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Effects of Drought, Famine and War Across the Sahel
The Economic, Political and Social Ramifications of Drought, War and Famine Across the Sahel Region of Africa
Curated by Derek Ethier
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The Sahel: An Introduction

The Sahel: An Introduction | Effects of Drought, Famine and War Across the Sahel | Scoop.it
Derek Ethier's insight:

The Sahel refers to the zone in Africa where the Sahara Desert transitions into savannas and rain forests in the South of the continent. In Arabic, the word "Sahil" literally means shore or coast, referring to the vegetation of the Sahel as a type of coast compared to the sands of the Sahara. 18 million people across nine countries (Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Algeria, Niger, Chad, Sudan, South Sudan and Eritrea) inhabit this 1,000 km belt stretching from the Atlantic in the west to the Red Sea in the east. Recent droughts in the Sahel, due to poor farming techniques, overgrazing, overpopulation and infrequent rain, have led to widescale famine, dust storms, starvation and devastation. It is a very vulnerable region that has more recently been monitored by international organizations attempting to help those affected by diarrhea, starvation, malnutrtition and respiratory diseases. The question on most aid worker's minds is how to end this relentless cycle of food shortages, and that is what they are working to do. Unfortunately for the millions of people that inhabit this region, this large scale drought and famine has widely negative economic, social and political ramifications.

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Desertification in the Sahel

Desertification in the Sahel | Effects of Drought, Famine and War Across the Sahel | Scoop.it
chapter of an on-line textbook in environmental science for high school and college students and others.
Derek Ethier's insight:

One major issue that the Sahel faces is desertification. Essentially, desertification is the degredation of arid areas oftentimes bordering a desert. In this case, the Sahel obviously borders upon the Sahara Desert. This degredation is oftentimes caused by human activities and variations in the climate. Since the last ice age, the Sahara has expanded and contracted several times and it is currently expanding. Today, changing sea temperatures in the Gulf of Guinea can be attributed to the current climate change in the Sahel. Much less rain clouds pass over the region thus much less rain falls in the Sahel. However, overpopulation, overgrazing and overuse of the land have led to the destruction of the region as well. These factors also contribute to the gradual desertification process.

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In pictures: The Sahel drought

In pictures: The Sahel drought | Effects of Drought, Famine and War Across the Sahel | Scoop.it
Eight countries across West Africa face a humanitarian crisis, as millions of people go hungry.
Derek Ethier's insight:

These pictures really capture the true essence of life in the Sahel. Emaciated animals are unable to feed because there is not even enough for the people. In addition, many farmers do not feed their animals because they have little value in market. It is more profitable to allow them to die than to feed them. To make matters worse, over one million children are starving each year in Chad alone. This is about as many people as there are in the entire state of Rhode Island. In the photos, we also see desertification and very unfriendly land. Farming and herding are very difficult and water resources are scant. It is very jarring to see pictures of children in these harsh conditions because they are so innocent. Overall, the situation in the Sahel is very saddening.

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Investing In Women Farmers May Significantly Decrease World Hunger

Investing In Women Farmers May Significantly Decrease World Hunger | Effects of Drought, Famine and War Across the Sahel | Scoop.it
The crisis in the Sahel has gone on for far too long, with far too little coverage from media around the world. This means that women and their families have been suffering silently while the situation continues to worsen.
Derek Ethier's insight:

While the crisis in the Sahel hits everyone hard, girls and women usually bear the brunt of the load. When food is scarce, women eat last. This is why women make up 6/10 of those in the world that are hungry. However, in the Sahel, women make up a large percentage of smallholder farms as well . After studies, many agencies have found that an investment in smallholder farms for women can greatly cut into world hunger. In fact, if women were afforded the same tools and opportunities as men on their small farms, world hunger could be cut from 12-17%. Clearly, relief agencies must seek long term solutions so the Sahel can eventually be self sufficient and more productive.

