Sahel - the role of education before, during, and after drought

This post is by no means exhaustive (there are far too many issues involved to cover them all in a readable blog post) and aims to address the problem of drought apparent in the Sahel at present.

Before emergency education critics jump in, it's probably necessary to note that I am not suggesting education should take precedence over more urgent needs e.g. food, rather wish to explore whether or not environmental education has a place in preventing and helping to manage such disasters. Only once the more pressing matters are met - given funding - does it seem education for the sake of education in such contexts can resume.

Current Interventions

Specific interventions include: cash transfers; water distribution; food distribution reaching the severely malnourished. 

Educational Situation

Perhaps unsurprisingly - given that there is insufficient funding for more immediate concerns - there seems to be little evidence of education activities as part of the international response. 

The importance of education prior to the onset of drought however is worth mentioning. Given that the situation is a recurring one, the question I want to ask is: could the current situation be prevented or the impact lessened in any way through appropriate educational measures? The Sahel region is prone to recurring drought therefore complete prevention is perhaps unlikely. However, are there measures that could be taken before such disasters to prevent or at least lessen their impact? 

Food Insecurity or Political Access? 

Another salient question to be asking is whether food insecurity truly is a problem as a result of the drought or whether the impact has been compounded with power hierarchies and therefore selective access to food.

Potential Risk Factors

With any kind of reform, there are risks. Some of the possibilities with regard to incorporating preventive measures into education include: protraction of the emergency i.e. extended drought, therefore preventing the application of preventive measures; whilst the international community may be receptive to such changes, the local communities may not - needs assessments here are crucial; as far as I'm aware there is no one organisation that focuses solely on education in emergency situations, or preventive projects, therefore such reforms are likely to further stretch over-burdened organisations. 

What do you think?

Is the international community right to believe and/or suggest that education can help to prevent such disasters? Do local farmers really need educating on what works best for their crop? Can environmental education before, during, and after such humanitarian crises empower people to prevent or move away from such disasters? Share your thoughts in the comments box below. 


  1. Odette on LinkedIn:
    I agree with your statement that exploring the possibility for disaster prevention through education before, during and after drought could be crucial. I think that knowledge on soil management could be also something preserve the soil fertility for areas that are not severely degraded.

    I have read that promotion of planting long rooted trees and irrigation could be options for trying to restore soil degradation. If some development initiatives could fund for researches vegetation/plants adaptable to drylands and lands at risks of desertification and this would be what I could call real and best development.

  2. Josiane on LinkedIn:
    Prepare them for the next rain season too by providing them with needed staff, so that they can try to make it by their own with dignity.

  3. Etii on LinkedIn:
    Environmental Education is undoubtedly key towards a sustainable future. Young people especially children should be targeted with knowledge and innovations to reduce disaster risks as they are important agents for enhancing safety and resilience. Children in formal or informal education setting often pass on knowledge to future generations, as well as to older and less informed community members. In so doing, they empower communities to participate in disaster risk reduction.

    Aid workers should attend more to urgent needs of disaster affected people such as saving lives and revitalizing livelihoods and less to environmental education. International response would yield more dividends if donors invested in: enabling governments to incorporate disaster risk reduction in their overall development framework including in their education system, as well as research on technologies and innovations that will improve community resilience.

  4. Sebastien on LinkedIn:
    Very interesting discussion
    May I add the necessity of a (better) land planning. I do not know the Sahel region well enough to give any specific example, but I did learn from my past experiences, that in disaster management overall (i.e. not only on droughts) land planning is too often neglected or only superficially taken into consideration.

  5. Excellent discussion with very good points from Etii. Disaster risk reduction education, even informally during emergencies, is absolutely vital to preparing current and future generations for the predicted increase in recurrent and sudden emergencies. How else can we expect such information to be shared? Governments, both in the developed and developing world, should ensure that environmental awareness and disaster risk reduction is a part of the national curriculum.

    As Etii said, children act as excellent agents of change in their own communities. Emergency drills, awareness of areas prone to landslides, identification of unsafe buildings, and even learning how to swim can be life-saving and life-sustaining activities for children and their families.

    1. Thanks for your comment Anonymous.

      It seems Disaster Risk Reduction is getting mainstreamed into education systems, if only informally. As you say, it can only be a positive, especially if the affected youth and children are the owners of such information dissemination. I guess in cases of recurring drought however the challenge lies in what will actually help to prevent future disasters.