The Sahel desert covers a large portion of northern Africa spreading from the Northern part of Senegal all the way to Eritrea. This photo essay was created by photographer Pascal Maitre and writer Paul Salopek for the National Geographic.
1.In a blur of dust turbaned riders gather to watch a race in Abéché in eastern Chad. A thousand years ago men on horseback carried Islam and Arab culture across the vast, dry lands bordering the Sahara.
2.Niger: Swallowing all but the tallest trees, dunes have buried cropland near the city of Goudoumaria, where a herder follows goats in search of forage. Reduced rainfall has withered vegetation and dried up wells in parts of southern Niger, forcing villagers to move. The Sahel experienced droughts in the 1970s and ’80s, and although rainfall has increased since the 1990s, a decades-long dry spell continues.
3.Niger: Riding a mountain of belongings, migrants who had left Niger for Libya return home in the face of antiforeign sentiment. The Sahel was once the center of a camel-borne trade that took slaves, ivory, and gold to Europe and the Middle East, but it now lies on the margins of the world’s economy. Many of the region’s young men have gone to wealthier countries such as Libya and Algeria to find work.
4.Senegal: The Sahel ends at the Atlantic in Dakar, where open land may become a highway to relieve congestion in the densely populated capital. On the beach, fishing boats deliver catches by day and leave by night loaded with migrants risking a crossing to the Canary Islands—way station to Europe. Hundreds die every year, and though Spain and Senegal have increased air and sea patrols, the exodus goes on.
5.Niger: Women enlisted by the government of Niger plant shrub branches near Soubdou, securing them with grass to create grids of natural fencing that keep sand from blowing onto land used for crops and grazing.
6.For each acre fenced, the group of women receives $80. Since the drought years in the 1980s, Sahelians have reclaimed damaged land by stabilizing dunes, cultivating trees, building rock walls to halt erosion, and sowing seeds in pits dug to catch rain
This is Africa, our Africa