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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.

Asset Publisher


Fanny Grandval

Senior Regional Technical Specialist, Rural Institutions

Hermann Sèlidji Tossou

Programme Analyst

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