The Sahel region of Africa is an ecological belt that stretches from the Atlantic coast of Senegal in the west to the shores of the Red Sea in Sudan. It extends for approximately 3,360 miles and acts as a transitional ecoregion between the Sahara desert to the north and the more humid and tropical savanna to the south. In the recent decades, the Sahel region has been experiencing high levels of desertification due to human activities and climate change. It has been reported that its width is decreasing as the Sahara Desert expands southwards.
4. Historical Role
Historically, the Sahel is important for having been the first area used for agriculture in Africa. In the 9th and 18th centuries, it was home to a number of Sahelian kingdoms. During the colonization of the continent, the region became an essential part of the slave trade, and the French took control of the region as part of the French West Africa. The east of the region was annexed by Egypt and remained under the Islamic rule. After the partition of Africa, particular regions of the Sahel became part of the country as we know them today. In spite of the harsh climatic conditions, the region is home to millions.
3. Modern Significance
In the 1960s and 70s, the region experienced some of the worst droughts in Africa. States and international organizations are creating measures to fight back, including planting drought-resistant crops such as sorghum and millet. Today, the Sahel region provides a buffer zone that prevents the Sahara Desert from expanding southwards. The region is also home to several species of animals, birds, and insects. During the wet season, arable parts of the region are utilized for crop production that is relied upon by the people during the dry season. The season is also vital for migratory birds that make pit stops at water collection points.
2. Habitat and Biodiversity
The Sahelian climate is tropical semi-arid with hot summer. The monthly maximum mean temperature ranges between 33° to 36°C while the minimum temperature ranges from 64° to 70°. It is covered in savannah grassland, woodlands, and shrublands. The Acacia tortillisare is the dominant species of tree in the region. The grasses growing in the grasslands are seasonal, they sprout during the wet season and become scarce during the dry season. The region provided a habitat for grazing mammals, mainly gazelles, Bubal Hartebeest, and predators such as lions and wild dogs. Most of these animals have either been hunted down or migrated to other places in search of more habitable habitats.
1. Environmental Threats and Territorial Disputes
The Sahel region has witnessed some of the longest armed conflicts in the world. The Janjaweed militia terrorized parts of Sudan and took over the oasis of the Sahel region in Sudan denying thousands of people access to water. Other parts of the Sahel are also experiencing conflicts. On the surface, it might seem that the conflict is due to territorial and cultural differences but researchers and peace organizations have determined that dwindling water and pasture reserves are the core reasons for the conflict.