Western Africa Sustainability Issues

West Africa is the westernmost region of Africa. The United Nations defines Western Africa as the 16 countries of Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo, as well as the United Kingdom Overseas Territory of Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha.

West Africa is greatly affected by deforestation, and has one of the worst deforestation rates. Even “the beloved baobab tree” which is viewed as sacred by some West African cultures are under threat due to climate change, urbanization and population growth. “Huge swaths of forest are being razed to clear space for palm oil and cocoa plantations. Mangroves are being killed off by pollution. Even wispy acacias are hacked away for use in cooking fires to feed growing families.” Nigeria, Liberia, Guinea, Ghana and the Ivory Coast, have lost large areas of their rainforest. In 2005, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations ranked Nigeria as the state with the worst deforestation rate in the entire world. Causes include logging, subsistence agriculture, and the collection of fuelwood.

According to a ThoughtCo publication authored Steve Nix (2018), almost 90 percent of West Africa’s original rainforest has been destroyed, and the rest “heavily fragmented and in a degraded state, being poorly used.”

Overfishing is a major issue in West Africa. Besides reducing fish stocks in the region, it also threatens food security and the livelihoods of many coastal communities who largely depend on artisanal fishing. The overfishing generally comes from foreign trawlers operating in the region.

To combat the overfishing, Greenpeace has recommended countries reduce the number of registered trawlers operating in African waters, increase the monitoring and control and set up regional fisheries organizations. Some steps have already been taken in the form of WARFP (the World Bank’s West Africa Regional Fisheries Program which empowers west-African countries (i.e. Liberia, Sierra Leone, Cape Verde, and Senegal) with information, training and monitoring systems. Furthermore, Liberia enacted a fisheries regulations Act in 2010 and installed a satellite-based monitoring system and Senegal enacted a fisheries code in 2015. In Cape Verde, the fishermen communities of Palmiera and Santa Maria have organized themselves to protect fishing zones. Mozambique finally created a conservation area, including a coastline.