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WFP in the Sahel | WFP | United Nations World Food Programme - Fighting Hunger Worldwide

WFP in the Sahel | WFP | United Nations World Food Programme - Fighting Hunger Worldwide | Effects of Drought, Famine and War Across the Sahel | Scoop.it
Derek Ethier's insight:

This interactive map is an amazing tool when examining the individual plights being faced by each country across the Sahel. While each nation is feeling the effects of drought and food shortages, we can see by this map that some are in much more peril than others. Mauritania, already at a 25% rate for food shortages, also accommodates 63,000 refugees from their neighbor, Mali. In Burkina-Faso, over 41% of the nation's crops fail each year. The Sahel is a very unforgiving part of the world. The food shortages lead to great violence and instability. The key to stability in the area is sufficient food supplies. When there are food shortages, people are definitely going to battle over them. This is simple survival of the fittest mentality.

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European commission pledges further €40m to ease Sahel hunger crisis

European commission pledges further €40m to ease Sahel hunger crisis | Effects of Drought, Famine and War Across the Sahel | Scoop.it
EU funding rises to €337m as partnership aims to improve Sahel belt's long-term resilience to drought and hunger
Derek Ethier's insight:

I find it very interesting that foreign aid agencies have implemented a new technique in helping with food shortages across the Sahel. While they are continuing to aid them with money and food, they are helping Nigerians fend for themselves as well. Garden projects such as the one discussed here not only provide the country with much needed food reserves, but also help employ many citizens. Men from Niger no longer have to go to Nigeria in search of work. These long term solutions are much more effective than simple short term relief (although as I said all relief is good relief). As British Minister Stephen O'Brien stated, Britain must not sit back while children starve to death. The President of Niger has also toured European capital cities expressing the urgency of the situation. In my opinion, after years of brutal rule following Africa's colonization, the Europeans do owe them something.

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UN Has Growing Concerns Over Sahel

UN Has Growing Concerns Over Sahel | Effects of Drought, Famine and War Across the Sahel | Scoop.it
Fear is that instability in northern Mali is threatening peace, security in entire region
Derek Ethier's insight:

The United Nations Security Council has recently grown fearful that the instability in Mali will spillover and have dire consequences for the rest of the region. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon stated that, "Political turmoil, terrorist activity, drug trafficking and arms smuggling are spilling over borders and threatening peace and security." While the UN wish to carefully calculate their move to avoid agitating these extremist groups (especially prevalent in Mali) local African leaders such as the president of the Ivory Coast wish to form an African coalition to crush these dissenters in Mali. High youth unemployment and weak government institutions allow these terrorist groups numbers to soar. One thing the entire Security Council did agree on is that something must be done soon to prevent the further destablization of the area caused by Mali

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Sahel's Jihadist Groups Threaten Libya, Mauritania and Niger - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East

Sahel's Jihadist Groups Threaten Libya, Mauritania and Niger - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East | Effects of Drought, Famine and War Across the Sahel | Scoop.it
A study by a European think-tank has warned that the security vacuum in countries in Africa’s Sahel region has led to an alarming proliferation of armed jihadist groups that could lead to failed states throughout the region, reports Mohammad Bin...
Derek Ethier's insight:

The violent militant groups that base themselves in Mali threaten to spread throughout the entire Sahel. In fact, Libya, Mauritania and Niger have become considerably influenced by Jihadist Salafist groups. It is even being predicted that parts of these and other countries in the area could come under the control of these Islamic groups in the near future, just like Mali. Unfortunately, many countries across the Sahel have seen a decline in the capability of their armed forces which makes them even less qualified to battle the Jihadists. Many European countries have also begun to worry that terrorist activities led by Al Qaeda could eventually spill over into Europe. In fact, France even withdrew its troops from Afghanistan and deployed them to the Sahel, seeing this region as a much greater threat to Europe's safety than the Middle East.

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In northern Mali, Islamists’ attacks against civilians grow more brutal

In northern Mali, Islamists’ attacks against civilians grow more brutal | Effects of Drought, Famine and War Across the Sahel | Scoop.it
Forced marriages, amputations and other abuses are on the rise in the northern region seized this spring.
Derek Ethier's insight:

In Mali, radical religious leaders who have conquered a vast territory in the country's North are deeply dedicated to Sharia law. Fatima al Hassan was given 100 lashes with an electrical cord for giving water to a male visitor. Maman Dedeou had his hand cut off after being found guilty on charges of theft. Finally, after months of hesitation, UN/African/American/European troops are planning to retake Northern Mali. Many people are beginning to lose hope as these lawless militants do whatever they want in this ungoverned area. These militants arm children, rape women and threaten to kidnap Western visiters. This is a very dire situation and it is good that foreign powers have finally decided to intervene.

