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How to stop the sand in the Inner Niger Delta


Sobé and other villages in the Mali Inner Niger Delta are threatened by the desert's sand. Communities are forced to rebuild their homes every two years to avoid burial by sand dunes, which are moving as a result of degradation of the Savannah.

Planting trees to stabilize dunes in Sobe, Mali. Photo by Wetlands International Mali

The sand is also blowing into Debo Lake, a major resource for fresh water, fish and other wetlands products for the communities surrounding the lake. The burial of the lake in sand happens at the same time as increasing droughts resulting from climate change and trees cutting on the adjacent dry lands by the communities. These developments all lead to a decline in fresh water, which may lead to increased water born diseases, less fish and other natural resources from the lake. 

Wetlands International and a consortium of partners have started a programme to stabilize the dunes. This is done by planting the dunes with local tree species. We call this technique “biological sand dune fixation”. These efforts will stop the dunes from moving towards the villages, their schools, their valuable agricultural and pasture lands and into Debo lake. As a result the communities will be more resilient in the future, in particular when droughts get more extreme.

Supported by Wetlands International, the villagers themselves are responsible for the dune fixation. In return for their work, they are better protected, but they also receive small loan (Bio-rights microfinance funds), which will become a grant if the sand stabilisation project is proven to be sustained over a longer period of time. They can invest this loan in sustainable livelihoods.

Read more on reducing disaster risk or contact Marie-José Vervest, project manager DRR.  

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