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NIGER-CHAD: Is sustainable agriculture possible in the Sahel?

MAO, 16 April 2012 (IRIN) - With drought conditions chronic in the Sahel, many farmers give up trying to grow crops and head to towns and cities to find work.

In Chad many go to the south or to Lake Chad where irrigation from the fast-shrinking lake is used to farm. But some agro-ecologists say governments, donors and farmers should not abandon agriculture in the Sahel, and despite being “very difficult”, with the right approaches, there is “huge potential” in natural regeneration, traditional irrigation methods, and simple alternatives such as crop diversification.

“The Sahel has enormous potential - this is a very marginal food-growing environment, so we are forced to learn how this natural system works. All we’re doing is looking for the clues in nature,” said Tony Rinauld, a research and development adviser on natural resources to World Vision Australia who worked in the Sahel for 19 years, practicing agro-forestry, a traditional land-use system that combines trees or other woody perennials with crop and animal production.

The Kanem and Bahr el Ghazal regions in western Chad are chronically food insecure, and periodically experience acute malnutrition rates above the emergency threshold. According to NGOs, rates reached 19 percent in Kanem earlier in 2012 and many families have already run out of food and are down to one or two goats.

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Crédits: AK-Project