Desertification has been devastating for this region of Africa. One nonprofit thinks it has the solution

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Natalie Marchant, Writer, Formative Content


  • The Azawak region of West Africa has badly suffered from desertification and water scarcity due to the impact of climate change.
  • The water crisis has had a severe impact on both the local environment and the traditional nomad communities who farmed it.
  • NGO Amman Imman is using water harvesting methods to restore ecosystems in order to improve the livelihoods of those forced to migrate.

Once one of Africa’s most lush pastoral lands, the Azawak has badly suffered from desertification and water scarcity due to climate change.

In this region – a Florida-sized desert valley spanning the Mali and Niger border – wetlands, forests and pastures play a significant role in preserving biodiversity and mitigating the effects of climate change, as well as in reducing gender inequality and boosting economic opportunity.

Now, one nonprofit is exploring innovative methods to revitalize the landscape in the Azawak – not just by restoring the environment, but with a wholesale sustainable restoration of the ecosystem.

Water scarcity in Azawak

Just decades ago, the Azawak had a five-month rainy season which saw abundant pastures, permanent groundwater and large acacia forests, in which wildlife flourished.

Nowadays, its rains last just a month, pasturelands and forests have all but disappeared, and groundwater evaporates quickly, according to Amman Imman.

Desertification has had a devastating impact on the ecosystem and livestock, forcing the local nomadic groups to abandon pastoral life and migrate into villages. Scant rainfall also means children have to walk up to 50 kilometres a day in search of water.

Climate-related geopolitical issues such as migration impact women and girls in the region disproportionately. Women make up 80% of the 100,000-120,000 climate refugees in Niger, leaving many of them vulnerable to slavery, prostitution and trafficking. Children are also left vulnerable to disease, malnutrition and lack of water.

Water solutions for sustainable regeneration

To help the region tackle these issues, US-based Amman Imman developed its ambitious Landscape Restoration for Ecosystem Recovery (LRER) initiative. The project aims to empower and support vulnerable indigenous people through the sustainable rehabilitation and management of the Azawak in Niger.

Amman Imman was set up in 2005 to help families who had lost their traditional way of life as herders due to water scarcity.

It has since built five boreholes, including one in partnership with UNICEF, to access water in an aquifer deep underground.

an infographic on the benefits of the borehole
Amman Iman has built five boreholes to access water in an aquifer deep underground. Image: Amman Imman

To date, they serve about 100,000 people and their livestock during the height of the dry season in March, April and May, and at least 25,000 and their animals at other times.

Not only have these had positive outcomes in terms of health, hygiene and both food and water security, it has also freed up adults to generate incomes and children to attend school.

Alongside these projects, the organization also runs mobile health clinics, has launched initiatives such as cereal banks, and helped improve local education services.

Wholesale ecosystem restoration

Now Amman Imman’s LRER initiative is seeking to go even further and create wholesale ecosystem restoration, which simultaneously restores forests, pastures and watersheds.

In a project unique to the Sahel – a vast semi-arid region separating the Sahara Desert to the north and tropical savannas to the south – the nonprofit aims to take a holistic approach to rebuilding ecosystems, economies and livelihoods.

Alongside restoring landscapes using methods such as water harvesting and implementing agroforestry/permaculture techniques, it also plans supportive activities for local farmers and community leaders.

In addition, Amman Imman has built community gardens and planted about 150 fruit trees in many of the communities it serves.

How UpLink is helping to find innovations to solve challenges like this

UpLink is a digital platform to crowdsource innovations in an effort to address the world’s most pressing challenges.

It is an open platform designed to engage anyone who wants to offer a contribution for the global public good. The core objective is to link up the best innovators to networks of decision-makers, who can implement the change needed for the next decade. As a global platform, UpLink serves to aggregate and guide ideas and impactful activities, and make connections to scale-up impact.https://www.weforum.org/videos/uplink

Hosted by the World Economic Forum, UpLink is being designed and developed in collaboration with Salesforce, Deloitte and LinkedIn.

Training is key

Training local farmers and the community in agroforestry and permaculture techniques is also key for sustainable ecosystem regeneration, reforestation and food production.

Amman Imman works to provide skills training for those with little to no gardening experience in areas with community gardens, for example.

On a global level, it also wants to educate and mobilize pupils in partner schools about issues such as climate change and Africa’s Great Green Wall, a major reforestation project that aims to transform the lives of millions hit by the climate crisis.

