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The Sahel (; ar, ساحل ' , "coast, shore") is the ecoclimatic and
biogeographic realm A biogeographic realm or ecozone is the broadest biogeography, biogeographic division of Earth's land surface, based on distributional patterns of terrestrial animal, terrestrial organisms. They are subdivided into ecoregions, which are classif ...
of transition in
Africa Africa is the world's second-largest and second-most populous continent A continent is any of several large landmass A landmass, or land mass, is a large region In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', ...

Africa
between the
Sahara The Sahara (, ; ar, الصحراء الكبرى, ', 'the Greatest Desert') is a desert on the African continent Africa is the world's second-largest and second-most populous continent A continent is any of several large landma ...

Sahara
to the north and the Sudanian savanna to the south. Having a
semi-arid climate A semi-arid climate, semi-desert climate, or steppe climate is the climate Climate is the long-term average of weather, typically averaged over a period of 30 years. More rigorously, it is the mean and variability of meteorological variables ove ...
, it stretches across the south-central latitudes of
Northern Africa North Africa or Northern Africa is a region encompassing the northern portion of the African continent. There is no singularly accepted scope for the region, and it is sometimes defined as stretching from the Atlantic shores of Mauritania in th ...

Northern Africa
between the Atlantic Ocean and the
Red Sea The Red Sea ( ar, البحر الأحمر, translit=al-Baḥr al-ʾAḥmar; or ; Coptic Coptic may refer to: Afro-Asia * Copts, an ethnoreligious group mainly in the area of modern Egypt but also in Sudan and Libya * Coptic language, a North ...

Red Sea
. The Sahel part of Africa includes from west to east parts of northern
Senegal Senegal (; french: link=no, Sénégal; Wolof language, Wolof: ''Senegaal''; Arabic language, Arabic: السنغال ''As-Sinighal''), officially the Republic of Senegal (french: link=no, République du Sénégal; Wolof language, Wolof: ''Réew ...

Senegal
, southern
Mauritania Mauritania (; ar, موريتانيا, ', french: Mauritanie; Berber languages, Berber: ''Agawej'' or ''Cengit''; Pulaar language, Pulaar: ''Moritani''; Wolof language, Wolof: ''Gànnaar''; Soninke language, Soninke: ''Murutaane''), officially ...

Mauritania
, central
Mali Mali (; ), officially the Republic of Mali (french: République du Mali; bm, ߡߊߟߌ ߞߊ ߝߊߛߏߖߊߡߊߣߊ, Mali ka Fasojamana, ff, 𞤈𞤫𞤲𞥆𞤣𞤢𞥄𞤲𞤣𞤭 𞤃𞤢𞥄𞤤𞤭, Renndaandi Maali, ar, جمهورية م ...

Mali
, northern
Burkina Faso Burkina Faso (, ; ) is a landlocked country in West Africa that covers an area of around and is bordered by Mali to the northwest, Niger to the northeast, Benin to the southeast, Togo and Ghana to the south, and the Ivory Coast to the southwe ...

Burkina Faso
, the extreme south of
Algeria ) , image_map = Algeria (centered orthographic projection).svg , map_caption = , image_map2 = , capital = Algiers , coordinates = , largest_city = capital , religion = , official_languages = , languages_type = Oth ...

Algeria
,
Niger ) , official_languages = French , languages_type = National language A national language is a language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed languag ...

Niger
, the extreme north of
Nigeria Nigeria (), officially the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is a country in West Africa West Africa or Western Africa is the westernmost region of . The defines Western Africa as the 17 countries of , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , and as we ...

Nigeria
, the extreme north of
Cameroon Cameroon (, french: Cameroun), officially the Republic of Cameroon (french: République du Cameroun, links=no), is a country in west 250px, A compass rose with west highlighted in black West or Occident is one of the four cardinal direc ...

Cameroon
and
Central African Republic The Central African Republic (CAR; sg, Ködörösêse tî Bêafrîka; french: République centrafricaine, RCA; , or , ) is a landlocked country A landlocked country is a country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or ...
, central
Chad Chad (; ar, تشاد , ; french: Tchad, ), officially known as the Republic of Chad ( ar, جمهورية تْشَاد, link=no '; ), is a landlocked A landlocked country is a country that does not have territory connected to an oce ...

Chad
, central and southern
Sudan Sudan ( or ; ar, السودان, as-Sūdān), officially the Republic of the Sudan ( ar, جمهورية السودان, link=no, Jumhūriyyat as-Sūdān), is a country in Northeast Africa. It borders the countries of Central African Republ ...

Sudan
, the extreme north of
South Sudan South Sudan (), officially known as the Republic of South Sudan, is a landlocked country in East Africa, east/central Africa. It is bordered to the east by Ethiopia, to the north by Sudan, to the west by the Central African Republic, to th ...

South Sudan
,
Eritrea Eritrea ( ), officially the State of Eritrea, is a country in the Horn of Africa The Horn of Africa (HoA), also known as the Somali Peninsula, is a large peninsula A peninsula ( la, paeninsula from ' "almost" and ' "island") is a ...

Eritrea
and the extreme north of
Ethiopia Ethiopia, officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a landlocked country A landlocked country is a country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or political entity. It is often referred to as the ...

