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The Sahel

Facing the challenges of sustainable development in the Sahel

The Sahel, meaning “the shore” in Arabic, is a vast area crossing 6,000 kilometres from East to West Africa. It covers many geographic and agro-ecological systems, 12 countries and is home to 400 million people.

The political region of the Sahel, as defined by the United Nations strategy (UNISS), covers 10 countries (Senegal, Gambia, Mauritania, Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad, Cameroon and Nigeria). The region faces many challenges. Climate change threatens to further degrade land, vegetation, water resources and food systems through increased incidence of drought, desertification and floods and projected shortening of the rainy season. The Sahel ecological zone has shifted from 50 to 200 kilometres southward over the last three decades, resulting in biodiversity and arable land losses.

The region suffers political instability which has weakened the livelihoods of households, threatens the sovereignty and stability of States and undermines social peace. The Covid-19 pandemic has also slowed down food production systems due to markets and borders closing. All these factors create challenges to the resilience of food systems.

Opportunities for growth

The population of the Sahel is projected to reach over 500 million in 2050. The region is also home to the youngest population in the world with 65 per cent under 25 years old. With the right support, this offers market growth opportunities for local producers.

Improved governance and cross-border cooperation between countries and local communities increases in the potential for progress and trade, taking advantage of the regions abundant human, cultural and natural resources.

Investing in the future

IFAD’s overall strategy in Sahel aligns with the UN Integrated Strategy for the Sahel to address the root causes of the Sahel crisis across 10 countries, with a special focus on women and youth.

IFAD is increasing its presence and support to the Sahel. We have 27 ongoing projects with US$2 billion investments across the 10 countries. The current portfolio is complemented by US$143 million of green resources to strengthen the resilience of small-scale farmers and producers to the impacts of climate change.

In 2020, IFAD joined the existing partnership framework between FAO, WFP and the G5 Sahel Secretariat to support the G5 Sahel Priority Investment Programme and developed the Sd3C programme to mitigate COVID-19, conflicts and climate change. We also started the IFAD and Green Climate Fund’s umbrella programme for the Great Green Wall Initiative that will identify transformational approaches to better support countries in implementing their national development plans and strategies to help restore land, soil, agricultural production, green cover, access to markets and nutrition.

Related news

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Sahel Crisis leaves millions on the brink of hunger

February 2020 - NEWS
Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, President of the Republic of Mali will address journalists against a backdrop of a rapidly escalating crisis across the Sahel,immediately following the opening of the IFAD annual meeting of Member States on 11 February.

Mali’s President calls for solidarity as food crisis escalates across Sahel

February 2020 - NEWS
Against a backdrop of an escalating security crisis where 4.3 million women, men and children are at risk of increased food insecurity and starvation in Mali, Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, President of the Republic of Mali, launched an urgent call to the global community to combine efforts and show solidarity in order to eradicate hunger and poverty in the Sahel.

World leaders and celebrities call for greater investment to end hunger and poverty

February 2020 - NEWS
Heads of state, ministers, development leaders, and celebrities today called for greater investment in rural areas to accelerate progress to achieve a world free from poverty and hunger in the next 10 years.

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To “green” the Sahel, we need big plans and small actions

January 2021 - STORY
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In Niger, IFAD and partners achieve results against the odds

March 2012 - STORY
In many ways, Niger is a country on the edge. Geographically, its productive farmland is confined to a narrow, semi-arid band across the south. Politically, it remains stable in the wake of peaceful elections held last year, but crises in neighbouring Libya, Mali and northern Nigeria have driven thousands of refugees across its borders. Socially and economically, its human development indicators are low, and it is among the poorest nations in the world.

How increased access to water shortens the path towards sustainable development in the Sahel

March 2019 - STORY
Every day Dienaba Sow travels 3.5 kilometres from her home in Hodio village towards Toung, in Senegal's Louga region, to collect water for her family's daily needs.

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