Trees on sorghum fields in July (rainy season), northern Burkina Faso. Photo: H. Sinare

Adapting to changing climate in drylands: The re-greening in Sahel as a potential success case

A project investigating how landscape changes affect ecosystem services and livelihoods

The interest in conducting research in the Sahel came from studies showing that, in contrast to a dominant narrative of irreversible degradation and desertification in the Sahel, the region had actually became greener since the severe droughts in the 1970s and 1980s. This was observed in several large-scale remote sensing studies, and the data indicated that this increase in vegetation was larger than would be expected from increase in rainfall, which also took place during the same period.

In parallel, local case studies reported how farmers in Burkina Faso and Niger use soil and water conservation techniques on their fields and manage naturally regenerating trees and shrubs on their fields to increase woody vegetation cover. The original objectives for the project were to understand the social-ecological dynamics behind the re-greening, to interpret the re-greening in terms of ecosystem services, and to improve understanding of effects of the re-greening on rural livelihoods.

The research around the re-greening of the Sahel consisted of one pilot phase in Niger 2009 and a project conducted in Burkina Faso and Niger 2010-2016. The project focus ended up being on using ecosystem services as a lens for understanding implications of, and drivers for, landscape changes and how these affect livelihoods.

The project has contributed to these insights:

Trees and shrubs in Sahelian landscapes

Landscapes in the Sahel are multifunctional and provide multiple benefits for livelihoods

The institutional context is of key importance for improved management practices

List of publications

Malmborg, K., Sinare, H., Enfors Kautsky, E., Ouedraogo, I., Gordon L. J. Mapping Regional Livelihood Benefits from Local Ecosystem Services Assessments in Rural Sahel
Manuscript in review after revisions.

Hänke, H., Börjeson, L., Hylander, K., Enfors-Kautsky, E. 2016. Drought tolerant species dominate as rainfall and tree cover returns in the West African Sahel. Land Use Policy 59:111-120

Sinare, H., Gordon L. J., Enfors Kautsky. E. 2016. Assessment of ecosystem services and benefits in village landscapes – A case study from Burkina Faso. Ecosystem Services 21: 141-152

Savadogo, O. M., Ouattara, K., Ouedraogog, I., Sawadogo/Kabore, S., Traore, M., Barron, J., Gordon, L., Pare, S., Zombre, N. P. 2016. Vegetation improvement and soil biological quality in the Sahel of Burkina Faso. International Journal of Biological and Chemical Sciences.

Savadogo, O. M., Ouattara, K., Pare, S., Ouedraogo, I., Barron, J., Kaboré/Sawadogo, S.,
Zombre N. P. 2016. Structure, composition spécifique et diversité ligneux dans deux zones contrastées en zone sahélienne du Burkina Faso, VertigO, Vol 16, n°1.

Sinare, H., Gordon, L.J. 2015. Ecosystem services from woody vegetation on agricultural lands in Sudano-Sahelian West Africa. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 200: 186-199

Savadogo, O. M., Ouattara, K., Barron, J., Ouedraogo, I., Gordon, L., Enfors, E., Zombre, N. P. 2015. Etats des écosystèmes sahéliens : reverdissement, perte de la diversité et qualité des sols, Afrique SCIENCE 11(5) 433 – 446

Moustapha, A.M., Baggnian, I., Yahaya, N, Adam, T. 2014. Influence of Re-Greening on the Infiltrability of Soils in South-Central Niger. Journal of Water Resource and Protection 6: 1731-1742.

Baggnian, I., Adam, T., Moustapha, A.M, Chaibou, I., Mahamane, A. 2014. Structure et dynamique de la végétation ligneuse juvénile issue de la régénération naturelle assistée (RNA) dans le Centre-Sud du Niger. International Journal of Biological and Chemical Sciences 8(2): 649-665.

Baggnian, I., Adamou, M.M., Adam, T., Mahamane, A. 2013. Impact des modes de gestion de la Régénération Naturelle Assistée des ligneux (RNA) sur la résilience des écosystèmes dans le Centre-Sud du Niger. Journal of Applied Biosciences 71:5742– 5752.

