birds on the move

Sahel trees planting boosts migratory birds’ habitat

The Sahel region, an African vast and arid land spanning across 14 countries from west to the east of the continent, is one of the harshest places in the world to live in.

However, while humans struggle to survive in such challenging conditions, migratory landbirds seem to view some parts of the West African Sahel as their ‘cozy’ habitats and one-stop stations.

Trees in the savanna landscapes of West Africa are not only vital for the livelihoods of people, but also matter a lot for the survival of migratory birds. Various birds species, many of which migrate from as far as Europe and Asia, live and find food, and rest in these trees, which can also be considered as their breeding places.

During the the migratory period, some are left behind to carry on with their lives, while others hit the road to continue their journey to an unknown destination.

However, a recent report released by BirdLife International, an NGO based in Cambridge (UK), has found that over 40% of long-distance migratory birds in the African-Eurasian flyway have shown signs of disappearing. And 10% out of this figure have been classified by BirdLife as ‘Globally Threatened’ or ‘Near Threatened’ on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)’s Red List.

In an effort to conserve migratory birds, the BirdLife Africa Partnership is contributing to the ‘Global Migratory Birds and Flyaways Programme’, in association with its partner NGOs that run similar activities in various countries.

A groundbreaking research conducted under this programme in the West African Sahel has recently found that some tree species are more important to birds than others. This programme has also helped to uncover the mysteries of migratory landbirds by, among others, counting over 300 000 trees in this region, and at the same time planting trees to find socially smart solutions for people and nature.

BirdLife is using this new knowledge for re-greening the Sahel landscapes. Promotion of these indigenous tree species has started with other organisations and institutes such as the Great Green Wall.

Furthermore, it is worthwhile to mention that birds make a valuable contribution to the human existence in this part of the world by, among others, providing for soil improvement, food, oils, Arabic gum, fodder and even toothbrushes.

The BirdLife Partnership, which had been working in the West African Sahel for many years, aims to develop and promote best practices in bird-friendly land management and the improvement of local communities’ livelihoods.

BirdLife is present in 124 countries worldwide, including representative offices in more than 20 African countries.

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(Daniëlle Van Oijen/BirdLife Netherlands, additional reporting and final editing by Issa da Silva Sikiti)

Photo: a group of ‘flamingos’ gets ready to migrate. Credit: Mark Anderson/World Migratory Bird Day

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