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The SAHEL (/səˈhɛl/ ) is the ecoclimatic and biogeographic zone of transition in Africa
Africa
between the Sahara
Sahara
to the north and the Sudanian Savanna (historically known as the Sudan region ) to the south. Having a semi-arid climate , it stretches across the south-central latitudes of Northern Africa
Africa
between the Atlantic Ocean and the Red Sea
Red Sea
. The Arabic
Arabic
word _sāḥil_ (ساحل, Arabic pronunciation: ) literally means "shore, coast", while the word Sahara
Sahara
is derived from the Arabic
Arabic
word for desert. Together, these names evoke an image of the Sahel's vegetation as a coastline on the Sahara's ocean of sand.

The Sahel
Sahel
part of Africa
Africa
includes (from west to east) parts of northern Senegal
Senegal
, southern Mauritania
Mauritania
, central Mali
Mali
, northern Burkina Faso
Burkina Faso
, the extreme south of Algeria
Algeria
, Niger
Niger
, the extreme north of Nigeria
Nigeria
, central Chad
Chad
, central and southern Sudan
Sudan
, the extreme north of South Sudan
Sudan
, Eritrea
Eritrea
, Cameroon
Cameroon
, Central African Republic and extreme north of Ethiopia
Ethiopia
.

Historically, the western part of the Sahel
Sahel
was sometimes known as the Sudan region . This belt was roughly located between the Sahara and the coastal areas of West Africa
Africa
.

CONTENTS

* 1 Geography * 2 Flora and fauna * 3 Climate * 4 Culture

* 5 History

* 5.1 Early agriculture * 5.2 Sahelian kingdoms * 5.3 Colonial period

* 6 Recent droughts

* 6.1 2010 drought

* 7 Desertification and soil loss * 8 See also * 9 References * 10 Sources * 11 Further reading * 12 External links

GEOGRAPHY

Camels trample the soil in the semiarid Sahel
Sahel
as they move to water holes, such as this one in Chad
Chad
. The lush green of the rainy season Sahelian forest, along the Bamako - Kayes
Kayes
Road in Mali
Mali
. The trees in the foreground are acacia. Note the large baobab tree. Sahel
Sahel
people with livestock and azawakh dogs

The Sahel
Sahel
spans 5,400 km (3,360 mi) from the Atlantic Ocean
Atlantic Ocean
in the west to the Red Sea
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 3,053,200 square kilometers (1,178,850 sq mi). It is a transitional ecoregion of semi-arid grasslands, savannas , steppes , and thorn shrublands lying between the wooded Sudanian Savanna to the south and the Sahara
Sahara
to the north.

The topography of the Sahel
Sahel
is mainly flat; most of the region lies between 200 and 400 meters (660 and 1,310 ft) 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 100–200 mm (4–8 in) in the north of the Sahel
Sahel
to around 600 mm (24 in) in the south.

FLORA AND FAUNA

The Sahel
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 , Schoenefeldia gracilis_ and _ Aristida stipoides_. Species of acacia are the dominant trees, with _ Acacia
Acacia
tortilis _ the most common, along with _ Acacia
Acacia
senegal _ and _ Acacia
Acacia
laeta _. Other tree species include _ Commiphora africana _, _ Balanites aegyptiaca _, _ Faidherbia albida _, and _ Boscia senegalensis _. In the northern part of the Sahel, areas of desert shrub, including _ Panicum turgidum _ 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
Sahel
was formerly home to large populations of grazing mammals, including the scimitar-horned oryx _(Oryx dammah)_, dama gazelle _(Gazella dama)_, Dorcas gazelle _(Gazella dorcas)_, red-fronted gazelle _(Gazella rufifrons)_, the giant prehistoric buffalo _( Pelorovis )_ and Bubal hartebeest _(Alcelaphus busephalus buselaphus)_, along with large predators like the African wild dog _(Lycaon pictus)_, the Northwest African cheetah _(Acinonyx jubatus hecki)_, the Northeast African cheetah _(Acinonyx jubatus soemmeringii)_, the West African lion _(Panthera leo senegalensis)_ and the East African lion _(Panthera leo nubica)_. The larger species have been greatly reduced in number by over-hunting and competition with livestock, and several species are vulnerable (Dorcas gazelle, cheetah, lion and red-fronted gazelle), endangered ( Dama gazelle and African wild dog), or extinct (the Scimitar-horned oryx is probably extinct in the wild , and both _ Pelorovis _ and the Bubal hartebeest are now extinct).

The seasonal wetlands of the Sahel
Sahel
are important for migratory birds moving within Africa
Africa
and on the African-Eurasian flyways .

CLIMATE

The Sahel
Sahel
has a tropical , hot steppe climate (Köppen climate classification _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
Sahara
desert located just to the north.

