, Volume 41, Issue 4, pp 380–392 | Cite as

Climate Variability and Environmental Stress in the Sudan-Sahel Zone of West Africa

  • Ole Mertz
  • Sarah D’haen
  • Abdou Maiga
  • Ibrahim Bouzou Moussa
  • Bruno Barbier
  • Awa Diouf
  • Drissa Diallo
  • Evariste Dapola Da
  • Daniel Dabi
Research Paper


Environmental change in the Sudan-Sahel region of West Africa (SSWA) has been much debated since the droughts of the 1970s. In this article we assess climate variability and environmental stress in the region. Households in Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Nigeria were asked about climatic changes and their perceptions were compared across north–south and west–east rainfall gradients. More than 80% of all households found that rainfall had decreased, especially in the wettest areas. Increases in wind speeds and temperature were perceived by an overall 60–80% of households. Contrary to household perceptions, observed rainfall patterns showed an increasing trend over the past 20 years. However, August rainfall declined, and could therefore potentially explain the contrasting negative household perceptions of rainfall trends. Most households reported degradation of soils, water resources, vegetation, and fauna, but more so in the 500–900 mm zones. Adaptation measures to counter environmental degradation included use of manure, reforestation, soil and water conservation, and protection of fauna and vegetation. The results raise concerns for future environmental management in the region, especially in the 500–900 mm zones and the western part of SSWA.


Climate variability Perceptions Adaptation Environmental management Rainfall Sahel 



This research was part of Work Package 3.2 of the African Monsoon Multidisciplinary Analysis (AMMA). Based on a French initiative, AMMA was built by an international scientific group and is currently funded by a large number of agencies, especially from France, UK, US, and Africa. It has been the beneficiary of a major financial contribution from the European Community’s Sixth Framework Research Programme. Detailed information on scientific coordination and funding is available on the AMMA International web site: Thanks to the team of Dr. Thierry Lebel at the Laboratoire d’étude des Transferts en Hydrologie et Environnement in Grenoble, France, specifically Guillaume Quantin, for providing the decadal rainfall data. We are grateful for the support and hospitality of all communities and research assistants involved.


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Copyright information

© Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ole Mertz
    • 1
  • Sarah D’haen
    • 2
  • Abdou Maiga
    • 3
  • Ibrahim Bouzou Moussa
    • 4
  • Bruno Barbier
    • 5
  • Awa Diouf
    • 6
  • Drissa Diallo
    • 7
  • Evariste Dapola Da
    • 8
  • Daniel Dabi
    • 9
  1. 1.Department of Geography and GeologyUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark
  2. 2.Department of GeographyUniversité Catholique de LouvainLouvain-la-NeuveBelgium
  3. 3.Department IROUniversité de MontréalMontrealCanada
  4. 4.Département de GéographieUniversité Abdou MoumouniNiameyNiger
  5. 5.Centre de coopération internationale en recherche agronomique pour le développement (CIRAD)Ouagadougou 01Burkina Faso
  6. 6.Institut des Sciences de l’Environnement, Faculté des Sciences et Techniques, Laboratoire d’Enseignement et de Recherche en Géomatique, Ecole Supérieure PolytechniqueUniversité Cheikh Anta Diop de DakarDakarSenegal
  7. 7.Université de Bamako, Campus de BadalabougouBamakoMali
  8. 8.Département de GéographieUniversité de OuagadougouOuagadougou 01Burkina Faso
  9. 9.Department of Geography and Planning, Faculty of Environmental SciencesUniversity of JosJosNigeria

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