Baggnian, I., Mohamadou, A., Adamou, M. M., Lawali, S., Adam, T., Enfors, E., Larwanou, M., Tougiani, A. 2012. Perceptions paysannes des tendances du reverdissement des zones degrades au Niger. Journal des Sciences de l’Environnement 1(1):43-52.

Barron, J., Enfors, E., Cambridge, H., Moustapha, A. M. 2010. Coping with Rainfall Variability: Dry Spell Mitigation and Implication on Landscape Water Balances in Small-scale Farming Systems in Semi-arid Niger. International Journal of Water Resources Development 26 (4): 543-559

PhD theses
Ouango Maurice Savadogo 2017
Reverdissement au Sahel : Résilience, diversité biologique et dynamique de la végétation des écosystèmes. Université de Ouagadougou 1 Pr Joseph KI-ZERBO.

Hanna Sinare 2016
Benefits from ecosystem services in Sahelian village landscapes. Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University

Issoufou Baggnian 2014
Résilience des agroécosystèmes au Sahel: analyse du reverdissement dans le Centre Sud du Niger. Faculté d’Agronomie, Université Abdou Moumouni de Niamey.

Master theses
Elinor Holén 2015
Using soil properties to indicate regulating ecosystem services in a Sudano-Sahelian agro-ecological landscape

Katja Malmborg 2015
Identifying ecotopes on a regional scale in Burkina Faso

Anneli Sundin 2013
The role of agricultural interventions for the Sahelian re-greening

Hendrik Hänke 2012
Resolving the paradox between species decline and regreening in the West-African Sahel: A case study from northern Burkina Faso

Friederike Mikulcak 2011
The Implications of Formal and Informal Institutions on the Conservation of On-Farm Trees: An analysis from the Department of Mirriah, Republic of Niger

Gonda Abdou 2010
Influence des conditions socio-économiques et culturelles sur la dynamique des écosystèmes sahéliens: Cas de zones reverdie (Warzou) et dégradée (Maïssakoni) du département de MayahiPDF (pdf, 29.8 MB)

Issoufou Baggnian 2010
Rôle des dynamiques démographiques et migratoires sur l´évolution des écosystèmes sahéliens : Cas d´un terroir villageois reverdi et non reverdi du département de Mirriah dans la région de Zinder au NigerPDF (pdf, 4.8 MB)

Halimatou Boubacar 2010
Caractérisation biophysique des ressources ligneuses dans les zones dégradées et reverdies au Sahel : cas du département de MayahiPDF (pdf, 8.2 MB)

Marat Murzabekov 2010
Sahelian re-greening - merging a view from above with one from belowPDF (pdf, 1.6 MB)

Juliana Porsani 2010
From Boreholes to Households: Understanding the Impact of Water Access for Lives and Livelihoods in Rural SahelPDF (pdf, 3 MB)

Olivia Puill 2010
Livelihood diversification and landscape greening, a case study in rural NigerPDF (pdf, 1 MB)

Sani Rahiou Abass 2009
Caracterisation biophysique des resources ligneuses dans un site reverdi et un site degrade dans le departement de MirriahPDF (pdf, 1.3 MB)

Amadou Mamane
Inventaire et analyse des pratiques locales de gestion des écosystèmes sur le site de Mayahi.

Maurice Savadogo
Influences des facteurs démographiques et socioculturels sur la dégradation des terres et le reverdissement du paysage dans le département de Mayahi : cas de la zone reverdie de Warzou et celle non reverdie de Maïssakoni.

Related info

Project partners

Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, Sweden (Dr Line Gordon, Dr Elin Enfors Kautsky

Dept. of Human Geography, Stockholm University (Dr Lowe Börjeson)

Stockholm Environment Institute (Dr Jennie Barron, now at IWMI)

Centre Régional de l'Enseignement Spécialisé en Agriculture (CRESA, University of Abdou Moumouni, Niger
(Prof. Mostapha Adamou)

Institut national de recherche agronomique du Niger (INRAN), Niger (Dr Abasse Tougiani)

Institut de l'Environnement et de Recherches Agricoles (INERA), Burkina Faso (Dr Korodjouma Ouattara)

University of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso


Stockholm Resilience Centre is a collaboration between Stockholm University and the Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

Stockholm Resilience Centre
Stockholm University, Kräftriket 2B
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