The sun beats down on the dusty streets of Bol, a small town on the shores of Lake Chad. As the locals go about their daily lives, the sounds of laughter and chatter fill the air. For many, living here is a constant struggle, threatened by drought, insecurity, and poverty. But against all odds, the people of Bol have shown remarkable resilience. It all begins with the land. The Lake Chad region, home to approximately 30 million people, has been grappling with the impacts of drought and desertification for decades. Since the 1960s, the lake has shrunk by 90% due to climate change and overuse of resources. The arid land requires significant effort to cultivate and sustain livelihoods, yet the people of Bol have never lost hope. By finding new ways to farm and care for their land, they have learned to adapt to the changing climate and boost drought resilience. One such solution is land restoration. Bol is one of the many communities along the Great Green Wall and has been actively involved in this Africa-led initiative spanning 11 countries across the continent, from Senegal to Djibouti. With the help of local communities, the Great Green Wall Initiative is restoring degraded land, creating a vital source of income for families and empowering women and youth. “We have community farms that are supported by the Agency of the Great Green Wall by providing water and solar panels for the people to work the land,” says Abakar Thiéré, Head of the Lake Chad branch of the Great Green Wall Initiative. Head of the Lake Chad branch of the Great Green Wall Abakar Thiéré The Sahel region has long faced severe, complex security and humanitarian crises. The Boko Haram insurgency is one of the many threats facing the Sahel region. The story of Hassan Amad Muhamad, a resident of Bol, is a powerful example of the town’s resilience. Hassan escaped a life of violence and found hope and a new livelihood as a tractor driver in Bol after completing a three-year training programme. His story is emblematic of the town’s ability to overcome adversity and build a better future. Hassan Amad Muhamad Similarly, the people of Bol have displayed their adaptability and determination in the face of environmental challenges. In response to the extreme drought affecting Lake Chad, they have collaborated with local authorities to develop innovative water management solutions. They have constructed underground cisterns and implemented drip irrigation systems, enabling them to grow crops even in the driest seasons. These techniques have provided essential food and income for families in the community. Central to Bol’s resilience is its strong sense of community. Women, in particular, have formed support groups, pooling resources and knowledge to help one another thrive. These groups have been critical in fostering economic empowerment and resilience in the face of adversity. “When we talk about Lake Chad, women matter. They are the first to get affected by all the crises surrounding the Lake. Men usually respond to the challenges by leaving. Women stay and take care of everything. Women have development of their knowledge in the face of these adversities, they have been resilience in the face of the challenges,” says Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim , President of the Association for Indigenous Women and Peoples of Chad (AFPAT). Bol’s story is a remarkable testament to the power of resilience in the face of adversity. Through collaboration and innovation, the people of Bol have shown that it is possible to find hope and build a better future, even in the most difficult of circumstances. This story is part of a series that seeks to shed light on community drought resilience strategies from various regions around the world. By showcasing these often-untold stories, we hope to inspire and share best practices with others facing similar challenges. Recognizing the urgent need to shift from reactive to proactive approaches in tackling drought and its impacts, the International Drought Resilience Alliance (IDRA) was launched by the leaders of Spain and Senegal at the UN Climate Summit in November 2022, with 30 countries and 20 entities as founding members.
The COVID-19 pandemic and climate change are stealing our future. But they have also opened and exposed us, as young people worldwide, to countless opportunities for digital possibilities and a more sustainable future. But will we really run with these opportunities and transform the world to the future we really want?