Ethiopia
. Historically, the western part of the Sahel was sometimes known as the
Sudan region Sudan is the geographic region to the south of the Sahara The Sahara (, ; ar, الصحراء الكبرى, ', 'the Greatest Desert') is a desert on the African continent. With an area of , it is the largest hot desert in the world and the ...
(''bilād as-sūdān'' "lands of the Sudan"). This belt was roughly located between the Sahara and the coastal areas of West Africa.


Geography

The Sahel spans from the
Atlantic Ocean
Atlantic Ocean
in the west to the
Red Sea The Red Sea ( ar, البحر الأحمر, translit=al-Baḥr al-ʾAḥmar; or ; Coptic Coptic may refer to: Afro-Asia * Copts, an ethnoreligious group mainly in the area of modern Egypt but also in Sudan and Libya * Coptic language, a North ...

Red Sea
in the east, in a belt that varies from several hundred to a thousand kilometers (c. 600 miles) in width, covering an area of . It is a transitional
ecoregion An ecoregion (ecological region) or ecozone (ecological zone) is an ecologically Ecology (from el, οἶκος, "house" and el, -λογία, label=none, "study of") is the study of the relationships between living organisms, including h ...
of semi-arid grasslands,
savanna A savanna or savannah is a mixed woodland A woodland () is, in the broad sense, land covered with trees, or in a narrow sense, synonymous with wood (or in the U.S., the ''plurale tantum'' woods), a low-density forest forming open habitats ...

savanna
s,
steppe In physical geography, a steppe () is an ecoregion characterized by grassland plains without trees apart from those near rivers and lakes. Steppe biomes may include: * the montane grasslands and shrublands biome * the temperate grassland ...

steppe
s, and thorn shrublands lying between the wooded Sudanian savanna to the south and the
Sahara The Sahara (, ; ar, الصحراء الكبرى, ', 'the Greatest Desert') is a desert on the African continent Africa is the world's second-largest and second-most populous continent A continent is any of several large landma ...

Sahara
to the north. The topography of the Sahel is mainly flat; most of the region lies between in elevation. Several isolated plateaus and mountain ranges rise from the Sahel, but are designated as separate ecoregions because their flora and fauna are distinct from the surrounding lowlands. Annual rainfall varies from around in the north of the Sahel to around in the south.


Flora and fauna

The Sahel is mostly covered in grassland and savanna, with areas of woodland and shrubland. Grass cover is fairly continuous across the region, dominated by annual grass species such as ''
Cenchrus biflorus ''Cenchrus biflorus'' is a species of annual grass in the family Poaceae Poaceae () or Gramineae () is a large and nearly ubiquitous family In human society, family (from la, familia) is a group of people related either by consangu ...

Cenchrus biflorus
, Schoenefeldia gracilis'' and ''
Aristida Pineland three-awn (''A. stricta'') flowers ''Aristida'' is a very nearly cosmopolitan genus of plants in the grass family. ''Aristida'' is distinguished by having three awns (bristles) on each lemma of each floret. The genus includes about 3 ...
stipoides''. Species of
acacia ''Acacia'', commonly known as the wattles or acacias, is a large genus Genus /ˈdʒiː.nəs/ (plural genera /ˈdʒen.ər.ə/) is a taxonomic rank In biological classification In biology, taxonomy () is the scientific study of nam ...

acacia
are the dominant trees, with ''
Acacia tortilis ''Vachellia tortilis'', widely known as ''Acacia tortilis'' but now attributed to the genus ''Vachellia ''Vachellia'' is a genus of flowering plants in the legume family, Fabaceae, commonly known as thorn trees or acacias. It belongs to the ...
'' the most common, along with ''
Acacia senegal ''Senegalia senegal'' (also known as ''Acacia senegal'') is a small thorny deciduous tree from the genus '' Senegalia'', which is known by several common names, including gum acacia, gum arabic tree, Sudan gum and Sudan gum arabic. In parts of In ...
'' and '' Acacia laeta''. Other tree species include ''
Commiphora africana ''Commiphora africana'', commonly called African myrrh, is a small deciduous In the fields of horticulture and botany, the term ''deciduous'' (; ) means "falling off at maturity" and "tending to fall off", in reference to trees and shrubs tha ...
'', ''
Balanites aegyptiaca ''Balanites aegyptiaca'' (also known as the Egyptian balsam) is a species of tree In botany, a tree is a perennial plant with an elongated Plant stem, stem, or trunk (botany), trunk, supporting branches and leaves in most species. In som ...
'', ''
Faidherbia albida ''Faidherbia'' is a genus of leguminous A legume () is a plant Plants are mainly multicellular organisms, predominantly photosynthetic Photosynthesis is a process used by plants and other organisms to Energy transformation, convert ...

