Changing climate is burying sub-Saharan Africa

In the town of Bogandé, in eastern Burkina Faso, rainfall has never been a daily phenomenon. Just on the outer rim of the “Sahel” region that blends the Sahara desert to the north and the slightly more moderate Sudanian Savanna to the south, Bogandé is still subject to many weather phenomena typically aligned with desert environments.

Recently, things have been getting a bit too Saharan in Bogandé for their liking: average rainfall, already scarce in the region, has dropped by 200 mm since the mid-eighties. Dust storms put mid-day life in blackout, caking roads, homes, and crops in piles of dirt and debris.

Today, the children of the town delight in hearing stories of Antelopes, Hyenas, and African Mahogany trees that, once commonplace as in most of sub-Saharan Africa, are relegated to history in the dustbowl landscape of Bogandé. They wonder what it was like for Tnidano Tissa, now 78, to feel the tickle of grass against his feet as a boy.

For Bogandé, plants are going the way of the dinosaur: crops grow smaller and more reluctantly, giving way to hunger, poverty and despair. In a cruel irony, the dried land cannot retain water, so what little rainfall they receive floods their streets and homes, causing damage and spreading disease.

As the years go by with no uptick in crop production, many farmers are driven to debt or insolvency just trying to survive. The region is rife with food insecurity and famine, despite the UN’s calls for relief money to combat it.

There is no silver lining here. Barring a revolutionary agricultural miracle, the farmers will likely not break the cycle of debt and dependency, and may ultimately be forced to relocate from the lands their ancestors enjoyed and begin anew somewhere else. All Bogandé has is hope that help will come in time.

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