re posted from Africa and the World
Lake Chad is the largest body of water in the Sahel, a semi-arid zone that stretches across the African continent from Senegal to Eritrea, dividing the Sahara Desert in the north from the grasslands of the south. The Lake Chad basin extends across the boundaries of eight countries – Algeria, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, Libya, Niger, Nigeria and Sudan. Lake Chad, the waterbody into which the basin drains, lies at the intersection of Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria.
Lake Chad was once the centre of the second-largest wetland in Africa and provides freshwater to riparian communities, breeding grounds for fish and fertile soil for crop production. In 1963, the lake covered 25 thousand square kilometres, but has since shrunk by 90 per cent.
The decline of the lake’s surface area is attributed to a decrease in rainfall across the Lake Chad basin and a simultaneous increase in the use of irrigation in the region. Irrigation began to be used in the region in the 1960s and 70s, but had a minimal effect on water levels during this time. Rainfall in the Lake Chad basin has decreased since the 1960s, mainly due to a decline in the number of large rainfall events. The use of irrigation increased across the region as a response to this change, and particularly after two severe droughts in the 1980s.
As Lake Chad is a relatively shallow lake – the average depth is about four metres – its size has fluctuated dramatically in the past. The US Geological Survey estimates that it has dried up many times in the last millennium and it is possible that it will be completely dry by 2030.
Never have so many people relied on the water of the lake. There are more than three million people living within 200 kilometres of Lake Chad and more than 46 million living within the larger basin. Most of the people living in the basin are concentrated around Lake Chad with 26 million Nigerians, ten million Chadians and six million Nigeriens and Cameroonians living within the basin. Population growth rates across the region are high and are likely to remain elevated, leading to a natural increase in the population by 2030. Larger populations will increase food and water stress in the Lake Chad basin and, unless socio-economic programmes are adopted, will further exacerbate the security threats discussed in this paper.
Environmental changes in the Lake Chad basin are not solely responsible for regional insecurity. These changes, however, have increased conflicts over limited land and water resources and provided NSAGs with a powerful rhetorical tool that attracts disenchanted individuals to their cause. Improving access to food and water in key parts of the Lake Chad region will deprive Boko Haram of a powerful recruitment tool, counteract the popular belief that the state is incapable of improving the lives of citizens and contribute to a better security situation in the region.