Faidherbia albida
'', and '' Boscia senegalensis''. In the northern part of the Sahel, areas of desert shrub, including ''
Panicum turgidum ''Panicum turgidum'' is an old world clumping desert bunchgrass of the genus ''Panicum ''Panicum'' (panicgrass) is a large genus of about 450 species of grasses native throughout the tropical regions of the world, with a few species extending ...
'' and '' Aristida sieberana'', alternate with areas of grassland and savanna. During the long dry season, many trees lose their leaves and the predominantly annual grasses die. The Sahel was formerly home to large populations of grazing mammals, including the
scimitar-horned oryx The scimitar oryx (''Oryx dammah''), also known as the scimitar-horned oryx and the Sahara oryx, is a species of ''Oryx'' that was once widespread across North Africa. The species went extinct in the wild in 2000, but a group was released into an ...
''(Oryx dammah)'',
dama gazelle The dama gazelle (''Nanger dama'') also known as the "addra gazelle" or "mhorr gazelle", is a species of gazelle A gazelle is any of many antelope The term antelope is used to refer to many species of even-toed ruminant Ruminants are her ...
''(Gazella dama)'',
Dorcas gazelle The dorcas gazelle (''Gazella dorcas''), also known as the ariel gazelle, is a small and common gazelle A gazelle is any of many antelope species in the genus ''Gazella''. This article also deals with the seven species included in two furthe ...
''(Gazella dorcas)'',
red-fronted gazelle The red-fronted gazelle (''Eudorcas rufifrons'') is widely but unevenly distributed gazelle A gazelle is any of many antelope species in the genus ''Gazella''. This article also deals with the seven species included in two further genera, '' ...
''(Gazella rufifrons)'', the giant prehistoric buffalo ''(
Pelorovis ''Pelorovis'' ("prodigious/monstrous sheep Sheep (''Ovis aries'') are quadrupedal, ruminant mammals typically kept as livestock. Like all ruminants, sheep are members of the order(biology), order Artiodactyla, the even-toed ungulates. Although ...

Pelorovis
)'' and
Bubal hartebeest The bubal hartebeest, also known as northern hartebeest or bubal antelope or simply bubal (''Alcelaphus buselaphus buselaphus'') is the extinct nominal (i.e., first described) subspecies of hartebeest. It was formerly found north of the Saharan Des ...
''(Alcelaphus busephalus buselaphus)'', along with large predators like the
African wild dog The African wild dog (''Lycaon pictus'') is a canine Canine may refer to: Zoology * dog-like mammals (i.e. members of the canid subfamily Caninae) ** ''Canis'', a genus including dogs, wolves, coyotes, and jackals ** Dog, the domestic dog * Ca ...

African wild dog
''(Lycaon pictus)'', the
Northwest African cheetah The Northwest African cheetah (''Acinonyx jubatus hecki''), also known as the Saharan cheetah, is a cheetah subspecies native to the Sahara and the Sahel. It is listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List. In 2008, the population was susp ...
''(Acinonyx jubatus hecki)'', the
Northeast African cheetah The Northeast African cheetah (''Acinonyx jubatus soemmeringii'') is a cheetah The cheetah (''Acinonyx jubatus'') is a large cat native to Africa Africa is the world's second-largest and second-most populous continent, after Asia ...
''(Acinonyx jubatus soemmeringii)'', the
lion The lion (''Panthera leo'') is a large cat The cat (''Felis catus'') is a domestic Domestic may refer to: In the home * Anything relating to the human home A home, or domicile, is a space used as a permanent or semi-perma ...

lion
''(Panthera leo)''. The larger species have been greatly reduced in number by over-hunting and competition with livestock, and several species are
vulnerable Vulnerable may refer to: General *Vulnerability *Vulnerability (computing) *Vulnerable adult *Vulnerable species Music Albums *Vulnerable (Marvin Gaye album), ''Vulnerable'' (Marvin Gaye album), 1997 *Vulnerable (Tricky album), ''Vulnerable'' (T ...
(Dorcas gazelle, cheetah, lion and red-fronted gazelle),
endangered An endangered species is a species In biology, a species is the basic unit of biological classification, classification and a taxonomic rank of an organism, as well as a unit of biodiversity. A species is often defined as the largest group ...
(
Dama gazelle The dama gazelle (''Nanger dama'') also known as the "addra gazelle" or "mhorr gazelle", is a species of gazelle A gazelle is any of many antelope The term antelope is used to refer to many species of even-toed ruminant Ruminants are her ...
and
African wild dog The African wild dog (''Lycaon pictus'') is a canine Canine may refer to: Zoology * dog-like mammals (i.e. members of the canid subfamily Caninae) ** ''Canis'', a genus including dogs, wolves, coyotes, and jackals ** Dog, the domestic dog * Ca ...

African wild dog
), or
extinct Extinction is the termination of a kind of organism In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Biochemistry, chemical processes, Molecular biol ...

extinct
(the Scimitar-horned oryx is probably
extinct in the wild A that is extinct in the wild (EW) is one that has been by the as known only by living members kept in or as a naturalized population outside its historic range due to massive . Examples Examples of species and subspecies that are extin ...
, and both ''
Pelorovis ''Pelorovis'' ("prodigious/monstrous sheep Sheep (''Ovis aries'') are quadrupedal, ruminant mammals typically kept as livestock. Like all ruminants, sheep are members of the order(biology), order Artiodactyla, the even-toed ungulates. Although ...

Pelorovis
'' and the Bubal hartebeest are now extinct). The seasonal wetlands of the Sahel are important for
migratory bird Bird migration is the regular seasonal movement, often north and south along a flyway, between breeding and wintering grounds. Many species of bird Birds are a group of warm-blooded vertebrates constituting the class (biology), class ...

migratory bird
s moving within Africa and on the African-Eurasian flyways.


