39. Sand dune fixation with Euphorbia for protecting school, pastures and farmlands 39. Sand dune fixation with Euphorbia for protecting school, pastures and farmlands

Climate and disaster risks

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Arid wetlands are vital water stores in otherwise uninhabitable landscapes. They help strengthen the capacity of local people to survive droughts and fight desertification. A changing climate and lower river flows due to upstream diversions is putting these wetlands and the communities they support at risk. We improve resilience to disasters by protecting and rehabilitating the wetland ecosystems on which people depend.

River flows in the Sahel have always fluctuated widely due to natural climatic variation. For centuries people have adapted by migrating to wetland regions or adjusting their cropping practices. The region’s wetlands are an integral defence mechanism against land degradation and desertification. They also support traditional nomadic ways of life that transcend boundaries.

Increasingly however, upstream reservoirs and diversions for irrigation are altering the timing and amount of river flows. Combined with hotter temperatures and more uncertain rainfall this is increasing the vulnerability of people to droughts and flash floods. In very low rainfall years, when the wetlands all but disappear, this results in a humanitarian disaster as people and livestock starve.

By integrating wetlands into local development, disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation plans we help communities anticipate these hazards and adapt to future risks. We seek to replicate and scale up our successful restoration pilots across the region by influencing policies and investments.