Tony Blair calls for "an international alliance (to) create a plan for the fragile African states of the Sahel to prevent catastrophe in a region already buckling under the strain"

See original article here.

These countries are buckling under the weight of the challenges of “fragile states”: poverty, food security, weak governance, ethnic tensions and the spread of radical extremism. These problems are not in themselves exclusive, but two factors make them unique – and call for a new approach.

First, huge population growth will see the combined population of these G5 nations grow from 78 million today to more than 200 million by 2050. Aid in its traditional sense cannot outrun these numbers.

Population growth brings with it many more young people needing jobs. High youth unemployment increases the risks of human trafficking, slavery, crime and violence. Population growth will also further stress the natural environment, which is already prone to climate change-induced droughts that result in crops failing and livestock dying, forcing people to migrate. Nearly five million people have already been displaced in the region.

Girl's Education and Family Planning Champions to host talk at UC Berkeley

Delaying the age of marriage through girls education in northern Nigeria

Join the OASIS Initiative (Organizing to Advance Solutions in the Sahel) for a talk given by two of the leading champions for girls' education and family planning in West Africa. 

Dr. Mardhiyyah Abbas and Margaret Bolaji will speak on their work at the Centre for Girls’ Education (CGE). Since 2007, CGE has worked to advance adolescent girls’ education and empowerment in Northern Nigeria through innovative programming, advocacy, applied research, and strategic partnerships. CGE has been a pioneer in the adaptation of the safe space methodology to girls’ need for strengthened core academic competencies and mentored support as they attend understaffed and underfunded rural schools. CGE is a joint program of the Federal University Bernin Kebbi and the OASIS Initiative, School of Public Health, UC Berkeley.

When: Wednesday, September 6th, 3:00 - 4:00 pm

Where: University Hall room 401

Dr. Mardhiyyah Abbas Mashi is a dynamic lecturer of Islamic Studies and Arabic Language at the Institute of Education, Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, Nigeria. She serves as the Head of Department, Examination Development, National Board for Arabic and Islamic Studies (NBAIS). Dr. Abbas is a co-founder, advisor and associate Director for the Centre for Girl Child Education in Zaria working to reduce social and economic barriers to girl’s education in rural communities of Northern Nigeria.

Margaret Bolaji is a program officer and communications specialist with the Centre for Girls Education in Northern Nigeria. Ms. Bolaji serves as the youth representative on FP2020’s Reference Group shining a spotlight on the unique sexual and reproductive health needs of young people and adolescents. She spoke at the International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP) held in Indonesia and is one of the 2016 Gates Foundation’s 120 under-40 Family Planning Champions.

University students in Niamey learn links between food security and demography

For 29 students completing a Masters 2 in Nutrition and Food Security, the topic of demography was something that had not come up in their academic program at University Abdou Moumouni in Niger. Ask them the four primary factors contributing to food security and 100% of them can name the correct answers. But when it comes to how nutrition and food security are impacted by population growth, this was new territory for many.

To prepare the emerging generation of health and agriculture experts with an understanding of the critical links between demography and food security, the OASIS initiative held its third annual “Population, Resilience, and the Role of Women in Food Security in the Sahel” course in partnership with UAM this past July.

“We cannot talk about development without considering population,” says Dr.  Nouhou Abdoul Moumouni, demographer-statistician and OASIS Program Director for Niger. “And demography isn’t just ‘counting’ people. Demography looks at the trajectory of the individuals in every stage of their life: their vital needs like food, education, and employment; the events affecting them like migration, marriage, and death; and their life plans, like family planning.” This information is necessary in order to predict and respond to the specific needs of different cohorts of people in a population. If a country and a region’s development is going to be sustainable, then these factors must be taken into account.

Niamey's Center of Excellence to prioritize family planning & adolescent girls empowerment in the Sahel

With the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between University Abdou Moumouni, Niger and University of California, Berkeley comes the beginning of a new Center for Excellence in women’s health and empowerment in Niamey, Niger. The primary goals of this center are to strengthen and support local initiatives in the field of voluntary family planning and women's empowerment while putting national and international actors on alert to the need for integrating demographic and socio-economic development. The "Presentation and Purpose of the Agreement" outlined in the MOU describes why UAM and UCB have signed on to this mutually beneficial collaboration:

"Having met and found that they shared multiple pedagogical goals, particularly in the field of population and sustainable development, and that their interests and those of their students could converge, the partners decided to consider a number of means and avenues of cooperation.