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AFRICA - Explore the Regions - Sahel

AFRICA - Explore the Regions - Sahel | Effects of Drought, Famine and War Across the Sahel | Scoop.it
Derek Ethier's insight:

The history of the Sahel is a very intriguing one. For many centuries, this area was home to many of the greatest civilizations in Africa's history. The culture of the Sahel is very diverse as well. Arabs from the North brought Islam while European slave traders and later French colonizers brought the French language and European customs to the land. Today, however, the land that was once boasted Timbuktu is now in great decline. This came to the world's attention in the 1970s when famine killed almost 200,000 people. Even today, soil erosion, insufficient irrigation, deforestation, overpopulation, desertification and drought remain immense problems for development in the region. To make matters worse, ethnic lines have hardened as food grows scarce and bloodshed is common. In addition, cities now hold 25% of the Sahel's population and this number grows by 5% yearly.

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Photo Essay: Tradition and the Sahel

Photo Essay: Tradition and the Sahel | Effects of Drought, Famine and War Across the Sahel | Scoop.it
The Sahel is in the headlines.  As the death of US Ambassador Chris Stevens in Libya is linked to pan-Sahelian terrorist organisations and terrorism in Nigeria and Mali drifts further towards the f...
Derek Ethier's insight:

This magnificent photo essay truly captures the essential problems facing the Sahel. The first of these problems is Islamic militants. The Sahel is largely inhabited by Muslims and, more recently, groups like Al-Qaeda have gained strength in this region. The second major problem is mass displacement. In Mali, these violent groups have recruited over 1,000 child soldiers while displacing almost 120,000 citizens internally. Another 275,000 Malians are currently residing in refugee camps in neighboring nations. Another problem facing the Sahel is the erosion of traditional authority. The authority of the once all-powerful emirs in Nigeria has been increasingly questioned lately, especially with the emergence of the Boko Haram extremist group. Once revered and unquestioned, these emirs still hold a good deal of power, but the traditional power structures across the region are gradually losing this power. 

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On the Brink: Hunger in the Sahel

18 million people are at risk of hunger in West Africa's Sahel region. Canadian Foodgrains Bank is responding. Help us get food and other assistance to peopl...
Derek Ethier's insight:

Hunger and food crises across the Sahel are devastating to the population. Many are forced to sell their possessions and livestock during droughts just to eat one meal a day. Farming is difficult in this region so close to the desert and oftentimes poor farming techniques, insect infestations and poor rural planning leads to further crop failures. However, it is encouraging to see agencies like the Canadian Food Bank offering aid and assistance to our fellow human beings in Africa. By donating over $10,000,000 in grain, they undoubtably saved thousands of lives of people who would have suffered and died from starvation. It is important that relief agencies continue to help these suffering people born into these circumstances.

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Sound the Alarm: Nutrition crisis in the Sahel

Right now in the Sahel, the lives of one million children hang in the balance. Crops have failed, leaving families with almost nothing to eat and at risk fro...
Derek Ethier's insight:

Malnutrition is a devastating problem in the Sahel today. Lack of food and lack of nutritious food create huge problems for mothers looking to feed their babies. Starving children face permanent brain damage and disability while their mothers can only sit and watch. The most vulnerable children are younger than five years old. UNICEF is making a push for donations to save the lives of children which is a valiant cause. They have set up centers where mothers can go with their children to receive the care that they need. In a globalized world like this, simple Public Service Announcements can not only raise funds, but raise awareness. The internet and mass media can spread word of emergencies like this very quickly since our world today is much smaller than ever before.