Turkana in northern Kenya is one of the driest regions of the East African nation. This 77,000 square kilometre county receives an average of just 200mm of rain annually, compared to a national average of 680mm. And with three consecutive rain seasons failing since 2020, many residents are now faced with food scarcity, one of the painful effects of an ongoing drought. According to Peter Eripete, Turkana County’s Head of Public Service, the effects of drought are hardest felt by the residents who are mainly pastoralists. Their reliance on livestock means that when their livestock die, their income levels fall drastically, affecting entire families’ food security. In Kangirenga Village in Katilu, an administrative Ward in southern Turkana, we found Lokutan Amaler preparing her only meal for the day - boiled maize. Food has been hard to come by for Lokutan and her family. “I had nothing to eat. All my food storage containers are empty. If I had not received this maize from a well wisher, I would not have had anything to eat today” Lokutan explained as she stirred the boiling maize in a cooking pot over a three-stone fire. Traditionally, the Turkana people have always been dependent on their livestock for sustenance. Whenever they need to buy foodstuffs or household supplies, they sell a goat or cow at the market and with the money received, make the necessary purchases. But with the shortage of rains leading to a lack of pasture, many cows, goats and even camels have died, leading to a loss of income for many across this vast county. To get out of the recurring cycle of lack of food whenever drought visits, a few people have now diversified their sources of sustenance. Lokutan has planted green grams a short walk from her home. Her garden is part of a 10-acre agriculture project initiated by Panafricaire. Eunice Eseison, who coordinates the farming project for Panafricaire says “Convincing the residents to take up farming was an uphill task. Though a few saw the sense it made, it took us very long to convince many that farming was something they could do profitably because it went against their culture”. But with time, those who enrolled in the project including Lokutan have seen the benefits after finding an alternative source of food at every harvest, and income when the excess is sold in the local market. While the work done by organizations like PanAfricaire to mitigate the effects of drought are commendable, food security still remains a concern in Turkana. Greater investments are needed to have more land under cultivation with improved farming practices that will increase productivity from the land. This will allow greater year-round harvests for Lokutan and other farmers, ensuring that they are always cushioned from the harmful effects of the drought.
Learning from Brazil’s innovative model to reverse desertification in Caatinga Brazil’s vast rainforest, rich in biodiversity, has captured the imagination of people around the world and attracted large-scale financing from donors committed to preserving this unique ecosystem. But what about the other, lesser-known or naturally endowed biomes? The Caatinga drylands occupy 11 percent of the country, an area about 100 million hectares in the northeast of Brazil. It is home to over 34 million people. Preserving the unique resources in this region is vital because drylands are highly susceptible to land degradation. In 2016, Brazil established the Recovery Units of Degraded Areas and Reduction of Climate Vulnerability (URAD) initiative to address the main drivers of land degradation in the Caatinga. The project, which in the long run will be financed from the moneys generated by domestic environmental fines, received a start-up funding of USD$1 million from Brazil’s Climate Fund and US$9 million from the international community. Under the program, a recovery area is defined by its watershed. The local communities are mobilized to restore their watershed. They get support in the form of resources and training needed. The start-up cost per family for carrying out a watershed recovery is estimated at US$ 8,000. About 30 to 40 families take part in each project. The first activities aim to produce highly tangible results, such as restoring a water source. Direct results are they key to keeping the enthusiasm among community members going and to motivating them to take further actions. The first URAD community-level interventions were completed in half the estimated time. In turn, local people started to have confidence in government projects. The interest to get involved and enthusiasm in the projects grew and spread throughout other communities. But the watershed recovery project is rooted in more than providing direct benefits to communities. The participation of local communities is a guiding principle. Studies show that environmental actions that reduce the population's climate vulnerability are more likely to succeed when they involve local communities in decision-making to create sustainable value chains, generate employment and improve the quality of life. The URAD watershed recovery initiative is also founded and fully integrated in a sustainability model. The environmental, social and economic interventions are taken seriously with specific results targeted. For URAD, environmental actions aim to conserve soil, recover spring water, preserve biodiversity and improve the conditions for food production. Social actions focus on meeting the water, energy and sanitary security of the communities. Beekeeping and integrated crop-livestock-forest systems are examples of the sustainable activities being encouraged to meet livelihood needs – the economic side. The project is also designed to generate short-, medium and long-term needs. This is essential in project planning because political leaders, who are the main decision-makers, often mostly care about and invest depending on the short-term political gains or losses of what they do. Communities, on the other hand, are more willing to invest in actions that change their lives for the long haul. URAD’s short term goals were to recover water sources, contain soil erosion, reduce land degradation, mitigate the effects of drought and cut down soil and water pollution. In the medium-term, the productive capacity of the soil would recover, and help Brazil to fulfil its commitment to achieve land degradation neutrality. The conservation of the Caatinga is expected to improve the quality of life for the local people year by year, and reduce forced migration to urban areas. In the long-term term, the communities and their lands, plants, animals and natural resources are expected to adapt or become resilient to climate-change and it’s impacts. Brazil invests in the drylands because the URAD strategy has the potential to transform the reality for thousands of rural communities. With community-owned successes at the core of each intervention, the new model to reverse desertification has every chance to succeed. Learn More: Brazil sets up a novel model to reverse desertification