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Sahel Alliance Members’ Priority: Resilience to Shocks Through Food Security

Agriculture and pastoralism account for 40% of regional GDP and employ between 60 and 80% of the population in the Sahel. However, agricultural production remains insufficient to adequately meet the population’s food needs.

Since the 1973-74 droughts and famine, and despite partial recovery in production thanks to the development of irrigation, the Sahelian populations have been living with recurring food insecurity, exacerbated by growing instability in many regions.

Climate change is exacerbating this situation. Over 90% of Sahelian farmers depend on rain-fed agriculture and pastoralism for their livelihoods, particularly in areas affected by insecurity. Lack of water and land degradation affect 80% of the population living in arid or semi-arid areas.

Improving the yield and competitiveness of the agricultural sector and supporting the adaptation of farming practices to climate change are essential to reducing poverty in the region.

Most climate scenarios indicate that temperatures in the Sahel will rise by at least 2°C in the short term (2021-2040), which is 1.5 times higher than the global average. This region is particularly vulnerable to soil degradation and desertification.

Climate change is expected to have significant economic repercussions for the Sahelian countries: loss of GDP, lower agricultural yields, reduced labour productivity, as well as damage to infrastructure caused by flooding.

Although renewable energies offer an opportunity, their technical maintenance remains a challenge, and the planned increase in installed capacity remains lower than the projected growth in consumption.

In the southern Sahel, climate resilience is closely linked to the preservation of vegetation cover. The growing competition for land between farmers and livestock herders is likely to be exacerbated by the effects of climate change and demographic pressure, aggravating conflicts.

The people most affected will be the poor and most vulnerable populations, in particular women, young people, ethnic minorities, nomadic groups, displaced persons and people with reduced mobility.

Climate change is a major factor for the future of the Sahel. Climate shocks and extreme weather events, such as droughts and heavy rainfall, could multiply and worsen. These developments are also associated with other challenges: accelerated demographic growth, low economic productivity and lack of diversification of production, political conflicts and crises, inter-community tensions and violent extremism. This dynamic is a source of impoverishment for households, mainly peasant farmers, and is triggering population displacement, the exodus of many young people and competition for land and natural resources.

In particular, the agriculture sector accounts for 23% of the Alliance’s total portfolio, corresponding to €6.054 billion out of a total of €26.4 billion, most of which is allocated to regional programmes, mainly in Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali. In addition, the Sahel Alliance members contributed €755 million to climate change adaptation, the majority of which was also allocated to regional interventions and actions in Burkina Faso and Niger.

Spain, as a member of the Sahel Alliance, also supports the need to modernise agriculture and productive development, and to prevent and mitigate the effects of climate change. AECID strengthened its sectoral and geographical expertise by implementing various projects, several of which were co-financed with EU funds. This is the case of the “DeSIRA” initiative, which promotes innovation through agricultural research in Niger (€5m), and also of the “Covenant of Mayors” project, which aims to support sustainable planning to promote energy efficiency in order to mitigate climate change (among other countries, in Mauritania with €1.9m). Innovation for resilient, productive and healthy agro-pastoral systems is important, which is why the “PRISMA” project was implemented in West Africa, and in particular in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger. Lastly, the project to support the Food Reserve Network in West Africa (most of which is in the Sahel) was designed to implement the regional emergency storage strategy in response to food and nutrition crises.

Recognising its importance as a transversal issue to be addressed, Spain, during its presidency of the Sahel Alliance General Assembly (2020- 2023), did focus on the impact of climate change on economic and social development, among other priority issues for the region.

Finally, AECID welcomes the creation in 2019 of the Sahel Alliance’s climate working group, with the aim of promoting the integration of climate change-related actions into the Alliance’s sectoral interventions. This group is already a knowledge-sharing platform, capitalising on new opportunities for green growth and enhanced resilience. These are great assets to contribute to a sustainable future.

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