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Desertification in the Sahel

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Desertification in the Sahel case study

Location etc:
• The Sahel is a zone between the Sahara Desert and the more fertile lands of the further South.
• The area runs from the Atlantic Ocean to the Horn of Africa and includes parts of Sudan, Chad and many others.
• It has a population of over 50 million.

Causes of Desertification:
• Low rainfall.
• Civil wars in Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia.
• Population growth.
• Settling of the nomadic population, leading to over cultivation.
• The use of wood for fuel.

• Two periods of drought followed by famine in 1968-1974 and 1979-1984 brought the attention of the world to this region.
• These periods of poor rainfall struck particularly hard for many Sahelian farmers and pastoralists, resulting in an estimated
• 100,000 drought related deaths.
• The annual average rainfall of the Sahel is low (100-200mm), with most of the rain falling in the period between June and
• September.
• The natural vegetation is a mixture of xerophytic (drought resistant) shrubs and grasses.

Attempted Solutions:
• Early warning systems have been put in place to prevent the onset of drought-induced food shortages. These provide the data necessary to predict or assess potential crop loss and animal shortfalls. Based on remotely sensed data of vegetation cover and rainfall patterns and on food market surveys.
• Locally based efforts to nurture and protect the resource base. This involves encouraging farmer cooperatives, small scale, non-governmental organisation projects and other internationally funded schemes.
• Higher yielding/drought resistant crops.
• Improvement or introduction of irrigation.
• Improved ranching and grazing schemes.
• Contour stone lines consisting of lines of stones and rocks placed across the land contour, a cheap erosion control. They slow overland flow and encourage the deposition of sediments rich in soil nutrients.
• Oxfam began a series of programmes:
• Cash for work schemes projects are identified within a community and Oxfam employs people to work on them in return for vouchers that they can exchange for food.
• Destocking programmes which aim to reduce the numbers of animals in circulation. The owners are paid a fair price for their least healthy livestock, allowing them to buy feed for those that remain.
• Animal livestock fairs where pastoralists can obtain new animals and subsidised animal feed.
• Vacation campaigns.
• Rehabilitating and constructing water points.
• Strengthening the capacity of Oxfam’s partners through training so that they have the skills to assist people.

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