The Sahel is a region of Africa that is 5400 kilometers wide spanning the width of Africa from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea. It begins on the west of Africa with the northern part of Senegal, the southern part of Mauritania, the central part of Mail, the very north of Burkina Faso, the very south of Algeria, the middle of Niger, the north east tip of Nigeria, the middle of Chad, the middle of Sudan and Eritrea. To the north is the Sahara and to the south savannah. At it’s widest the ‘belt’ of the Sahel is 1000km.
In the past, between the 9th and the 18th centuries the Sahel was a wealthy area with the ‘Sahelian Kingdoms’ being in control of the Trans-Saharan trade routes across the desert. Much of this was associated with the arab slave trade that thrived in those times. The power of the Sahelian Kingdoms was down to them having large animals that could move in packs, like horses and of course, camels. These were sufficient in strength and speed to control a large empire. With this strategies the Sahelian Kingdoms never spread further south into the forest as their warriors could not cope with the levels of disease and heat.
Years later in 1914, there was a serious drought in the Sahel which caused large scale famine. In the 1960s there was an increase in rainfall in the Sahel which made the more northerly parts more accessible. Governments tried to persuade the people to move north. The drought period continued from 1968 to 1974 which made the grazing of cattle impossible and made the land useless. In a similar fashion to what had happened back in 1914, famine was now at a very large scale.
The Sahel is now one of the ‘hungriest places on Earth’.