Climate

The Sahel has a
tropical The tropics are the region of Earth surrounding the Equator. They are delimited in latitude by the Tropic of Cancer in the Northern Hemisphere at N and the Tropic of Capricorn in the Southern Hemisphere at S; these latitudes correspond to ...

tropical
semi-arid climate A semi-arid climate, semi-desert climate, or steppe climate is the climate Climate is the long-term average of weather, typically averaged over a period of 30 years. More rigorously, it is the mean and variability of meteorological variables ove ...
(
Köppen climate classification The Köppen climate classification is one of the most widely used climate classification Climate classification is a way of categorizing the world's s. A climate classification may correlate closely with a category, as climate is a major infl ...
''BSh''). The climate is typically hot, sunny, dry and somewhat windy all year long. The Sahel's climate is similar to, but less extreme than, the climate of the
Sahara desert The Sahara (, ; ar, الصحراء الكبرى, ', 'the Greatest Desert') is a desert on the . With an area of , it is the largest hot in the world and the third largest desert overall, smaller only than the deserts of and the northern . ...

Sahara desert
located just to the north. The Sahel mainly receives a low to very low amount of precipitation annually. The steppe has a very long, prevailing dry season and a short rainy season. The precipitation is also extremely irregular, and varies considerably from season to season. Most of the rain usually falls during four to six months in the middle of the year, while the other months may remain absolutely dry. The interior of the Sahel region generally receives between 200 mm and 700 mm of rain yearly. A system of subdivisions often adopted for the Sahelian climate based on annual rainfall is as follows: the Saharan-Sahelian climate, with mean annual precipitation between around 100 and 200 mm (such as
Khartoum Khartoum or Khartum ( ; ar, الخرطوم, Al-Khurṭūm) is the capital of Sudan Sudan (; ar, السودان, as-Sūdān), officially the Republic of the Sudan ( ar, جمهورية السودان, link=no, Jumhūriyyat as-Sūdān), is ...

Khartoum
, Sudan), the strict Sahelian climate, with mean annual precipitation between around 200 and 700 mm (such as
Niamey Niamey () is the Capital city, capital and largest city of Niger. Niamey lies on the Niger River, primarily situated on the east bank. Niamey's population was counted as 1,026,848 as of the 2012 census. As of 2017, population projections sho ...

Niamey
, Niger) and the Sahelian-Sudanese climate, with mean annual precipitation between around 700 and 1,200 mm (such as
Bamako Bamako ( bm, ߓߡߊ߬ߞߐ߬ ''Bàmakɔ̌'') is the capital Capital most commonly refers to: * Capital letter Letter case (or just case) is the distinction between the letters that are in larger uppercase or capitals (or more formally ...

Bamako
, Mali). The
relative humidity Humidity is the concentration of water vapour (99.9839 °C) , - , Boiling point , , - , specific gas constant , 461.5 J/( kg·K) , - , Heat of vaporization , 2.27 MJ/kg , - , Heat capacity , 1.864 kJ/(kg·K) Water vap ...

relative humidity
in the steppe is low to very low, often between 10% and 25% during the dry season and between 25% and 75% during the rainy season. The least humid places have a relative humidity under 35%. The Sahel is characterized by constant, intense heat, with an unvarying temperature. The Sahel rarely experiences cold temperatures. During the hottest period, the average high temperatures are generally between (and even more in the hottest regions), often for more than three months, while the average low temperatures are around . During the "coldest period", the average high temperatures are between and the average low temperatures are between . Everywhere in the Sahel, the average mean temperature is over . The Sahel has a high to very high
sunshine duration Sunlight is a portion of the electromagnetic radiation given off by the Sun, in particular infrared Infrared (IR), sometimes called infrared light, is electromagnetic radiation (EMR) with wavelengths longer than those of visible light. ...
year-round, between 2,400 hours (about 55% of the daylight hours) and 3,600 hours (more than 80% of the daylight hours). The sunshine duration in the Sahel approaches desert levels, and is comparable to that in the
Arabian Desert The Arabian Desert ( ar, ٱلصَّحْرَاء ٱلْعَرَبِيَّة) is a vast desert upright=1.5, alt=see caption, Sand dunes in the Rub' al Khali ("Empty quarter") in the United Arab Emirates">Rub'_al_Khali.html" ;"title="Sand ...

Arabian Desert
, for example, even though the Sahel is only a steppe and not a desert. The
cloud cover Cloud cover (also known as cloudiness, cloudage, or cloud amount) refers to the fraction of the sky The sky (also sometimes called celestial dome) is everything that lies above the surface of the Earth Earth is the third planet from t ...
is low to very low. For example,
Niamey Niamey () is the Capital city, capital and largest city of Niger. Niamey lies on the Niger River, primarily situated on the east bank. Niamey's population was counted as 1,026,848 as of the 2012 census. As of 2017, population projections sho ...

Niamey
, Niger has 3,082 hours of bright sunshine;
Gao Gao , or Gawgaw/Kawkaw, is a city in Mali Mali (; ), officially the Republic of Mali (french: République du Mali; bm, ߡߊߟߌ ߞߊ ߝߊߛߏߖߊߡߊߣߊ, Mali ka Fasojamana, ff, 𞤈𞤫𞤲𞥆𞤣𞤢𞥄𞤲𞤣𞤭 𞤃𞤢𞥄𞤤 ...
, Mali has near 3,385 hours of sunshine;
Timbuktu Timbuktu ( ; french: Tombouctou; tmh, label=Tuareg languages, Tuareg, script=Tfng, ⵜⵏⴱⴾⵜ, Tin Buqt; Koyra Chiini: ) is a city in Mali, situated north of the Niger River. The town is the capital of the Tombouctou Region, one of the e ...

