Current | Search | RSS Feeds

Restoring the abundance of Senegal’s Ndiael Special Reserve for people and nature

The Ndiael Reserve in Senegal is an oasis of desert wetlands that is internationally recognised for its outstanding nature. Like the birds and the fish here, human living patterns of fishing and subsistence agriculture have been a part of these wetlands for generations. To address the growing competition for land and water that is threatening this important ecosystem, we are bringing back water to the wetlands.

Action Description:

The problem

The Ndiael Reserve is a land of many uses. Competition for land and water is growing, degrading this important ecosystem at the core of the reserve. The unsustainable use of resources around the reserve is also threatening the food and water security of the local communities who depend on the many goods and services provided by wetlands for their livelihoods. For example, a majority-owned foreign company has been granted 20,000 hectares of formerly protected Reserve for water-intensive crops. This is a significant concern for both the nature and the 20,000 people living nearby. These communities have previously lacked the capacity to defend their interests from powerful actors.

The Ndiael Reserve is listed as a Ramsar wetland of international importance, yet since 1990 it has been included in the Montreux Record list of sites under threat. In recent years, water diversions for agriculture along with droughts from a changing climate have completely dried out the wetlands at the core of the reserve.

Where we work

The Ndiael Special Reserve wetlands are islands of green in the semi-desert of northwest Senegal, near the border with Mauritania. This is a landscape of shallow depressions, river tributaries and a few lakes that should fill temporarily in the rainy season. In addition to being listed as a Ramsar site, the Ndiael is also a UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserve with a mission of improving the relationship between people and their environment.

click here for a larger map

The Ndiael is one of the most important sites for migratory birds from the temperate and Arctic zones of Europe, and also for intra-African migrants. During the winter it provides critical habitat to tens of thousands of wetland birds on the East Atlantic Flyway.

While sparsely populated by people, agriculture, fishing, and raising cattle support the livelihoods of small communities within this landscape. Restoring this system will boost their livelihoods and the local economy both by increasing the productive capacity of the system and providing increased opportunity for ecotourism and related income.

Aim of our work

We aim to restore 10,000 hectares of land in order to sustain the wetlands and water resources of the Ndiael river basin that are now cut off from natural flooding, while promoting more sustainable livelihoods for the local pastoral, agricultural and fisher folk communities that improve their water and food security.

Our approach

We work towards the sustainable management of wetlands and water resources in the Ndiael. In order to achieve this, we develop the skills and capacity of local partners to directly improve the land and also influence decision makers on the need for wider restoration efforts. By demonstrating the success of small scale initiatives to bring wetlands back to life, we are building a constituency in favour of larger scale restoration of the Ndiael Reserve.

  • We restore degraded wetlands and work to bring back water to the wetlands
  • We promote alternative livelihood activities to take the pressure off of wetlands
  • We reforest with local species and to increase income and train communities on how to use local species for income
  • We build the capacity of communities to make more informed decisions on issues that impact them
  • We work with local governments to mainstream Ecosystem Based Adaptation and Climate Change Adaptation in local planning and development
  • We are promoting the maintenance of our initiative through the funding streams of major donors to water resource management in the region.


  • We are improving water delivery to bring life back to the Reserve
  • We are leading the development of a management plan that will guide the restoration of the Reserve with the ambition of removing it from the list of threatened Ramsar sites
  • We are holding the large-scale agriculture company responsible for its water withdrawals and impact on the Reserve
  • Through our engagement and capacity building, the Africa Development Bank is now poised to undertake a Senegal River Basin project that will build on our work and rewet the Reserve
  • We trained our local partners to conduct ecological monitoring and restoration

Watch a news story on our work (in French).

Action Partners:

Association Inter Village Ndiael
Forum Civil
Senegal National Parks Service
Senegal Department of Forestry
Senegal River Basin Development Authority
Altenburg & Wymenga