The Sahel
Sahel
mainly receives a low to a 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 only one or two months, while the other months may remain absolutely dry. The entire Sahel
Sahel
region generally receives between 100 mm and 600 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
, Sudan), the strict Sahelian climate, with mean annual precipitation between around 200 and 600 mm (such as Kiffa , Mauritania) and the Sahelian-Sudanese climate, with mean annual precipitation between around 200 and 400 mm (such as Niamey , Niger). The 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
Sahel
is characterized by constant, intense heat, with an unvarying temperature. The Sahel
Sahel
rarely experiences cold temperatures. During the hottest period, the average high temperatures are generally between 36 and 42 °C (97 and 108 °F) (and even more in the hottest regions), often for more than three months, while the average low temperatures are around 25 to 31 °C (77 to 88 °F). During the "coldest period", the average high temperatures are between 27 and 33 °C (81 and 91 °F) and the average low temperature are between 15 and 21 °C (59 and 70 °F). Everywhere in the Sahel, the average mean temperature is over 18 °C (64 °F) due to the tropical climate.

The Sahel
Sahel
has a high to very high sunshine duration year-round, between 2,700 hours (about 61% of the daylight hours) and 3,500 hours (more than 79% of the daylight hours). The sunshine duration in the Sahel
Sahel
approaches desert levels, and is comparable to that in the Arabian Desert , for example, even though the Sahel
Sahel
is only a steppe and not a desert. The cloud cover is low to very low. For example, Niamey , Niger
Niger
has 3,082 hours of bright sunshine; Gao
Gao
, Mali
Mali
has near 3,385 hours of sunshine; Timbuktu
Timbuktu
, Mali
Mali
has 3,409 sunny hours, and N\'Djamena , Chad
Chad
has 3,205 hours of sunlight.

CULTURE

Traditionally, most of the people in the Sahel
Sahel
have been semi-nomads , farming and raising livestock in a system of 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 and child marriage are common. Female genital mutilation is also practiced across the Sahel.

Wahhabism is taking root across the Sahel, according to author Joshua Hammer.

HISTORY

EARLY AGRICULTURE

The first instances of domestication of plants for agricultural purposes in Africa
Africa
occurred in the Sahel
Sahel
region circa 5000 BC, when sorghum and African rice began to be cultivated. Around this time small guineafowl were domesticated in the region.

Around 4000 BC, the climate of the Sahara
Sahara
and the Sahel
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 . 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
Africa
.

SAHELIAN KINGDOMS

Main article: Sahelian kingdoms Further information: Trans-Saharan trade and Islamization of the Sudan region

The Sahelian kingdoms were a series of monarchies centered in the Sahel
Sahel
between the 9th and 18th centuries. The wealth of the states came from controlling the trans-Saharan trade routes across the desert, especially the slave trade 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 Niger
Niger
Bend region, including Timbuktu
Timbuktu
, Gao
Gao
, and Djenné .

The Sahel
Sahel
states were hindered from expanding south into the forest zone of the Ashanti and Yoruba 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
Sahel
fell to France in the late 19th century as part of French West Africa
Africa
. Chad
Chad
was added in 1900 as part of French Equatorial Africa
Africa
. The French territories were decolonized in 1960.

The Eastern Sahel
Sahel
(the part in what is now Sudan
Sudan
) did not fall to the European powers but was annexed by Muhammad Ali of Egypt in 1820. It came under British administration as part of the Sultanate of Egypt in 1914. The Sudanese Sahel
Sahel
became part of independent Sudan
Sudan
in 1956, and South Sudan
Sudan
in turn achieved its independence from Sudan
Sudan
proper in 2011.

RECENT DROUGHTS

Further information: Sahel drought

For hundreds of years, the Sahel
Sahel
region has experienced regular droughts and megadroughts . One megadrought, from 1450 to 1700, lasted 250 years. There was a major drought in the Sahel
Sahel
in 1914 caused by annual rains far below average, leading to large-scale famine. From 1951 to 2004, the Sahel
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 .

2010 DROUGHT

Main article: 2010 Sahel drought

In June to 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
Chad
the temperature reached 47.6 °C (117.7 °F) on 22 June in Faya-Largeau , breaking a record set in 1961 at the same location. Niger
Niger
tied its highest temperature record set in 1998, also on 22 June, at 47.1 °C in Bilma
Bilma
. That record was broken the next day, when Bilma
Bilma
hit 48.2 °C (118.8 °F). The hottest temperature recorded in Sudan
Sudan
was reached on 25 June, at 49.6 °C (121.3 °F) in Dongola , breaking a record set in 1987. Niger
Niger
reported on 14 July that diarrhea , starvation, gastroenteritis , malnutrition , and respiratory diseases had sickened or killed many children. The new military junta 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
and Niger
Niger
, and in northern Niger
Niger
about 20 people reportedly died of dehydration by 27 July.

DESERTIFICATION AND SOIL LOSS

Over-farming, over-grazing, over-population of marginal lands, and natural soil erosion , have caused serious desertification of the region.

