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Improving the livelihood of smallholder farmers
The Sahel region
The Sahel region is found in Sub-Saharan Africa, and constitutes a semiarid strip of land famously known as The Sahel. Sahel is an Arabic word, which means "shore". The Sahel is a transition zone between the arid north and the tropical green forest that borders the maritime coast, covering a surface area of 5.4 million km2 with a population of about 50 million inhabitants. The vegetation in the Sahel region is composed of mainly stunted and scattered trees, shrubs, bushes and grasses.
The vegetative cover becomes denser as one moves southward towards the tropical rainforests. Rearing of livestock is an important aspect of life in the region besides subsistence cultivation. However, due to long persistent periods of drought, herdsmen are always compelled to move southward in search of pastures. The countries of the Sahel today include Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, and Eritrea.
Map of the Sahel
Agriculture in the Sahel
Farming in this region is almost entirely reliant on three months of summer rainfall, except along the banks of the major rivers, lakes, and other seasonal watercourses. Farming is the main source of income for many people of the Sahel region with millet and sorghum as the major food crops. Most low and middle-income households in this area are engaged in subsistence farming on self-sufficient farms.
Crops of the Sahel
A wide range of crops are grown in the semiarid areas including finger millet, pearl millet, bull rush millet, sorghum, cowpeas, pigeon peas, groundnut, green grams, phaesolus beans, and chickpeas. One crop that is unique to the Sahel region of Africa is the baobab. The imposing baobab tree, also known as the monkey-bread tree, is one of the most distinctive features of the semiarid landscape of Africa. It usually grows wild, up to 40 meters high and is important to the livelihood of the people of the Sahel. The baobab tree provides nutritious foods, shelter, clothing, medicine, and material for hunting and fishing.
Millet and sorghum are the vital food crops of the Sahel region. The Syngenta Foundation focused its efforts on the Cinzana Agricultural Research Station, which is dedicated to producing sustainable increases in crop production and productivity through improved seed breeding.