Water and Soil Conservation Practices in the Sahel: an Analysis of their Potential to Increase Resilience of Rural Livelihoods

Klaus Ackermann, Dieter Nill, Alexander Schöning, Anneke Trux, Elisabeth van den Akker, Martina Wegner, Tobias Gerhartsreiter


In the Sahel people have always faced extreme climate conditions with high rainfall variability. Rising population density, unsustainable cultivation practices and degradation of resources, particularly of soils, are progressing and lead to desertification. The effects of climate change have already further exacerbated these difficult conditions and will continue to increase the stress on eco-systems, leading to higher vulnerability of the rural population.

Since the 1980s, German development cooperation has been providing support to people in the Sahel region with the development and implementation of improved natural resource management strategies and approaches. A special focus has been given to soil and water conservation (SWC) and soil protection and restoration (SPR). In the paper several techniques and approaches of SWC / SPR will be presented and their contribution to improving the resilience of the prevailing agro-sylvo-pastoral systems and to reducing the vulnerability of the rural population will be examined.

A special focus will be on water spreading weirs as a relatively new technology for the rehabilitation of degraded dryland valleys, which has been introduced in the Sahel by Swiss and German development cooperation. This technique has to be embedded into a spatial approach combining several land management techniques, which reduce soil erosion and improve soil fertility and food security.

In the conclusion the paper gives policy and technical recommendations for the up-scaling of the presented techniques in order to contribute to sustainable land management and resilience building on the ground.


soil and water conservation, resilience, climate change adaptation, food security

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