Agriculture, livelihoods and climate change in the West African Sahel
The West African Sahel is a harsh environment stressed by a fast-growing population and increasing pressure on the scarce natural resources. Agriculture is the main source of livelihood of the majority of the people living in the area. Increases in temperature and/or modifications in rainfall quantities and distribution will substantially impact on the natural resource on which agriculture depends. The vulnerability of livelihoods based on agriculture is increased and most likely exacerbate and accelerate the current 'downward spiral' of underdevelopment, poverty and environmental degradation. Notably, droughts, a short rainy season and/or very low rainfall will be felt by current systems. To cope with the difficult climatic situation, farm households have developed a range of strategies including selling of animals and on-farm diversification or specialization. At regional level, early warning systems including an operational agro-meteorological information system already provide farmers with crucial information. Substantial political, institutional and financial efforts at national and international level are indispensable for the sustenance of millions of lives. In terms of development, priority needs to be given to adaptation and implementation of comprehensive programs on water management and irrigation, desertification control, development of alternative sources of energy and the promotion of sustainable agricultural practices by farmers.