Timbuktu
, Mali has 3,409 sunny hours, and
N'Djamena N'Djamena (; french: N'Djaména, ; ar, انجمينا ''Injamīnā'') is the capital and largest city of Chad Chad (; ar, تشاد , ; french: Tchad, ), officially known as the Republic of Chad ( ar, جمهورية تْشَاد, link ...
, Chad has 3,205 hours of sunlight.


Culture

Traditionally, most of the people in the Sahel have been semi-
nomad A nomad ( frm, nomade "people without fixed habitation") is a member of a community without fixed habitation who regularly moves to and from the same areas. Such groups include hunter-gatherer A hunter-gatherer is a human Humans (''Homo ...

nomad
s, farming and raising livestock in a system of
transhumance Transhumance is a type of pastoralism or nomadism, a seasonal movement of livestock between fixed summer and winter pastures. In montane regions (''vertical transhumance''), it implies movement between higher pastures in summer and lower val ...

transhumance
, which is probably the most sustainable way of utilizing the Sahel. The difference between the dry North with higher levels of soil nutrients and the wetter South with more vegetation, is utilized by having the herds graze on high-quality feed in the North during the wet season, and trek several hundred kilometers to the South to graze on more abundant, but less nutritious feed during the dry period. In Western Sahel,
polygamy Polygamy (from Greek language, Late Greek , ''polygamía'', "state of marriage to many spouses") is the practice of marriage, marrying multiple spouses. When a man is married to more than one wife at the same time, sociologists call this poly ...
and
child marriage Child marriage is a marriage Marriage, also called matrimony or wedlock is a culturally and often legally recognized union between people called spouse A religious marriage. A spouse is a significant other Significant other (SO ...
are common.
Female genital mutilation Female genital mutilation (FGM), also known as female genital cutting, female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) and female circumcision, is the ritual cutting or removal of some or all of the . The practice is found in some countries of Afric ...
is also practiced across the Sahel.


Etymology

The term "Sahel" is borrowed from the
Arabic Arabic (, ' or , ' or ) is a Semitic language The Semitic languages are a branch of the Afroasiatic language family originating in the Middle East The Middle East is a list of transcontinental countries, transcontinental region ...

Arabic
name for the region, '. ' literally means "coast, shore", which has been explained as a figurative reference to the southern edge of the vast Sahara. However, such use is unattested in
Classical Arabic Classical Arabic ( ar, links=no, ٱلْعَرَبِيَّةُ ٱلْفُصْحَىٰ, al-ʿarabīyah al-fuṣḥā) or Quranic Arabic is the standardized literary form of the Arabic language Arabic (, ' or , ' or ) is a Semitic languages, ...
, and it has been suggested that the word may originally have been derived from the Arabic word ' "plain" instead.


History


Early agriculture

Around 4000 BC, the climate of the Sahara and the Sahel started to become drier at an exceedingly fast pace. This climate change caused lakes and rivers to shrink rather significantly and caused increasing
desertification Desertification is a type of land degradation Land degradation is a process in which the value of the biophysical environment is affected by a combination of human-induced processes acting upon the land. It is viewed as any change or distu ...
. This, in turn, decreased the amount of land conducive to settlements and caused migrations of farming communities to the more humid climate of
West Africa West Africa or Western Africa is the westernmost region of Africa. The United Nations defines Western Africa as the 17 countries of Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania ...

West Africa
.


Sahelian kingdoms

The Sahelian kingdoms were a series of monarchies centered in the Sahel between the 9th and 18th centuries. The wealth of the states came from controlling the
trans-Saharan trade Trans-Saharan trade requires travel across the Sahara between sub-Saharan Africa Sub-Saharan Africa is, geographically and ethnoculturally, the area of the continent of Africa that lies south of the Sahara. According to the United Nations, i ...
routes across the desert, especially with the Islamic world. Their power came from having large pack animals like camels and horses that were fast enough to keep a large empire under central control and were also useful in battle. All of these empires were quite decentralized with member cities having a great deal of autonomy. The first large Sahelian kingdoms emerged after AD 750 and supported several large trading cities in the region, including
Timbuktu Timbuktu ( ; french: Tombouctou; tmh, label=Tuareg languages, Tuareg, script=Tfng, ⵜⵏⴱⴾⵜ, Tin Buqt; Koyra Chiini: ) is a city in Mali, situated north of the Niger River. The town is the capital of the Tombouctou Region, one of the e ...

Timbuktu
,
Gao Gao , or Gawgaw/Kawkaw, is a city in Mali Mali (; ), officially the Republic of Mali (french: République du Mali; bm, ߡߊߟߌ ߞߊ ߝߊߛߏߖߊߡߊߣߊ, Mali ka Fasojamana, ff, 𞤈𞤫𞤲𞥆𞤣𞤢𞥄𞤲𞤣𞤭 𞤃𞤢𞥄𞤤 ...
and
Djenné Djenné (Bambara language, Bambara: ߘߖߋߣߣߋ tr. Djenne; also known as Djénné, Jenné and Jenne) is a town and an Communes of Mali, urban commune in the Inland Niger Delta region of central Mali. The town is the administrative centre of the ...