Major dust storms are a frequent occurrence, as well. During November 2004, a number of major dust storms hit Chad
Chad
, originating in the Bodélé Depression . This is a common area for dust storms (occurring, on average, 100 days every year).

On 23 March 2010, a major sandstorm hit Mauritania, Senegal, Gambia , Guinea-Bissau , Guinea
Guinea
, and inland Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone
. Another struck in southern Algeria
Algeria
, inland Mauritania, Mali, and northern Ivory Coast at the same time.

SEE ALSO

* Community of Sahel-Saharan States * Epidemiology of Meningitis * Green Sahara
Sahara
* 2010 Sahel famine * 2012 Sahel drought * Sahel drought * Sudan
Sudan
(region) * Sudanian Savanna * Pan Sahel Initiative * Sahara
Sahara
Conservation Fund * Semi-arid climate * Trans-Sahelian Highway

REFERENCES

* ^ "Definition grid different of Sahel
Sahel
(British and World English)". _Oxford Dictionaries_. Retrieved 2015-10-10. * ^ _A System of Modern Geography_. E. Huntington & Co. 1834. p. 287. * ^ "Sahel: $1.6 billion appeal to address widespread humanitarian crisis". United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs . Retrieved 24 June 2013. * ^ The " Sudan
Sudan
region" encompasses not just the history of the Republic of Sudan
Sudan
(whose borders are those of Anglo-Egyptian Sudan
Sudan
, drawn in 1899) but of the wider Sahel, in Arabic
Arabic
known as _bilad as-sudan,_ "the land of the blacks". * ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ "Sahelian Acacia
Acacia
savanna". _Terrestrial Ecoregions_. World Wildlife Fund. Retrieved 2009-12-07. * ^ " Niamey Climate Niamey Temperature - Niamey.Climatemps.com". * ^ " Timbuktu
Timbuktu
Climate Timbuktu
Timbuktu
Temperature - Timbuktu.Climatemps.com". * ^ " Gao
Gao
Climate Gao
Gao
Temperature - Gao.Climatemps.com". * ^ "N’Djamena Climate N’Djamena Temperature - N-Djamena.Climatemps.com". * ^ _A_ _B_ "Archived copy" (PDF). Retrieved 5 June 2017. * ^ "UNICEF WCARO - Overview - Violence against children". * ^ http://www.economist.com/news/books-and-arts/21699430-paper-trail * ^ Hammer, Joshua. _The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu_. Simon & Schuster. * ^ O'Brien, Patrick K., ed. (2005). _Oxford Atlas of World History_. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 22–23. * ^ Brahic, Catherine. " Africa
Africa
trapped in mega-drought cycle". New Scientist. Retrieved 17 December 2012. * ^ Scholl, Adam. "Map Room: Hidden Waters". World Policy Journal. Retrieved 17 December 2012. * ^ "Drought threatens African humanitarian crisis - Channel 4 News". Channel4.com. 2010-07-01. Retrieved 2010-07-28. * ^ Foy, Henry (2010-06-21). "Millions face starvation in west Africa, warn aid agencies". _The Guardian_. London. * ^ Masters, Jeff. "NOAA: June 2010 the globe\'s 4th consecutive warmest month on record". _Weather Underground_. Jeff Masters' WonderBlog. Retrieved 21 July 2010. * ^ "Niger: famine on the horizon?". France 24. 2010-07-14. Retrieved 2012-10-25. * ^ "wonder Blog: Weather Underground". Wonder-ground.com. Retrieved 2010-07-28. * ^ "Causes and Effects of Desertification". * ^ Schmidt, Laurie J. (18 May 2001). "From the Dust Bowl to the Sahel". NASA. * ^ "Dust Storm in the Bodele Depression". NASA. Retrieved 19 June 2010. * ^ "Earth Snapshot • Sand Storm".

SOURCES

* Azam (ed.), _Conflict and Growth in Africa: The Sahel_, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (1999), ISBN 92-64-17101-0 . * (in French) Lagha CHEGROUCHE, "L\'arc géopolitique de l\'énergie : le croissant énergétique, in Le Soir d\'Algérie, 19/12/2010 hi

FURTHER READING

* Dai, A.; Lamb, P.J.; Trenberth, K.E.; Hulme, M.; Jones, P.D.; Xie, P. (2004). "The recent Sahel drought is real" (PDF). _International Journal of Climatology_. 24 (11): 1323–1331. doi :10.1002/joc.1083 . * Ellis, William S. (August 1987). "The Stricken Land". _National Geographic _. Vol. 172 no. 2. pp. 140–179. ISSN 0027-9358 . OCLC 643483454 . * The Growing Crisis in Africa’s Sahel
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
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 * 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. http://works.bepress.com/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1069&context=william_moseley * Simon, L., A. Mattelaer and A. Hadfield (2012) "A Coherent EU Strategy for the Sahel". Brussels: European Parliament (DG for External Policies).

EXTERNAL LINKS

_ Wikimedia Commons has media

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