The countries of West Africa are experiencing change at many levels – climatic, agricultural, demographic, political, and socioeconomic. They are endowed with a diverse, yet fragile environment. For centuries, overall human impact on this region was negligible due to low population, but this changed dramatically in the 20th century, particularly in the last 50 years. In the 21st century, environmental changes are predicted to accelerate, with unknown and potentially serious implications for both the people and environment of West Africa. The West Africa Land Use and Land Cover Trends Project represents an effort to document and quantify the impacts, detailed in both time and space, of the environmental and land resource trends that are sweeping across West Africa. The project is being carried out through the AGRHYMET Regional Center in Niamey, Niger, with partners from 12 participating countries (figure 1), the Sahel Institute (INSAH), the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS), and with major support from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) West Africa Regional Program. USGS EROS provided AGRHYMET and participating countries satellite image coverage (from the Corona and Landsat satellite systems) of most of West Africa at four periods in time: the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and 2000s. The project trained environmental scientists from 12 West African countries in the analysis of this rich image archive, enabling them to map and quantify land use and land cover (LULC) changes that have occurred across the region. The results provide a much better understanding of the LULC patterns and trends in each participating country.
|Figure 1. A satellite based composite image of West Africa showing the 12 participating countries in the West Africa Land Use and Land Cover Trends Project. Image source: MODIS|