Viewpoint: The African Sahel 25 years after the great drought: Assessing progress and moving towards new agendas and approaches
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This paper introduces a special issue of Global Environmental Change: Human dimensions on the Sahel of West Africa. It reviews the seminar to which the papers were presented, and brings together some conclusions. Despite the quarter century of research into the West African Sahel that followed the great droughts of the 1970s, there are still strong disagreements about how to achieve more prosperous, yet sustainable livelihood systems in the region. There are conflicts between those who believe in indigenous capacities to maintain rural livelihoods, those who believe that various forms of external support are necessary, and those wedded to a vision of a Sahel directed by regional urban growth. Under economic and cultural globalisation, the future of this region is, at best, unclear. The papers in this collection do agree that Sahelian environments are diverse, and that Sahelian people cultivate and exploit diversity and flexibility. They also suggest that there are no quick-fix development solutions, except to build upon this historical diversity with renewed purpose.