We are The OASIS Initiative — Organizing to Advance Solutions in the Sahel. Our mission is to help accelerate a demographic transition in the Sahel region of Africa. We aim to build the evidence base and local leadership necessary to overcome the most serious development challenges in the Sahel. Join the Friends of the Sahel Network listserv to get quarterly updates of our work!


Educate and Empower Adolescent Girls

Girls face disadvantages over a wide range of welfare indicators, including health, education, and labor force participation. In rural Maradi, Niger, more than 75% of girls marry before the age of 18, 30% before the age of 15, and over 50% have their first child before their 18th birthday. Married adolescents are up to five times more likely to die from complications of pregnancy and childbirth than women in their twenties, and are more likely to suffer from prolonged or obstructed labor and obstetric fistula. Child marriage also has consequences for the girls’ children. Infants of adolescent mothers are 60% more likely to die and 20% more likely to be born preterm and with low birth weight compared to infants born to young women. Quality education for girls is cited by parents as one key strategy to delay early marriage and childbearing. With the population of the Sahel set to triple by mid-century, educating and empowering girls and women is a key step to achieving smaller, healthier families and a more stable society.


Expand Access to Voluntary Family Planning

Across the Sahel, the total fertility rates range from 4.2 to 7.6 children per woman and the unmet need for modern contraception outweighs current use. With the exception of some oil-rich states, no low-income country with a fertility rate of over 5 children per woman has ever “graduated” to become a middle income country. This phenomenon suggests that for high-fertility countries, a drop in average family size must precede development. Lowering fertility eases demand for basic social services and human resources: the ratio of nurses and teachers per capita improves when population growth slows. The same is true for demand for earth’s finite resources. Smaller families mean more resources per person at the household level, e.g. water, food and land. Improving information and access to a wide-range of contraceptive methods will enable couples to achieve their ideal family size and help spark a demographic transition.


Adapt Agriculture to Climate Change

The Sahel has a long history of resilient societies, but the region suffers from regular droughts and famine. While crop yields in the region increased by 1% over the last five years, yield per capita decreased by 13% due to population growth. Food security is further threatened by climate change. Climatologists estimate that the Sahel will be 2-3◦C warmer by 2050, threatening food security in a place where undernourishment and child stunting are already prevalent. Between 18% and 39% of children in the region are malnourished. Improving policies and providing timely information, inputs, and support to farmers and pastoralists will better enable them to feed their families, and adapt to and recover from shocks and stresses.

Why care about population?


Why the Sahel?

Please take a minute to consider this: The population of the Sahel will grow by more than two and a half times by the middle of the century. At the same time, climate change will have serious negative effects on people's ability to grow staple crops - risking the food security of a region of over 300 million people. This was the conclusion of the OASIS conference at the University of California, Berkeley in 2012. The meeting convened a multidisciplinary group of experts from Africa, Europe and North America, who asked what will happen in the Sahel when new projections of global warming are combined with rapid population growth. The meeting report can be accessed via the link below.

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago; the second best time is today. It's not too late to change the trajectory of life in the Sahel for the better.

For some, this may be the first time you are reading about the challenges facing the Sahel. For others, your dedication to the Sahel started years ago—when you chose to work on similar solutions in the region. Whatever level of expertise and experience you bring, now is the time to get together on the Sahel: to develop a stronger, more effective voice and to present clear evidence and expectations for investment, policies and programs at-scale in the region.

Access the report here!