Combating Climate Change and Land Degradation in the West African Sahel: A Multi-Country Study of Mali, Niger and Senegal
Igbatayo, Samuel Aderemi
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The West African Sahel is a vast ecological zone separating the Sahara desert to the north and Sudanian savannah to the south; traversing Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, northern Nigeria and Chad. With a population estimated at more than 60 million people, the region features a multiplicity of development challenges. It is home to some of the world’s most impoverished people, whose livelihoods are reliant on rainfed agriculture. The region faces severe and recurring bouts of droughts since the 1980s, jeopardizing environmental sustainability. During the past four decades, the West African Sahel has witnessed below-average annual precipitation, with two severe drought periods in 1972-1973 and 1983 – 1984, undermining agricultural productivity and triggering severe land degradation. Various studies have predicted even more severe climate variability and change in the region, with drier and more frequent dry periods expected. The major objective of this paper is to shed light on climate change and land degradation patterns in the West African Sahel. It employs empirical data to analyze the trends, with particular emphasis on Mali, Niger and Senegal. The study reveals considerable threats posed by the twin scourges of climate change and land degradation to food security, environmental sustainability and regional stability.