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Sahel squeeze

Koupela, Burkina Faso Koupela, Burkina Faso Gilles Paire / Shutterstock
29 Nov
Food, animal feed and fuel are all in high demand in Africa’s troubled Sahel region, but supply is not rising to meet demand

Researchers analysed figures from 22 countries in the region, and have identified a falling availability of resources per capita along with an increased famine risk. Between 2000–2010, the region’s population grew from 367 million to 471 million. ‘However, the production of crops did not increase at the same rate. In fact, it remained unchanged,’ said Hakim Abdi, a researcher in physical geography at Lund University in Sweden.

Population projections indicate the region will be home to one billion people in 2050. Researchers used remote analysis and satellite images to calculate annual crop production.

Improvements in woodstove efficiency or new fuels like Liquid Petroleum Gas may change the pressures applied to the Sahel.

In 2000, consumption accounted for 19 per cent of production in the area, up to 41 per cent by 2010. The region has already been hit by a number of famines and harvests are set to decrease due to higher air temperature.

‘If future droughts occur at similar climatic magnitudes as the ones that took place in the 1970s and 1980s, the Sahel will be at risk of mega famines,’ the researchers conclude.

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