West Africa’s Lake Chad

Growing Blue

Lake Chad Drying, Economies Dying

Lake Chad was once a huge freshwater lake straddling the borders of four African countries: Chad, Niger, Nigeria and Cameroon. Unfortunately, this critical resource shrunk by 95 percent between 1963 and 1998, according to some estimates, with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization calling it an “ecological catastrophe.”

Local weather changes, such as reduced monsoon rains, are considered the main cause of this shrinkage. However, unsustainable agricultural practices – including overgrazing and crop irrigation – have also worsened the situation.

The lake provides water to more than 20 million people, including approximately 9 million farmers, fishermen and herders who depend on the lake and surrounding region for their livelihoods. Because of the shrinking of the lake, millions of people now face water shortages, crop failures, livestock deaths, collapsed fisheries and increasing poverty – in a region already facing extensive economic challenges.

Government officials from the four countries are working together on a plan to divert water from a tributary to the Congo to replenish the lake, and they are also working to establish better management protocols to safeguard the lake’s remaining water. These efforts are critical, as the health and prosperity of the region depends on whether they are able to safeguard this vital resource.

Read more:
Shrinking African Lake Offers Lesson on Finite Resources