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Desertification in the Sahel: Local Practice Meets Global Narrative

Part of the Springer Earth System Sciences book series (SPRINGEREARTH)

Abstract

For nearly a century, crisis narratives about desertification have dominated policy discourse on the Sahelian drylands. This chapter looks at some of the ways in which these have shaped policy interventions in the drylands over the decades, and how contemporary development thinking offers better options for resilient dryland livelihoods. We argue that solutions to the environmental and economic problems faced by dryland systems—especially in the context of climate change—need to be more firmly rooted in a nuanced understanding of ecological change and the links between climate, vegetation and people. They must also involve a shift in power to local people, recognizing the value of marrying modern science with indigenous knowledge systems. Dryland peoples are more likely to prosper when governments reverse heavy-handed attempts to manage these areas. Greater promise lies with decentralizing power and decision-making to local institutions, and recognizing local tenure rights and systems for securing access to land.

Keywords

  • Drylands
  • Policy
  • Discourse
  • Livelihoods
  • Decentralization and resilience

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Notes

  1. 1.

    In contrast with the rest of the chapters in this volume, our use of the term ‘Sahel’ and ‘Sahelian’ also includes the drylands of eastern Africa, and includes Ethiopia and Kenya.

  2. 2.

    Resolution 32/172 of 19 December 1977.

  3. 3.

    “Desertification threatens 35 % of the Earth’s land surface and 20 % of its population; 75 % of threatened area and 60 % of the threatened population are already affected” (Swift 1996: 81).

  4. 4.

    See, for example Haramata, a research bulletin about the drylands published by IIED between 1987 and 2010.

  5. 5.

    UN Convention to Combat Desertification (1994), UN Convention on Biological Diversity (1992), and UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (1992).

  6. 6.

    Which included Camilla Toulmin, one of the authors of this chapter.

  7. 7.

    Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan, Togo.

  8. 8.

    REDD+ is an effort under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to provide financial incentives for developing countries to reduce CO2 emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, and to conserve, manage and enhance existing forest carbon stocks. The Clean Development Mechanism provides for emission reduction projects that generate Certified Emission Reduction units which can be traded in emission trading schemes.

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Toulmin, C., Brock, K. (2016). Desertification in the Sahel: Local Practice Meets Global Narrative. In: Behnke, R., Mortimore, M. (eds) The End of Desertification? . Springer Earth System Sciences. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-16014-1_2

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