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West African Sahel and Dry Savannas

View of a degraded landscape in Niger

View of a degraded landscape in Niger (Photo credit: Patrice Savadogo)

About our work 

The West African Sahel and Dry Savannas stretch from Mauritania in the west through southern Mali, northern Ghana, Burkina Faso, southern Niger, and northern Nigeria to Chad in the east. In this vast region, frequent droughts, depleted soils, increasing use of marginal lands, weak policies and institutions, extreme poverty and a growing population have led to degradation of land and resources. Rural livelihoods are under constant threat of famine as rangelands and forests shrink. In the drier northern part between the desert and the savannas, the main challenge is to restore degraded resources. In the southern part where agricultural support services and access to markets tend to be better than in north, the challenge is to sustainably intensify agricultural production.

The CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems is working to achieve resilient and equitable growth in the region by promoting an agenda of sustainability for existing and emerging national and regional processes and investments. The program works to establish improved governance for equitable and sustainable management of resources and the integration of tree-crop-livestock in systems research and value chain. We do that by enhancing the capacities of local and national partners, addressing issues of gender inequality and promoting opportunities for young people in agriculture.  

Priority activities 

  • To improve the multi-product productivity, stability and gender equity of agro-pastoral systems in West African Sahel by enhancing subsidiary linkages between annual crops, trees and livestock as well as promoting the use of indigenous knowledge and resources,
  • To improve food productivity, benefit sharing equity (including gender and youth aspect) of WASDS rain-fed and irrigated crop systems whilst minimize agriculture-induced land degradation and climate-driven vulnerability,
  • To assess ecological and gender-relevant socio-economical  tradeoffs and synergies driven by different technological options, governance and market alternatives with respect to farm productivity, profitability, natural resources and social equity 

Research projects 

Dryland Systems conducts four (4) major research-in-development projects in the West African Sahel and Dry Savannas region.  These projects are:

  • Enhancing Food and Water Security for Rural Economic Development, 5 years (August 2013-July 2018).
  • Scaling-up Climate-Smart Agroforestry Technologies for Improved Market Access, Food and Nutritional Security in Mali, 5 years (October 2014 to September 2019)
  • The Africa Research in Sustainable Intensification for the Next Generation (Africa RISING), 5 years (October 2011 to October 2016).
  • Agro-ecological Intensification of Sorghum and Pearl Millet-Based Production Systems in the Sahel Through Agroforestry: Linking Farmers' Knowledge to Process-Based Science, 5 years (September 2013 to August 2016).

For more information, please contact:

Antoine Kalinganire, West Africa Sahel and Dry Savannas Flagship Coordinator at