Social Issues May 10, 2012
A Vicious Cycle: How Climate Change May Be Affecting The Sahel

Africa's Sahel region continues to suffer from severe drought and famine, and climate change may be one of the reasons. A reporter from the Winnipeg Free Press filed a report today about the vicious cycle of climate change and famine in the region.

Bartley Kives writes that poverty and hunger have led to severe deforestation in countries like Niger. When farmers there get short on food, they often cut down trees and sell the wood to buy millet and other staples. But farming itself is also to blame: because the land is becoming less productive, millet and sorghum farmers plant crops everywhere they can, which often requires removing trees and shrubs. And even when replanting is attempted, grazing animals tend to eat young trees before they can mature.

The loss of all those trees can lead to soil erosion, reduced biodiversity, and a disrupted water table, making it harder to grow more food. It is a difficult cycle to break - there are a couple of species of trees that have been planted with a degree success, but most populated regions of Niger are indistinguishable from desert during the dry seasons.

While climate change may be contributing to the terrible famine that is afflicting the region, two other developments today are cause for concern. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is warning of a major funding gap for activities they're planning in the Sahel and the Horn of Africa, and concerns are being raised by western diplomats about Islamist militants in Algeria taking refuge in lawless regions of the Sahel.

There are a number of organizations working to raise funds for people in the Sahel. You can visit their sites to learn more and find out how to donate:


RAIN for the Sahel and Sahara


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