Where Is Mali?
Mali is a landlocked country in the middle of West Africa. It is the largest country in West Africa and consists of 3 zones; the Sahara Desert, the Sahel, and the cultivated Savanna.
The Sahara Desert and the Sahel semi-desert covers over 65% of the land mass. The Sahel is a transition zone of semi-arid grassland between the Sahara Desert and the more wooded southern savanna. At one time it was home to large populations of grazing animals. Traditionally, most of the people in the Sahel have been semi-nomads with strong livestock traditions whereas the cultivated Savanna is a broad belt of tropical savanna that supports a variety of crops, trees, and grasses.
Mali was once a crossroad for trade and well known for the historical city of Timbuktu. Camel caravans loaded with gold traveled through the desert and the historical city of Timbuktu to Morocco. Although now under threat of desertification, during the 15th and 16th centuries Timbuktu was a wealthy, intellectual and spiritual center and an important marketplace for manuscripts, salt, gold, cattle and grain.
Climate Change & Its Consequences In Mali
Mali faces numerous environmental challenges, including desertification, deforestation, soil erosion, drought, and inadequate supplies of potable water. Deforestation is an especially serious and growing problem. According to the Ministry of the Environment, Mali’s population consumes 6 million tons of wood per year for timber and fuel. To meet this demand, 400,000 hectares of tree cover are lost annually, virtually ensuring destruction of the country’s savanna woodlands. Trees with economical value, such as legume, shea, baobab, locust-bean tree are spared from cutting and coexist with common crops such as sorghum, maize, millet.
The Niger River Basin
The Niger River is the third longest river in Africa flowing through nine countries. Its source is in the highlands of Guinea. It takes a most curious path, a large snake like curve, to its outlet in the Gulf of Guinea. Some sources state it was actually two rivers that merged centuries ago. The Niger creates a large and fertile inland delta as it arcs northeast through Mali and the river is generally described as Mali’s lifeblood. It is the source of food, drinking water, irrigation and transportation.
Farmers are highly dependent on the Niger River for food crops like cotton, maize, rice, sweet potatoes and peanuts, but seasonal water level fluctuations and longer-term climate change have made farming an unreliable source of income and sustenance. Water resources are under constantly increasing pressure from irrigation practices and climate change.