Djenné
. The Sahel states were hindered from expanding south into the forest zone of the north Akan state of Bonoman and
Yoruba Yoruba may refer to: * Yoruba people The Yoruba people () are a Sub-Saharan Africa Sub-Saharan Africa (commonly called Black Africa) is, geographically, the area of the continent of Africa that lies south of the Sahara. According to the U ...
peoples as mounted warriors were all but useless in the forests and the horses and camels could not survive the heat and diseases of the region.


Colonial period

The Western Sahel fell to
France France (), officially the French Republic (french: link=no, République française), is a transcontinental country This is a list of countries located on more than one continent A continent is one of several large landmasses ...
in the late 19th century as part of
French West Africa French West Africa (french: Afrique-Occidentale française, links=no, AOF) was a federation of eight French colonial empires#Second French colonial empire, French colonial territories in Africa: Mauritania, Senegal, French Sudan (now Mali), Fre ...

French West Africa
.
Chad Chad (; ar, تشاد , ; french: Tchad, ), officially known as the Republic of Chad ( ar, جمهورية تْشَاد, link=no '; ), is a landlocked A landlocked country is a country that does not have territory connected to an oce ...

Chad
was added in 1900 as part of
French Equatorial Africa French Equatorial Africa (french: link=no, Afrique-Équatoriale française), or the AEF, was the federation of French colonial possessions in Equatorial Africa Equatorial Africa is an ambiguous term that sometimes is used to refer either to ...

French Equatorial Africa
. The French territories were
decolonized Decolonization (American American(s) may refer to: * American, something of, from, or related to the United States of America, commonly known as the United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U ...
in 1960. The Eastern Sahel (the part in what is now
Sudan Sudan ( or ; ar, السودان, as-Sūdān), officially the Republic of the Sudan ( ar, جمهورية السودان, link=no, Jumhūriyyat as-Sūdān), is a country in Northeast Africa. It borders the countries of Central African Republ ...
) did not fall to the European powers but was annexed by
Muhammad Ali of Egypt Muhammad Ali Pasha al-Mas'ud ibn Agha, also known as Muhammad Ali of Egypt and the Sudan ( ota, محمد علی پاشا المسعود بن آغا; ar, محمد علي باشا, ; sq, Mehmet Ali Pasha; 4 March 1769 – 2 August 1849), was th ...
in 1820. It came under British administration as part of the
Sultanate of Egypt The Sultanate of Egypt () was the short-lived protectorate A protectorate is a state that is controlled and protected by another sovereign state. It is a dependent territory A dependent territory, dependent area, or dependency (sometim ...
in 1914. The Sudanese Sahel became part of independent
Sudan Sudan ( or ; ar, السودان, as-Sūdān), officially the Republic of the Sudan ( ar, جمهورية السودان, link=no, Jumhūriyyat as-Sūdān), is a country in Northeast Africa. It borders the countries of Central African Republ ...

Sudan
in 1956, and
South Sudan South Sudan (), officially known as the Republic of South Sudan, is a landlocked country in East Africa, east/central Africa. It is bordered to the east by Ethiopia, to the north by Sudan, to the west by the Central African Republic, to th ...

South Sudan
in turn achieved its independence from Sudan proper in 2011.


Recent droughts

For hundreds of years, the Sahel region has experienced regular droughts and
megadrought A megadrought (or mega-drought) is a prolonged drought lasting two decades or longer. Past megadroughts have been associated with persistent multiyear La Niña conditions (cooler than normal water temperatures in the tropical eastern Pacific Ocea ...
s. One megadrought lasted from 1450 to 1700, 250 years. There was a major drought in the Sahel in 1914 caused by annual rains far below average, leading to large-scale famine. From 1951 to 2004, the Sahel experienced some of the most consistent and severe droughts in Africa. The 1960s saw a large increase in rainfall in the region, making the northern drier region more accessible. There was a push, supported by governments, for people to move northwards. When the long drought period from 1968 through 1974 began, grazing quickly became unsustainable and large-scale denuding of the terrain followed. Like the drought in 1914, this led to a large-scale famine, but this time somewhat tempered by international visibility and an outpouring of aid. This catastrophe led to the founding of the
International Fund for Agricultural Development The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD; french: Fonds international de développement agricole (FIDA)) is an international financial institution An international financial institution (IFI) is a financial institution that ...
.


2010 drought

Between June and August 2010, famine struck the Sahel. Niger's crops failed to mature in the heat, 350,000 faced starvation, and 1,200,000 were at risk of famine. In Chad the temperature reached on 22 June in
Faya-Largeau Faya-Largeau (also known as Faya, ar, فايا لارجو or ) is the largest city in northern Chad and was the capital of the regions of Chad, region of Bourkou-Ennedi-Tibesti Region, Bourkou-Ennedi-Tibesti. It is now in the Borkou Region, which ...
, breaking a record set in 1961 at the same location. Niger tied its highest temperature record set in 1998, also on 22 June, at 47.1 °C in
Bilma Bilma is an oasis In geography, an oasis (, plural oases, ) is a fertile land in a desert or semi-desert environment.Dongola Dongola ( ar, wikt:دنقلا, دنقلا, Dunqulā), also spelled ''Dunqulah'', is the capital of the state of Northern, Sudan, Northern Sudan, on the banks of the Nile, and a former Latin Catholic bishopric (14th century). It should not be conf ...
, breaking a record set in 1987. Niger reported on 14 July that
diarrhoea Diarrhea, also spelled diarrhoea, is the condition of having at least three loose, liquid, or watery bowel movement frame, Anatomy of the anus and rectum Defecation is the final act of digestion Digestion is the breakdown of large ins ...
, starvation,
gastroenteritis Gastroenteritis, also known as infectious diarrhea and gastro, is inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract The gastrointestinal tract, (GI tract, GIT, digestive tract, digestion tract, alimentary canal) is the tract from the mouth to the ...

