AP PHOTOS: Pastoralists in Senegal raise livestock much as their ancestors did centuries ago

ANNDIARE, Senegal (AP) — The planet is changing, but pastoralists here in the Sahel region of Africa are in many ways still raising livestock the way their ancestors did centuries ago.

And countries like Senegal depend upon their success to feed their growing populations: The United Nations estimates that 65% of meat and 70% of milk sold at local markets in the region come from pastoralists.

As the Sahara Desert encroaches ever southward, the amount of arable land for animals to graze decreases each year. That’s putting extra pressure on pastoralist herders. Among them is Amadou Altine Ndiaye, who earlier this year made a 170-kilometer (106-mile) trek in search of more verdant land for animals.

“One of the main difficulties related to pastoralism is the lack of grazing,” Ndiaye said. “There would be no problem if there is grazing and water, but it is during this dry season that it is most difficult.”

With decreasing rainfall and deforestation in the region, Ndiaye said the terrain is no longer like it was in the 1970s when he was young. “The forest is not like it used to be, and every year the change continues,” he said.

The search for water is all-consuming, particularly during the dry season in West Africa. Nomadic herders make use of wells and boreholes, planning their itinerary routes around a series of water towers the government has put up to help pastoralists care for their animals.

Some pastoralists now essentially live semi-nomadic lives, keeping their families in one place but moving the animals nearby to graze as needed.

Mamadou Samba Sow, 63, is originally from Mauritania but now lives in northeastern Senegal with his wife and 14 children.

Despite the hardships of raising livestock, he describes his connection to his animals “like the bond that exists between two people.”

“There’s a kind of reciprocity between you and the animals — they take care of you in the same way as you do with them,” he said. “They know where you are, whatever your position.”


EDITORS’ NOTE — This story is part of The Protein Problem, an AP series that examines the question: Can we feed this growing world without starving the planet? To see the full project, visit https://projects.apnews.com/features/2023/the-protein-problem/index.html

Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.