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Events Climate Change

​​Rethinking the Sahel: Climate, Social Capital and Knowledge

Past Event

November 22, 2021

12:00 pm - 1:30 pm utc

The outlook for climatic changes in the African Sahel is bleak: spectacular temperature increases and further rainfall variability will continue to challenge the livelihoods of millions of inhabitants–sedentary and nomadic–that live in this vast region. These environmental impacts are usually understood as complicating long-standing problems of weak statehood, economic marginalization and physical insecurity and risk rendering the Sahel more prone to jihadist violence and various forms of migration. Yet this pessimistic–some would say alarmist–perspective on the Sahel as a zone of crisis is not the only possible one.

In this event co-organized by Columbia University and the University of Oxford, a panel entirely drawn from the Sahel region explored dynamic responses by various population groups to environmental change and focused on the social capital and economic opportunities that this part of Africa harbours. Panelists discussed historical perceptions of environmental degradation and sustainability and drew attention to both long-established indigenous forms of knowledge as well as innovative new approaches to land use, reforestation and resource management.

This event was the second in a new webinar series through which the Center on Global Energy Policy seeks to foreground the heterogeneity of perspectives found around the continent on what climate means in different African contexts and how more than one billion Africans are already living with extraordinary climatological variability and constraints on the use of natural resources. This session also formed part of the Oxford Department of International Development’s Climate Change and the Challenges of Development series.


  • Dr. Harry Verhoeven, Senior Research Scholar, Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University SIPA


  • Nora Berrahmouni, Senior Forestry Officer for Africa, Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO)
  • Ousseyni Kalilou, Chair of the Forest Interest Group of the Environmental Peacebuilding Association
  • Dr. Cheikh Mbow, Director of Future Africa, University of Pretoria