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Environmental rehabilitation, Mauritania

Environmental rehabilitation, Mauritania

1 January 2001

The influx of Malian refugees and their livestock to the Bassikounou region of south-eastern Mauritania in 1991 placed considerable pressure on the local environment - a region already under strain from the harsh climate. Water, fuelwood and food are particularly scarce resources, sporadic rainfall being a major concern.

Implemented by the Lutheran World Federation, this project set out to initiate a range of support activities aimed at rehabilitating the local environment and improving local welfare through the development of market gardens.

Among the main activities has been the:

  • construction of a dam at Aghor and two smaller embankments at Lawhiyatt;
  • establishment of 11.5 hectares of market gardens at Bassikounou, M'Berra, Aghor and Fassala: vegetable seeds and tools were provided by the project and the World Food Programme. Local capacity has been strengthened allowing people to take greater responsibility for this activity;
  • creation and maintenance of 50 hectares of green belts at M'Berre and Fassala, the wind breaks preventing sand from encroaching on gardens, bore holes, animal watering sites and other vulnerable areas. The use of local species in these plantations has proven especially effective;
  • training of more than 100 craftsmen on techniques for constructing improved cooking stoves (which are more energy efficient than traditional stoves), together with campaigns to encourage people to use these stoves.

Environmental awareness raising activities have been set up to inform village communities of the need for environmental protection and management. Patrols have been assembled to prevent people from excessive or unsustainable harvesting of trees and shrubs.

Practical demonstrations and training have been important elements of this project, helping local people become familiar with new practices and techniques, and providing support for the eventual hand-over of these activities to local structures. More than 40 participants have benefited from training in market gardening practices, while agricultural extension has also been organised on lands surrounding the embankments.

This project has benefited greatly from the support of local authorities and was implemented in close co-operation with local administrative and technical services.