Drought and dependence in the Sahel

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The relationship between human activity and environmental degradation has been documented in numerous studies. With regard to West Africa, E.P. Stebbing was already warning of ecological degradation due to overcultivation and overgrazing in the 1930s. Less well documented are the reasons why people who understand many of the requirements of ecologically sound farming and herding nonetheless mismanage natural resources to the point of disaster. An examination of the 1968-1973 drought in the Sahel zone of West Africa (formerly French West Africa) suggests that the lack of economic autonomy for Sahelian countries is a major cause not only of their economic stagnation and underdevelopment but equally of the degradation of their ecosystems. Specific policies, initiated during the colonial period and continued by independent governments, can be identified as reducing the ability of West African farmers and herders to exploit their environment with an adequate safety margin. Largely as a result of the 1968-1973 drought, there has been an upsurge of interest in the Sahel on the part of international and national aid agencies. However, it is very possible that the programs devised by these groups will promote neither economic autonomy nor ecological stability for the countries in that region. A development strategy based largely on self-reliance, on the other hand, could the more successful in protecting both the populations and the ecology of the Sahel. [Journal Article; In English; United States] --Medline


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Drought, Soil degradation, Environmental impacts, Food security, Conservation, Habitat destruction, West Africa, Conservation of natural resources, Disasters, Crisis, Dependence, Economics, Politics, Starvation, Ecosystem


International Journal of Health Services: Planning, Administration, Evaluation 8(2): 271-298