Be informed. Be challenged. Be inspired.

Malian villagers battle advancing sands after lake dries

Dakar, Senegal

Since Lake Faguibine in northern Mali dried up, communities on its parched shores have had to defend their homes from encroaching sand dunes while finding new ways to scratch a living from the degraded soil.

The lake – once one of the largest in West Africa – used to be fed by annual flooding from the Niger River. But it started to disappear after catastrophic droughts in the 1970s, forcing more than 200,000 people to abandon their traditional livelihoods.

Mali drying climate1

Inhabitants who came to harvest bundles of wood stand near barriers fixed in the dunes to slow down the desert progression, in northern Mali, on 26th May. PICTURE: Birom Seck-ICRC/Handout via Reuters.

“All this area was covered by water,” said farmer-turned-herder Abdul Karim Ag Al Hassane, pointing to the desert horizon in a video shared by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Now he and other inhabitants of the formerly lakeside villages west of Timbuktu have to walk long distances to find water for their livestock and build barriers out of sticks in an effort to keep the dunes at bay.

The shrinking population of Lake Faguibine is set to come under further pressure from climate change. Average temperatures are expected to rise over three degrees Celsius in West Africa by 2100 and up to 4.7 degrees in northern Mali, according to the UN climate body.

Mali drying climate2

A parched expanse of land is pictured in an area of Timbuktu, northern Mali, on 29th May. PICTURE: Birom Seck-ICRC/Handout via Reuters.

Efforts to boost resilience by restoring Faguibine’s wetlands and the area’s role as the breadbasket of the Timbuktu region have been derailed by waves of conflict, most recently a years-long Islamist insurgency, according to a 2016 study in the African Journal of Aquatic Science.

In the village of Bintagoungou, the advancing dunes have buried a schoolyard and cracked the empty buildings’ foundations.

“This is a school for almost 400 students,” said mayor Hama Abacrene. “That’s an entire generation. A lost generation, a generation condemned to flee or be recruited.”



sight plus logo

Sight+ is a new benefits program we’ve launched to reward people who have supported us with annual donations of $26 or more. To find out more about Sight+ and how you can support the work of Sight, head to our Sight+ page.



We’re interested to find out more about you, our readers, as we improve and expand our coverage and so we’re asking all of our readers to take this survey (it’ll only take a couple of minutes).

To take part in the survey, simply follow this link…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

For security, use of Google's reCAPTCHA service is required which is subject to the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.