The nonprofit thereby hopes to serve as a model to replicate across the Sahel and desertified regions across the world. https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-1&features=eyJ0ZndfZXhwZXJpbWVudHNfY29va2llX2V4cGlyYXRpb24iOnsiYnVja2V0IjoxMjA5NjAwLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfSwidGZ3X2hvcml6b25fdHdlZXRfZW1iZWRfOTU1NSI6eyJidWNrZXQiOiJodGUiLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfSwidGZ3X3NwYWNlX2NhcmQiOnsiYnVja2V0Ijoib2ZmIiwidmVyc2lvbiI6bnVsbH19&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1348635085495525379&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.weforum.org%2Fagenda%2F2021%2F09%2Fwest-africa-water-scarcity-solutions%2F&sessionId=ca219528ea1fbb1ddd53c6ae20f18b28152031ab&theme=light&widgetsVersion=1890d59c%3A1627936082797&width=550px

Scaling efforts

Amman Imman is one of the organizations selected for the UpLink Trillion Trees: the Sahel and Great Green Wall challenge, launched in partnership with the World Economic Forum.

The challenge looks for innovative and entrepreneurial solutions to landscape restoration to support the Great Green Wall initiative and deliver benefits to the environment and people of the Sahel.

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Australia urged to evacuate offshore detainees amid widespread, acute mental distress

Any doubt?

From funders to partners: elevating community expertise to help communities thrive

German opposition win in Lower Saxony felt all over Europe

London is becoming the world’s first National Park City

Yemen consultations have started, insists top UN negotiator

Commission approves emergency measures to protect eastern Baltic cod

How data can help mining companies tackle their trust deficit

From drought to floods in Somalia; displacement and hunger worsen, says UN

From raised fists at the 1968 Olympics to taking the knee: A history of racial justice protests in sport

Will the European Court of Justice change data privacy laws to tackle terrorism?

This is how travel hotspots are fighting back against overtourism

Do all you can to resolve climate change ‘sticking points’ UN chief urges South-East Asian leaders, in Bali

Four lessons from Africa on building effective business ecosystems

Australian homes are turning to solar power in record numbers

European research priorities for 2021-2027 agreed with member states

Meeting the basic needs of our healthcare workers

Mental health: a medical school’s demand

Embracing the diversity in a multicultural city of Romania

The EU Commission lets money market funds continue the unholy game of banks

How the power of sport can bring us together and drive social justice

EU Blue Card: Commission welcomes political agreement on new rules for highly skilled migrant workers

Why building consumer trust is the key to unlocking AI’s true potential

Ukraine’s new political order not accepted in Crimea

Protecting European consumers: toys and cars on top of the list of dangerous products

This is how New York plans to end its car culture

Progress against torture in Afghan detention centres, but Government needs to do more, says UN report

European Citizens’ Initiative: Commission registers ‘Mandatory food labelling Non-Vegetarian / Vegetarian / Vegan’ initiative’

Is South Korea set to lose from its FTA with the EU?

Anti-vaccers: does the empty can rattle the most?

The role of public affairs in student NGOs

Future Forces Forum: Prague will be hosting the most important project in the field of Defence and Security

Latin America’s cities are ready to take off. But their infrastructure is failing them

Political power of women suffering ‘serious regression’, General Assembly President warns

7 top things to know about coronavirus today

How global trade can save lives and livelihoods – and help protect the planet

EU job-search aid worth €9.9 million for 1,858 former Air France workers

European Semester 2018 Spring Package: Commission issues recommendations for Member States to achieve sustainable, inclusive and long-term growth

COVID-19: Save European culture and values, MEPs tell Commission

Children suffering ‘atrocities’ as number of countries in conflict hits new peak: UNICEF

We need to rethink ESG to ensure access to water and sanitation for all

International Court of Justice orders Pakistan to review death penalty for Indian accused of spying

Rise in violent conflict shows prevention ‘more necessary than ever’: UN chief

Top UN political official updates Security Council on Iran nuclear deal

It’s not summer holidays what lead to the bad August of the German economy

How can the world end viral hepatitis by 2030? 5 experts explain

How to talk about climate change: 5 tips from the front lines

Failure to open accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia is a mistake

Myanmar doing too little to ensure displaced Rohingya return: UN refugee agency chief

Further reforms in Sweden can drive growth, competitiveness and social cohesion

EU-UK relations: solutions found to help implementation of the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland

Statistics show the ugly face of youth training schemes

Croatian Presidency outlines priorities to EP committees

Media and entertainment in flux: it’s time for the close-up

5 droughts that changed human history

Are the G20 leaders ready to curb corporate tax-avoidance?

European Youth, quo vadis?

China is the first non-EU country to invest in Europe’s €315 billion Plan

EU institutions agree on priorities for coming years: A common agenda for our recovery and renewed vitality

Coronavirus Global Response: EIB and Commission pledge additional €4.9 billion

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s