Mali: climate change transforms Lake Faguibine into a desert, exiling the population
Climate change hits the world’s poorest and most vulnerable
GENEVA, Switzerland, September 29, 2021 / APO Group / –
A month before the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP26, new testimony from Mali exposed how climate risks threaten communities in conflict zones.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) warns that the climate crisis is worsening an already dire situation, with people struggling to adapt and recover from repeated climate shocks.
Patrick Youssef, ICRC regional director for Africa, said the world’s most vulnerable people – often those living in conflict – are the least able to cope with the impact of climate change.
“Climate change is hitting the poorest and most vulnerable in the world. Unfortunately, farmers and other communities are unable to cope with climate change. At COP26, we call on world leaders to take concrete action, a concrete commitment, to bring climate action closer to those who suffer in silence, ”said Mr. Youssef.
The situation in Mali shows how hard people in need are struggling. Lake Faguibine is located in northern Mali, 80 kilometers from Timbuktu. In the 1970s, following increasingly disastrous droughts, the lake began to evaporate.
Gradually, the sand dunes replaced the vast expanses of water and agricultural land irrigated by the floods of the Niger River. Today, the inhabitants of the region have to be content with a rainy season of only three months, from July to September. The rest of the year, temperatures approach 50 ° C. *
For the six lakeside municipalities, the consequences were catastrophic. Fishing is a thing of the past, and there has been a huge decline in farming and ranching activities. The sand devours the houses in the villages of Bilal Bancor, Bintagoungou and Mbouna.
Usable land is becoming scarce, causing regular conflicts between farmers and herders. Mahamadou Ousmane is a farmer: “Not a day goes by without conflict between herders and farmers. There isn’t a lot of space and everyone wants a little of what there is. So there are tensions.
People cut down the last remaining trees, exacerbating soil erosion and dehydration. But for some, there is no alternative to survive. Alhousna Walet Alhassane is a lumberjack. As a widow, she has to fend for herself. “I know it destroys the environment, but if I don’t, how am I going to buy food? “
Since the lake has dried up, flammable gases are escaping from the ground. When it ignites, it destroys the few remaining trees. And it leaves the soil unsuitable for agriculture. Moussa Mouhamadou Touré shows us the fields where he grew food. “Look how the color of our soil has changed. It’s red, it’s black, it’s granules. The gas burned all the land and the trees.
Poverty has arrived, and the younger generation has no choice but to leave the villages and the region. Food security and the economic survival of villages are in danger.
In the past, the area around the lake exported timber, livestock, fish and cereals to other regions of Mali and to neighboring countries such as Algeria, Côte d’Ivoire and Mauritania. People could buy textiles, motorcycles, household appliances and spare parts.
Moussa Mahamadou Touré’s son settled in the capital, Bamako: “The village only functions thanks to our courageous children who have left. Fifty to sixty percent of the population has left.
His son tells the same story: “I came to Bamako because before, our parents were farmers. But there was drought throughout our childhood. Those of us who live here share what we earn with ourselves and our families in the North.
For the young people who remain in the region, there is another danger: recruitment by armed groups. There is little work and the Bintagoungou school is closed.
The mayor, Hama Abacrene, shows us a school building full of sand. “It’s a school for nearly 400 students. 400 students. It’s a whole generation. A lost generation, a generation condemned to flee. Or be recruited.
The ICRC has set up a project to stabilize 10 hectares (25 acres) of sand dunes in Bilal Bancor. The idea is to block the main road by which the sand advances on the village. More than 100 people from vulnerable households participated, which enabled them to earn a daily wage for around 20 days.
Mali is one of the poorest countries in the world and has been in the throes of conflict for many years. The humanitarian situation is critical and the conditions are harsh. Mali is mainly composed of a desert or semi-desert and is among the 20 countries most vulnerable to climate change, according to the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Initiative (ND-Gain) index.
* The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts an average temperature increase of 3.3 ° C for West Africa by 2100, with a risk of an increase of 4.7 ° C in northern Mali over the same period.