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Nomads of the Sahel

1 January 1979

In 1973 an international disaster was declared in the Sahelian countries of West Africa (Mauritania, Senegal, Mali, Upper Volta, Niger and Chad). The picture presented to the world at the time was of a natural disaster of the first order, affecting six very poor nations. A prolonged drought had led to the disappearance of almost all their livestock, destroyed their way of life and resulted in mass famine. This had been caused by a change in climate which might continue. The traditionally self-sufficient nomadic peoples of West Africa were permanently weakened. The situation described amounted to no less than a sudden and complete collapse of living conditions in a vast area of the world. But was this an accurate description of events in the Sahel at that time?

Please note that the terminology in the fields of minority rights and indigenous peoples’ rights has changed over time. MRG strives to reflect these changes as well as respect the right to self-identification on the part of minorities and indigenous peoples. At the same time, after over 50 years’ work, we know that our archive is of considerable interest to activists and researchers. Therefore, we make available as much of our back catalogue as possible, while being aware that the language used may not reflect current thinking on these issues.

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Patrick Marnham