, and improve community resilience to unpredictable climate conditions. Farmers in southern Niger provide a success story
, reports The New York Times
“Better conservation and improved rainfall have led to at least 7.4 million newly tree-covered acres in Niger, researchers have found, achieved largely without relying on the large-scale planting of trees or other expensive methods often advocated by African politicians and aid groups for halting desertification, the process by which soil loses its fertility.”Nevertheless, drought is only one of many forces dictating life in the Sahel. Add to the mix unknown impacts of climate change on the region’s drought cycles, shifting political and military power as well as variable financial flows from volatile markets like oil and it remains to be seen if this model can be replicated and sustained throughout the region.
For additional resources on the Sahel, see University of Nigeria Professor Anthony Nyong‘s presentation at the Wilson Center.