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Protecting the environment and biodiversity at the heart of community resilience in the Sahel

By Emmanuel Diagbouga, Regional Environmental Advisor, SANC2S project, and Ann Dominique Morin, Sahel Programs Officer

In 2022, Development and Peace ― Caritas Canada launched a project to support food security and sovereignty initiatives for communities in the Sahel region. Implemented in collaboration with four local partner organizations in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, the five-year project is entitled Food and nutritional security and climate change in the Sahel (designated by the French acronym SANC2S). Its total budget of $13,925,000 includes $13,300,000 from Global Affairs Canada and $625,000 from Development and Peace ― Caritas Canada. The project will provide nearly 147,000 farmers and their families with access to quality resources to produce, sell and promote the consumption of healthy, varied and nutritious food.

The SANC2S project involves a range of activities designed to reduce ecosystem and soil degradation and to sustainably develop for food production an environment that is heavily impacted by climate change. The Sahel is one of the regions of the world most affected by climatic variations. These threaten agricultural production by exerting increasing pressure on the land and water resources that are fundamental to the socioeconomic development of communities.

Through this project, we are supporting our local partners who are joining forces with communities for concrete action to restore fragile ecosystems and preserve the agroecological resources on which their food depends. Nearly three years after its launch, the SANC2S project is bearing fruit, its achievements evincing its potential for protecting biodiversity and improving the environment in which communities live.

Reforestation and village forest management in Burkina Faso

In Burkina Faso, a forest management program has regenerated and enhanced 40 hectares of forest that had deteriorated due to agricultural clearing, illegal logging and logging for charcoal production. The program is based building the implementing communities’ capacity to maintain and protect their forests and to continue reforestation efforts.

These activities will also facilitate the development of income-generating activities based on beekeeping and forest products (shea butter, mangoes, moringa, etc.); the diversification of food production based on cereal crops and market gardening; and the creation of job opportunities, especially for women and young people.

Restoring degraded land in Niger

In Niger, a pastoral land reclamation program was undertaken as a crucial initiative to revitalize soils and increase their fertility. With the participation of the communities previously trained in traditional soil preparation techniques, 120 hectares of degraded pastoral land were rehabilitated and redeveloped. These formerly abandoned pasturelands will help improve the food and nutritional security of many Niger families, most of whom subsist on pastoralism.

Stabilizing dunes in northern Mali

In Gao, Mali, community-led dune stabilization has provided vital protection against advancing deserts, protecting the banks of the River Niger from silting. Done with a participatory approach involving the training and mobilization of women, men and young people, the work will strengthen communities’ resilience against climate change by engaging them in conserving and preserving natural resources. By saving fertile agricultural land from desertification, this work will allow current and future generations to continue producing food, particularly varied and nutritious vegetables, to feed their families.

In the coming years, Development and Peace ― Caritas Canada and its Sahelian partners will continue promoting food system resilience and sustainability in the context of climate change, especially by supporting economically viable family farming based on sustainable, eco-friendly solutions.

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