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Food security linked to peace in the Sahel - FAO | Regional News 2012-12-10

Food security linked to peace in the Sahel - FAO | Regional News 2012-12-10 | Effects of Drought, Famine and War Across the Sahel | Scoop.it
Derek Ethier's insight:

Jose Graziano Da Silva, director of the UN's Food and Agricultural Organization stated that improving food security was the key to peace and stability across the Sahel. He drew a direct relationship between hunger and conflict and says the two are intertwined across the region. Amazingly, over $1 billion was raised by the international community to help devastation and avoid famine this past year. While this did help the case immensely, the key to stability across the Sahel involves working with African leaders to build a resilient region. Graziano da Silva believes that progress is being made in the Sahel after his recent trip to Niger. This is very encouraging for a reason that has been decimated by war and famine for the past several decades.

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allAfrica.com: West Africa: Ambassador Rice at UN Security Council Briefing on Sahel

allAfrica.com: West Africa: Ambassador Rice at UN Security Council Briefing on Sahel | Effects of Drought, Famine and War Across the Sahel | Scoop.it
"Ambassador Susan E. Rice, Permanent Representative to the U.S. at the United Nations comments on the deteriorating situation in the Sahel region"
Derek Ethier's insight:

Drought and famine run rampant across the Sahel region of Africa. Unfortunately, so do violent extremist military groups. In Mali, terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda rely on striking fear into the country's citizens to achieve their means. This leads to a domino effect which helps further destabilize the entire Sahel region. As Ambassador Rice states, over 210,000 refugees from Mali flood into other countries to escape militant groups. However, these countries already face severe drough and food shortages. The overall instability of the entire region only makes it easier for radical groups like these to gain power and control.

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A perfect desert storm

A perfect desert storm | Effects of Drought, Famine and War Across the Sahel | Scoop.it
BRITISH special forces swept into the northern Nigerian city of Sokoto on March 8th to free a Briton and an Italian held by Islamic extremists for ten months. The...
Derek Ethier's insight:

The rise of the Islamic extremist group called the Boko Haram in Nigeria further complicates the current situation in the Sahel. Their bombings have already killed over 1,000 people. They are also known to capture and kill Western tourists, or just Westerners in general. It is very easy for groups like these to gain followers from the thousands and thousands of unemployed people in this vast area. Due to recent changes in cloud patterns, the Sahel gets less rain than ever, making farming nearly impossible. Many of these displaced farmers join the Boko Haram for a sense of belonging and out of the simple will to survive. To aid these militants, modern guns and weapons are transported into Mali, Niger and other Sahel nations through Libya in the North. Government in Mali's south cannot control the Tuareg nomadic camel herders who inhabit the country's vast northern regions. These rebels wander the arid, semi-desert carrying AK-47s. Supported by Qaddafi when he was alive, they went from town to town, raiding and often murdering inhabitants. In a country the size of Texas, it is very difficult for Mali's government to do much of anything.

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The Sahel: Conclusion

The Sahel: Conclusion | Effects of Drought, Famine and War Across the Sahel | Scoop.it
Derek Ethier's insight:

In conclusion, it is evident that the overall instability of the Sahel region cannot be attributed to one thing. Drought and famine obviously play the largest role in this process. New climatic shifts due to increasing sea temperatures in the Gulf of Guinea have left the Sahel very dry and unforgiving to crops. In addition, overuse of the land has nearly turned this region into a desert. In the 1970s, almost 200,000 people were killed in the region due to massive drought and famine. Food shortages are a reality across the region and many die every die from malnutrition and starvation. With millions of people with either minimal or no food, there are bound to be conflicts and ethnic rivalries. With government unable to control them, Islamic terror groups seize control in strategic locations throughout the Sahel, using tactics of terror to get what they want. Maiming and beatings are common punishments as these religious fanatics follow the Sharia law very strictly. Despite all these negative things, there is hope in the future of the Sahel. Relief groups from across the world donate money and food to the impoverished region. In addition, many groups like the Canadian Food Bank and UNICEF work towards long term solutions such as creating jobs, building gardens and educating Africans across the area. If people work together, perhaps we can reverse this desertification of the area and turn the Sahel back into the thriving land it once was.

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