AGRICULTURAL ARCHITECTURE: Acacia trees are planted around the perimeter. Inside and against the prevailing winds more trees are planted in rows, then perennial and annual crops are planted in the alleys.

Acacias in the desert

Breaking the cycle of drought

Life in Africa's Sahel region is precarious. Summer temperatures often reach 116 degrees in this ecozone that stretches from the Atlantic to Africa's Horn, between the Sahara desert and the savannas. Most soils are degraded from mismanagement. There is little biodiversity because farmers consider trees to be weeds and chop them down. Annual crops like sorghum and millet limp their way toward a meager harvest. When the rains don't come at all, famine does, and foreign aid workers appear with sacks of Nebraska wheat, while farmers watch the dunes encroach on their fields.

Now climate experts are predicting even drier conditions and increased temperatures in the Sahel, as well as in­creased climatic variability in the form of droughts and floods. Annual sorghum yield may decrease 15 percent by 2030. On top of all this are the pressures of population growth, adding up to a humanitarian crisis that will continue unabated for decades.

But there is a way to break this cycle.


This article is available to subscribers only. Please subscribe for full access—subscriptions begin at $2.95. Already have an online account? Log in now. Already a print subscriber? Create an online account for no additional cost.

This article is available to subscribers only.

To post a comment, log inregister, or use the Facebook comment box.