After fruitful discussions, the parties agreed to develop the idea of a multidisciplinary Center of Excellence dedicated to the role of Women in Development based at UAM. UCB and UAM hereby commit to support activities and programs advancing scholarship and champion the creation of a Center of Excellence through collaborative partnership."

The signing of this MOU is a critical achievement as it provides a commitment on the part of both universities to support activities and advance scholarship related to population and sustainable development in the Sahel. The OASIS Initiative helped get this partnership off the ground with the support of multiple key partners who are supporting this effort, including ISSP (University of Ouagadougou), CRESA (University of Niamey) and CILSS. For more information or to help support the Center's activities, please contact OASIS' Program Director for Niger, Dr. Nouhou Abdoul Moumouni at


OASIS Founder and Program Director speak on Population and Development in the Sahel at Woodrow Wilson Center

The UN is calling the quadruple threat of famine in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen, “the world’s largest crisis since 1945.” But parts of the African Sahel could be heading for an even bigger catastrophe in the years ahead. The window of opportunity for a much-needed push in foreign assistance to address population, security, and development trends is closing fast, say some experts.

OASIS Founders Malcolm Potts and Alisha Graves, OASIS Program Director Nouhou Abdoul Moumouni and colleagues from our French partner Fondation Ferdi, gave a series of presentations on demographic projections, the link between security and development, and how strategic international aid can help shape the future of the Sahel. Talks were hosted by the U.S. State Dept., the World Bank, the National Defense University and the Woodrow Wilson Center. Watch the webcast from the Woodrow Wilson Center here

OASIS receives two Gates Global Challenge awards

We are happy to announce that the OASIS Initiative was selected for two highly competitive 2016 Gates Global Grand Challenge for Putting Women and Girls at the Center of Development awards. This is a testament to the powerful impact our work has on empowering women and girls in the region as well as the innovative nature of our strategies to address complex development challenges. 

The "Room to Grow" award will leverage existing women-centered gardens in Niger — a movement that is growing — to deliver and test an intervention in the Zinder region aimed to improve gender equity, access to family planning, and nutrition. The OASIS Initiative will be managing research and evaluation of the program to assess proof of concept, while partner Population Services International will implement the activities. 

The second award will fund a Girls for Health (G4H) initiative in northern Nigeria. This program will support the transition of adolescent girls from secondary school to tertiary training in midwifery, medicine, nursing and other health careers. By addressing the acute shortage of female health workers in rural northern Nigeria, this program will help to lower the region's high rates of early marriage and maternal mortality, which are among the highest in the world. 

Read the full executive summaries of these two proposals here: 
Room to Grow
Girls for Health


OASIS' work highlighted in Sierra magazine's "The Pope's Climate-Change Blind Spot: Women's Rights"

OASIS' work highlighted in Sierra magazine's "The Pope's Climate-Change Blind Spot: Women's Rights"

The low status of women in this region has contributed to the rapid rate of population growth, says Alisha Graves, cofounder of an initiative on the Sahel at the University of California at Berkeley. Child marriage is common, and female genital mutilation is part of some cultures in the Sahel. Women who marry young often drop out of school, which limits their future economic opportunities and increases their risk of dying during or soon after childbirth. There is also a significant unmet need for family-planning services; somewhere around 25 percent of women in the region would like to have fewer children or space their children farther apart, but they have scarce access to the information, resources, and social support needed to do so. A leading cause of maternal mortality is unsafe abortion.

The booming population and changing climate in the Sahel are a recipe for humanitarian crisis, says Malcolm Potts, also with the Berkeley initiative. The threats that climate change poses underscore the urgent need to invest in the well-being of girls and women, he says. Add infrastructure for agricultural adaptation, such as water storage, and you've got a start. Change can occur, but right now "we don't have the will, and we don't have the money," Potts laments.