Living on the Edge: improving migratory bird habitats and livelihoods in the Sahel

The arid zones of the Sahel Photo: Danae Sheehan
The arid zones of the Sahel Photo: Danae Sheehan

Aim: To improve the living conditions in the Sahel communities and for migratory birds, by working with local people to achieve the restoration of the environment and the sustainable use of natural resources.

Duration: 2011-2015

Implementers: National partners in West Africa namely; Burkina Faso NATURAMA, Mauritania, Nigeria Conservation Foundation (NCF) – Nigeria and Senegal.

Supported by: Dienst Landelijk Gebied (DLG); Altenburg & Wymenga (A&W); Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and Africa Studies Centre (ASC), Vogelbescherming Nederland (VBN- Netherlands) - the BirdLife International Partner in the Netherlands and BirdLife Africa Partnership Secretariat office in Accra, Ghana. 

Funding support:  Dutch Postcode Lottery (Nationale Postcode Loterij) funded through Vogelbescherming Netherlands (BirdLife Partner in The Netherlands)

Project sites: 13 sites located throughout the Sahelian zone. All are (part of) Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (both wetland and dryland) designated for either congregatory waterbirds or Sahel-biome assembly species.


The challenges

  • Around the world, many migratory bird species are sharply declining in numbers, and these declines are indicative of the threats facing the wider environment.  Their potential disappearance from the landscape, locally, nationally and regionally, was unthinkable 30 years ago but is now an increasing prospect unless action is taken on an international scale to conserve sites and habitats along their flyways.
  • High incidences of poverty due to limited options.


Key components of the project

  • Nature conservation: Conserving and restoring wetland and dryland habitats important for migratory birds.
  • Livelihoods: Sustainable land use decreases pressure on natural resources, and improves livelihoods as well as the potential to adapt to climate change.
  • Building capacity of the BirdLife project partner NGOs, Site Support Groups and local communities to implement sustainable land use and nature conservation.
  • Research focused on gathering of information on migrant bird populations, trends, and habitat use.
  • Exchange of best available knowledge and techniques between the target groups/stakeholders and sharing of experiences throughout the Sahel.
  • Increasing awareness and public support amongst people in the Netherlands and in the Sahel.
  • National and regional nature and land use policies incorporate conservation and restoration.