“The Sahel, a region of hope which must now wake up from the current nightmare”

Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, at the initiative of the Association of Fulani Women and Indigenous Peoples of Chad (Afpat) and activist for the protection of the environment and the promotion of human rights.

Tribune. The Sahel is living a waking nightmare. For ten years, our countries have been facing all the crises. That of insecurity first, which is the mother of all battles. Yet the Sahel is a region of peace and collaboration. The harshness of its climate has for a long time forced such different communities in the Sahel to live together, collaborate, share natural resources and trade their agricultural products.

But for the past ten years or so, traffickers, terrorists and fundamentalists have been working to pit communities against each other. From Mali to Niger, from Chad to Burkina Faso, groups from elsewhere impose an ideology of hatred and conflict and strive to divide communities that lived in harmony.

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To do this, they are relying on the second scourge which, for the past ten years, has established itself as a serial killer across the region: climate change. This phenomenon does not only concern the melting of the sea ice in Greenland or the rising seas that threaten the small islands. It is destroying our ecosystems, our natural resources, raising fears of the return of great famines in the region.

Climate change is also causing the migration of people who leave the countryside, then the large cities of Africa, to risk their lives in the Mediterranean. Communities, weakened by desertification, major droughts followed by destructive floods, are then manipulated by terrorist and fundamentalist groups who want to transform the scarcity of resources into community conflicts.

The people are angry

In Burkina Faso, Mali and throughout the region, the situation is hardening between pastoralists, farmers and sometimes even fishermen, to the point that entire villages are sometimes massacred. And that was before the great Covid-19 crisis which hit the health of the peoples of Africa, primarily because of the virus, but also because the social and economic crisis generated by the pandemic further accentuates insecurity. food.

Our countries have also been facing for years a strong political instability, with multiple changes of governments, weakened democratic processes, postponements of elections … In 2020 alone, five presidential elections are or should be held. Elsewhere, legislative elections must take place. But in many countries, people are angry with their leaders, unable to respond to the crises they are going through, to bring them peace, security and development.

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They are angry that this is not the world we want, but the one we live in. The Sahel is considered one of the poorest regions in the world. This is true when we look at the indicators of the major international institutions. But, in our hearts, we Sahelians, we know that we have another wealth.

The peoples of the Sahel are rich in their ecosystems and their agriculture, which some qualify as “Traditional” see “Arrears”, but which for us is one of the most successful. For centuries, farmers and breeders have collaborated. The herds of some fertilize the fields of others. Some dig irrigation wells that are also used to water livestock.

Our communities are not resigned

This agriculture is not only productive, it is also extremely efficient from an environmental point of view. It enriches soils, protects ecosystems, and transhumant systems give nature time to regenerate, do not use chemicals or industrial fertilizers that pollute land and water. This agriculture is a model which makes all the wealth of our peoples. It has nothing to envy those of the rich countries which were built on the destruction of the environment.

The peoples of the Sahel are also rich in their knowledge and traditional knowledge, which allows them to innovate every day to face the consequences of climate change. In Chad, my country, we are already experiencing +1.5 ° C of warming, more than what is foreseen in the Paris agreement.

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But our communities are not resigned to this fate. Women especially, those who are on the front line. They fight every day to plant drought tolerant crops, process basic products to earn small sums to feed the family and, if there is any money left, send the children to school. . They are the ones who will draw from nature the plants necessary for traditional medicine to cure the sick who do not have access to hospitals or health centers.

The peoples of the Sahel are finally rich in their culture and their identity. The Sahel is a crossroads between the Arab world, Central Africa and its large tropical forests, and East Africa and its opening to Asia. It is one of the areas of the world where the most languages ​​are spoken and where multiple identities, multiple cultures intermingle.

Launch a “green deal” for the Sahel

The Sahel is arguably one of the youngest regions in the world. Its strength is this youth that composes it. It is therefore a region of hope which must now wake up from this nightmare, where we massacre our neighbors for a little drinking water or arable land, and even humanitarians who come to help the poorest populations. .

In 2015, we adopted the Sustainable Development Goals, but we did not make enough progress in implementing them. The development of the Sahel must be based on three pillars bringing together these objectives, focusing on its youth, its environment and its agriculture and its long history of cooperation.

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For this, we must seize the opportunity offered by the health crisis to launch a green deal for the Sahel. A green deal which provides investments in agroecology, green infrastructure for health, energy and transport, and the means to adapt to climate change throughout the rural Sahel. Rich countries are spending billions of billions of dollars to rebuild themselves. And us, what do we do?

Most of our countries have 60 years of independence this year. They face the greatest challenge they have had to face since the end of colonization: that of transmitting to youth a hope for a better world, based on the sustainable management of natural resources, on the fight against poverty, peace and security, and democratic renewal. Our young people are ready for it, they are waiting for it. It’s up to our old countries and their leaders now to reach out to them.

Hindu Oumarou Ibrahim is a member of the Mbororo community in Chad. When she was only 15 years old, she created the Association of Fulani Women and Indigenous Peoples of Chad (Afpat). For twenty years now, she has campaigned for the protection of the environment and the promotion of human rights and indigenous peoples.

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