gastroenteritis
,
malnutrition Malnutrition is 'a state of nutrition in which a deficiency or excess (or imbalance) of energy, protein and other nutrients causes measurable adverse effect on tissue and body form (body shape, size and composition) and function and clinical ou ...
and respiratory diseases had sickened or killed many children. The new
military junta A military junta () is a government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a State (polity), state. In the case of its broad associative definition, government normally consists of ...
appealed for international food aid and took serious steps to call on overseas help. On 26 July, the heat reached near-record levels over
Chad Chad (; ar, تشاد , ; french: Tchad, ), officially known as the Republic of Chad ( ar, جمهورية تْشَاد, link=no '; ), is a landlocked A landlocked country is a country that does not have territory connected to an oce ...

Chad
and
Niger ) , official_languages = French , languages_type = National language A national language is a language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed languag ...

Niger
, and in northern Niger about 20 people reportedly died of dehydration by 27 July.


Desertification and soil loss

The Sahel region faces environmental issues that are contributing to
global warming Contemporary climate change includes both the global warming caused by humans, and its impacts on Earth's weather patterns. There have been previous periods of climate change, but the current changes are more rapid than any known even ...

global warming
. If the change in climate in the Sahel region "is not slowed-down and desertification possibly reversed through sustainable practices and any form of
reforestation Reforestation (occasionally, reafforestation) is the natural or intentional restocking of existing forests and woodlands (forestation) that have been depleted, usually through deforestation, but also after clearcutting. Reforestation can be ...
, it is only a matter of time before" countries like Niger lose their entire landmass to desert due to unchecked unsustainable human practises. Over-farming, over-grazing, over-population of marginal lands, and natural
soil erosion Soil erosion is the displacement of the upper layer of soil File:Stagnogley.JPG, Surface-water-Gley soil, gley developed in glacial till, Northern Ireland. Soil is a mixture of organic matter, minerals, gases, liquids, and organisms that togeth ...

soil erosion
, have caused serious
desertification Desertification is a type of land degradation Land degradation is a process in which the value of the biophysical environment is affected by a combination of human-induced processes acting upon the land. It is viewed as any change or distu ...
of the region. This has affected shelter construction, making it necessary to change the used materials. The Woodless Construction project was introduced in Sahel in 1980 by the Development Workshop, achieving since then a high social impact in the region. A major initiative to combat desertification in the Sahel region via reforestation and other interventions is the Great Green Wall. Major
dust storm A dust storm, also called a sandstorm, is a meteorological phenomenon common in arid A region is arid when it is characterized by a severe lack of available water, to the extent of hindering or preventing the growth and development Deve ...

dust storm
s are a frequent occurrence as well. During November 2004, a number of major dust storms hit
Chad Chad (; ar, تشاد , ; french: Tchad, ), officially known as the Republic of Chad ( ar, جمهورية تْشَاد, link=no '; ), is a landlocked A landlocked country is a country that does not have territory connected to an oce ...

Chad
, originating in the
Bodélé Depression The Bodélé Depression (), located at the southern edge of the Sahara Desert The Sahara (, ; ar, الصحراء الكبرى, ', 'the Greatest Desert') is a desert on the African continent. With an area of , it is the largest hot dese ...

Bodélé Depression
. This is a common area for dust storms, occurring on average on 100 days every year. On 23 March 2010, a major sandstorm hit Mauritania, Senegal,
Gambia The Gambia (), officially the Republic of The Gambia, is a country in West Africa West Africa or Western Africa is the westernmost region of Africa. The United Nations defines Western Africa as the 17 countries of Benin, Burkina Faso, Ca ...

Gambia
,
Guinea-Bissau Guinea-Bissau (; pt, Guiné-Bissau, ff, 𞤘𞤭𞤲𞤫 𞤄𞤭𞤧𞤢𞥄𞤱𞤮 Gine-Bisaawo, Mandinka language, Mandinka: ߖߌߣߍ ߺ ߓߌߛߊߥߏ߫ ''Gine-Bisawo''), officially the Republic of Guinea-Bissau ( pt, República da G ...
,
Guinea Guinea (), officially the Republic of Guinea (french: link=no, République de Guinée), is a coastal country in West Africa. Guinea borders the Atlantic Ocean to the west, Guinea-Bissau to the northwest, Senegal to the north, Mali to the no ...

Guinea
, and inland
Sierra Leone Sierra Leone (, also , ), officially the Republic of Sierra Leone, informally Salone, is a country on the southwest coast of West Africa West Africa or Western Africa is the westernmost region of . The defines Western Africa as the 17 co ...

Sierra Leone
. Another struck in southern
Algeria ) , image_map = Algeria (centered orthographic projection).svg , map_caption = , image_map2 = , capital = Algiers , coordinates = , largest_city = capital , religion = , official_languages = , languages_type = Oth ...

