Blue YD migration update – 29th November 2012

 Data received for Blue YD shows that he continues to spend his time in the Doue area and is often using the same roosting areas. We could say Blue YD is a creature of habit and has developed some kind of routine, using a certain roost at a particular time of the day. As an example, the Google Earth image below highlights how he has used the same perching area four days in a row at similar times of the day.

Blue YD’s perching pattern

 Meanwhile is worth noting that Senegal has suffered a long drought and acute food shortages for quite some time now, as well as being hit by an active monsoon and above normal temperatures during West Africa’s rainy season. It is not surprising considering that northern Senegal lies within the Sahel region, a 1000km wide semi-arid belt stretching from the West to the East coast of Africa. The Sahel is a transition zone between the northern desert and the tropical green forest and home to about 50 million people. 

In this part of Senegal, subsistence cultivation and rearing of livestock are the main means of survival, with livestock rearing slowly moving towards southern areas in search of fertile pastures. Farming on the other hand relies on summer rainfall except in areas along seasonal watercourses such as the Senegal River, where the IUCN water program and the UNEP have work for several decades, helping to build dams to maintain and nourish fertile lands for cultivation. They have also worked on making water resources accessible for the population. 

Most of the rural population in Senegal is engaged in subsistence farming on self-sufficient farms. A mass exodus toward urban areas has taken place in the past decades due to different factors, harshening climatic conditions being one of the most critical ones. In any case, Senegal hosts a wide range of semi-arid thriving crops such as millet (finger, pearl, bull rush), sorghum, cowpeas, groundnut, green grams, phaesolus beans and chickpeas. There is also a unique crop to the Sahel region: the baobab tree, provider of food, shelter, clothing, medicine and hunting/fishing materials. 

Droughts in the Sahel have occurred regularly over the past 12,000 years. The region has recently suffered a 7 month drought-induced famine in 2010, heavy rain in late 2009 followed by a heat wave. Several countries have witnessed record breaking summer temperatures over the past 20 years: 47.6°C in Chad, 48.2°C in Niger and 49.6°C in Sudan. 

Scientists have suggested that the drought started in the 1960s with a gradual reduction in rainfall and abnormal raining patterns. What has led to the development of these conditions? It was first suggested human over-use of natural resources (grazing, deforestation and poor land management) were the main cause, but as climate change research has advanced, the warming of the Indian Ocean seems a more plausible explanation. However, the population growth over the past 40 years doesn’t help when trying to mitigate the effects. The population in the Sahel region has grown by over 10 million since 1967, with a life expectancy of 57 years old (in comparison with 79 in UK). How was this possible when the conditions in the Sahel were so unstable? An increase in rainfall in the 1960s led the government to push people northwards and exploit the land for cultivation and livestock. It was, however, followed by a drought period of 6 years until 1974. 

In a fight against further land degradation, some African countries are looking for ways to stop desertification (which is not necessarily a consequence of the Sahara moving southwards). They have recently devised a new solution: The Pan-African Great Green Wall. This is not a new initiative since similar projects have been undertaken in the past, i.e. the Algerian Green Dam, the Great Green Wall of China.

The Pan-Afican Great Green Wall

 The picture above shows a simulated path. This band of native trees more than 5000 miles long and 9 miles wide will stretch from Senegal to the Republic of Djibouti and will aim to be as continuous as possible, linking inhabited areas and avoiding natural obstacles such as mountains and streams. Senegal’s government is a regional leader on the project and has already planted more than 300 miles of trees in 2012, but its global success largely depends on the international collaboration of eleven African nations and other communities in the Sahel.



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 Data received for Blue YD shows that he continues to spend his time in the Doue area and is often using the same roosting areas. We could say Blue YD …

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