A region wide assessment of land system resilience and climate robustness in the agricultural frontline of Sahel (LaSyRe-Sahel)

Project summary

This project will look at the triple exposure of local livelihood strategies and food provision to climate change, population pressure and globalization in agricultural frontline of Sahel. The research will: a) go beyond ‘established myths’ about change in land use by documenting recent trends in field encroachment/contraction, and biological productivity and b) document the mechanisms of coping and livelihood adaptation strategies which have made agro-pastoral systems sustainable in regions affected by climatic variability. It will combine Earth Observation, meta-studies, and field surveys to document changes in land use and land cover and investigate plausible links between regional patterns of land use systems and perceived drives of land use change (e.g. climate, population pressure, market access, ethnics, environmental resources, tenure rules). It will produce new insight in the structure and functioning of land use systems in the desert fringe by drawing of theoretical lines of thought from the land change science, vulnerability and resilience research communities. The research activities aim at strengthening collaboration between researchers from Niger, Burkina Faso, Senegal and Denmark at senior level as well as in terms of PhD and master education. It will produce outcome that can serve as a useful knowledge platform for development strategies under changing scenarios for climate conditions and increasing competition for land for food and other purposes.


Project Completion Report:
The Sahel is challenged by the triple exposure of local livelihood strategies and food provision to climate change, population pressure and globalization
The project a) employed satellite based methodology to give a regional overview of local variations and development trends in the agro-ecological potential, b) documented plausible drivers of land use change (e.g. population pressure, market access, ethnics, environmental resources, national policies), c) provided new knowledge about land use changes, which challenges the popular narrative that describes agricultural expansion to be a challenge for environmental sustainability, and d) developed new ways of exploring human-environmental interaction - suited to assess vulnerability and resilience of agro-ecological systems to the multiple exposures. Five institutions from Burkina Faso, Niger, Senegal and Denmark worked together. Several lessons were learned from the work, a.o. that trends in vegetation greenness in the Sahel have in most areas been positive since 1981; or, that local communities' ability to meet peoples' daily food demand has increasingly been decoupled from the local crop production - local livelihoods are more and more based on income from other sources than subsistence agriculture. In general, a possible mismatch between regional development policies' perception, observed biophysical conditions and local peoples' livelihood strategies deserves to be more appropriately acknowledged.

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