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Building resilience to face recurring environmental crisis in African Sahel

An Erratum to this article was published on 26 July 2013

This article has been updated


The present food shortages in the Horn of Africa and the West African Sahel are affecting 31 million people. Such continuing and future crises require that people in the region adapt to an increasing and potentially irreversible global sustainability challenge. Given this situation and that short-term weather and seasonal climate forecasting have limited skill for West Africa, the Rainwatch project illustrates the value of near real-time monitoring and improved communication for the unfavourable 2011 West African monsoon, the resulting severe drought-induced humanitarian impacts continuing into 2012, and their exacerbation by flooding in 2012. Rainwatch is now coupled with a boundary organization (Africa Climate Exchange, AfClix) with the aim of integrating the expertise and actions of relevant institutions, agencies and stakeholders to broker ground-based dialogue to promote resilience in the face of recurring crisis.

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Figure 1: TAMSAT African rainfall anomaly estimate (mm) for the period June–July–August 2011 compared to 2000–2009 base period.
Figure 2: Time series (1941–2012) of average normalized April–October rainfall departure for 20 stations in the West African Soudano–Sahelian zone (11–18° N) west of 10° E.
Figure 3: Rainwatch cumulative precipitation depiction for Niamey (Niger) for 2011–2012.
Figure 4: Illustration of institutional links for resilience in practice.

Change history

  • 05 July 2013

    In the version of this Perspective originally published, the curves for 1984 and 1994 were incorrectly labelled in the legend for the right-hand panel of Fig. 3b. This error has been corrected in the HTML and PDF versions.


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We are most grateful to A. Ben Mohamed for his long-term guidance regarding the implementation and use of Rainwatch. These contributions began when A. Ben Mohamed was at the Université Abdou Moumouni de Niamey, and have continued since he became special advisor to the President of Niger. The University of Oklahoma (OU) contribution to this paper was supported by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) through the OU-NOAA Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies (CIMMS). Thanks are extended to J. Methven (Department of Meteorology, University of Reading), R. Walters (Department of Biological Sciences, University of Reading) and B. Hoskins (Grantham Institute for Climate Change, Imperial College London; Department of Meteorology, University of Reading) for their insightful comments on the draft manuscript.

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E.B. and R.J.C. originated the idea; E.B., R.J.C. and P.J.L. wrote the paper with input from all authors; P.J.L., A.T. and M.I.L. provided the Rainwatch analyses for 2011 and 2012; A.B. contributed the NGO perspective.

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Correspondence to Emily Boyd.

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Boyd, E., Cornforth, R., Lamb, P. et al. Building resilience to face recurring environmental crisis in African Sahel. Nature Clim Change 3, 631–637 (2013).

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