The Lake Chad Basin: draught and jihadist entrenchment


Recently, the Lake Chad Basin has lost 90% of its water.The basin itself has shrunk from 25.000 square kilometres to 2.000 square kilometres. This led to one of the most serious humanitarian crises in the entire African continent.

In addition to the ecological and social emergency problem, the area is strategically important because Boko Haram and other jihadist groups are worsening the human security conditions with serious effects on the stability of the involved countries.

This region comprises four countries: Western Chad, South-Eastern Niger, Northern Cameroon and North-Eastern Nigeria. One of the most serious effects of climate change affects the region, although the process of desertification is a mixture of drought and anthropic causes. Moreover, that process has strong repercussions on agriculture, fishing, cattle raising and, of course, on water supply with serious socio-economic and politic consequences, exacerbating internal struggles, especially among jihadist armed groups and local governments.

The lack of jobs, water and food and the wars looming over the region, affect more than 17 million people, who try to emigrate when possible. Otherwise, they often end up under the domination of jihadist groups, who are among the few who survive the crisis by plundering all remaining resources.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), food security has deteriorated, with more than 7 million people facing the threat of famine and one million children suffering from severe malnutrition. It is estimated that in 2020 the number of people depending on the lake and its resources will reach 35 million.

Sanusi Abdullahi, executive secretary of the Lake Chad Basin Commission, which oversees the use of water and other natural resources, said they were running out of choices. He said: “We are faced with the possibility of the Lake Chad disappearing and that would be catastrophic for the entire African continent.” UNESCO has launched a new $6,5 million research and conservation programme involving Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria, as well as the Central African Republic.

France supports the reforestation solution, as part of the commitment made at COP 21 and COP 22 climate conferences. $1,7 million is allocated to restore the vegetation cover around the lake, support economic initiatives and help agricultural practices adapting to climate change. Youth, women and men together are involved on a daily basis to protect the young plants and fight against the threat of desertification. Over 4.000 hectares will be planted with drought-tolerant seedlings on five vulnerable sites to protect the polders from silting [polder is a Dutch XVII century term indicating land reclaimed from water by dykes and drainage, a note of the Editor]. Nearly 40.000 acacia trees have already been planted at Merea, Liwa and Tantaveron sites.  About $140.000 have been donated by UNDP to more than 400 households around the lake to boost community food production and fight poverty, but perhaps this could not be enough.

Francesco Bergoglio Errico – Bachelor’s degree in Geographical Sciences; Master’s degree in Cultural anthropology and ethnology; Postgraduate specialization in Geopolitics and global security.