Algeria
, inland Mauritania, Mali and northern
Ivory Coast Ivory Coast, also known as Côte d'Ivoire, officially the Republic of Côte d'Ivoire, is a country located on the south coast of West Africa. Côte d'Ivoire's political capital is Yamoussoukro in the centre of the country, while its largest ...
at the same time.


Instability and violence

Terrorist organizations including
Boko Haram Boko Haram, officially known as ''Jamā'at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da'wah wa'l-Jihād'' ( ar, جماعة أهل السنة للدعوة والجهاد, "Group of the People of Sunnah In Islam Islam (;There are ten pronunciations of ''Is ...
and
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb ( ar-at, تنظيم القاعدة في بلاد المغرب الإسلامي, Tanẓīm al-Qā'idah fī Bilād al-Maghrib al-Islāmī), or AQIM, is an Islamist militant organization (of al-Qaeda) that aims to ov ...
(AQIM) operating in the Sahel have contributed to the violence, extremism and instability of the region. In March 2020, the United States sent a special envoy for the Sahel region to combat the rising violence from terrorist groups. Envoy Peter Pham started his new role on 1 March 2020. He has been the U.S. Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa since November 2018. The violent
herder–farmer conflicts in Nigeria Herder-farmer conflicts in Nigeria have mainly involved disputes over land resources between mostly Muslim Fulani herders and mostly Christian farmers across Nigeria but more devastating in the Middle Belt (North Central) since the return of democr ...
,
Mali Mali (; ), officially the Republic of Mali (french: République du Mali; bm, ߡߊߟߌ ߞߊ ߝߊߛߏߖߊߡߊߣߊ, Mali ka Fasojamana, ff, 𞤈𞤫𞤲𞥆𞤣𞤢𞥄𞤲𞤣𞤭 𞤃𞤢𞥄𞤤𞤭, Renndaandi Maali, ar, جمهورية م ...
,
Sudan Sudan ( or ; ar, السودان, as-Sūdān), officially the Republic of the Sudan ( ar, جمهورية السودان, link=no, Jumhūriyyat as-Sūdān), is a country in Northeast Africa. It borders the countries of Central African Republ ...
and other countries in the Sahel region have been exacerbated by climate change,
land degradation Land degradation is a process in which the value of the biophysical environment A biophysical environment is a life, biotic and Abiotic component, abiotic surrounding of an organism or population, and consequently includes the factors that ...
, and
population growth Population growth is the increase in the number of people in a population Population typically refers the number of people in a single area whether it be a city or town, region, country, or the world. Governments typically quantify the size ...
. Droughts and food shortages have been also linked to the
Northern Mali conflict {{Infobox military conflict , conflict = Mali War , partof = the Insurgency in the Maghreb (2002–present), Insurgency in the Maghreb and the War on terror , image = MaliWar.svg , image_size = 380 , cap ...

Northern Mali conflict
. On 9 July 2020, the
United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washington, D.C., ...

United States
raised concerns over growing number of allegations of human rights violations and abuses by state security forces in Sahel. The US response came after
Human Rights Watch Human Rights Watch (HRW) is an international non-governmental organization A non-governmental organization, or simply an NGO, is an that is, generally, formed independent from . They are typically s, and many of them are active in or t ...
released documents regarding the same on 1 July.


Protected areas

Protected areas in the Sahel include Ferlo Nord Wildlife Reserve in Senegal, Sylvo-Pastoral and Partial Faunal Reserve of the Sahel in Burkina Faso, Ansonga-Ménake Faunal Reserve in Mali, Tadres Reserve in Niger, and Waza National Park in Cameroon.


See also

* Community of Sahel-Saharan States * Meningitis#Epidemiology, Epidemiology of Meningitis * Green Sahara * Great Green Wall * 2010 Sahel famine * 2012 Sahel drought * Sahel drought * Sudan (region) * Sudanian savanna * Pan Sahel Initiative * Sahara Conservation Fund * Semi-arid climate * Trans-Sahelian Highway * Maghreb * Haboob


References


Sources

* Azam (ed.), ''Conflict and Growth in Africa: The Sahel'', Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (1999), .
Lagha CHEGROUCHE, "L'arc géopolitique de l'énergie : le croissant énergétique, in Le Soir d'Algérie, 19/12/2010


Further reading

* . *
The Growing Crisis in Africa’s Sahel Region: Joint Hearing before the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations and the Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa and the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade of the Committee in Foreign Affairs, House of Representatives, One Hundred Thirteenth Congress, First Session, May 21, 2013
* William G. Moseley, Moseley, W.G. 2008. “Strengthening Livelihoods in Sahelian West Africa: The Geography of Development and Underdevelopment in a Peripheral Region.” Geographische Rundschau International Edition, 4(4): 44–50

* Simon, L., A. Mattelaer and A. Hadfield (2012

Brussels: European Parliament (DG for External Policies).


External links

* * {{Authority control Sahel, Regions of Africa Ecoregions of Africa Ecoregions of the Central African Republic Ecoregions of Chad Ecoregions of Mali Ecoregions of Mauritania Ecoregions of Niger Ecoregions of Senegal Ecoregions of Sudan Flora of North Africa Afrotropical ecoregions Tropical and subtropical grasslands, savannas, and shrublands Grasslands of Africa