Water is Life.” This could not be truer than in the Azawak of West Africa where half a million people have no water for ten months of the year. Only half of the children reach their fifth birthday, and many simply die of thirst. They are the human faces of climate change. A vast plain approximately the size of Florida on the edge of the Sahara, the Azawak is one of the poorest regions in landlocked countries, Niger and Mali.

The Issues

Permanent Water Insufficiency, Desertification, and Global Climate Change

Permanent Water Insufficiency, Desertification, and Global Climate Change

The Azawak gravely suffers from persistent desertification and poor annual rainfall rarely exceeding 200 to 400 millimeters a year.

Survival, living from one month to the next

Survival, living from one month to the next

In the Azawak, survival is largely determined by the climate.

Water Scarcity and Health

Water Scarcity and Health

It is not uncommon that people who could easily be saved will die simply because they cannot receive basic medical care.

Water Scarcity and Food Insecurity

Due to food insufficiency, 85% of the households in the Azawak consume nothing except for a small quantity of milk at least seven days per month.


Climate Change, Extremism, and Other Global Issues

The Azawak, also known as the Azawad in Mali, is a zone of porous passage for drug and human trafficking, the expansion of extremism.

The People

The PeopleThe dominant ethnic groups of the Azawak are the Tuareg and Fulani people. Smaller populations of Arabs and Hausas also live in these vast plains. A large percent of Tuaregs and Arabs in the Azawak are pastoralist nomads that live in camps of approximately 50 to 150 members.

Due to economic pressure and dramatic livestock losses, some Tuaregs have abandoned their formally nomadic lifestyle and now live in villages ranging from 100 to 1000 individuals, and rely on seasonal small-scale agriculture and/or trade for survival. The pastoral Fulani generally live in camps of no more than one or two families, with extended family units interspersed every one or two miles.

Hausas are sedentary and live in small villages often ranging from 250 to 1000 members. Families range from approximately five to seven members.

The Tuaregs

An aura of mystery and romance surrounds the desert nomads known as the Tuareg. Long known as warriors, traders, and capable guides through the arid and rugged Sahara Desert…

Wodaabe makeup ed

The Wodaabe Fulani

Little is known about the Wodaabe, a sub-ethnic group of the Fulani people, traditionally nomadic herders that range throughout West Africa from Mauritania in the North to Cameroon in the south and Sudan in the East.

Stories from the Azawak, by Ariane Kirtley

Sadouan and Alhassan
Arr Issudarr : Milk is Hope

I met Sadouan in early September 2005 when I first travelled to the Azawak.  She was the first person to greet me as we arrived at our host camp….

Tackawel and Issibit
A Wild Harvest to Fill Empty Bellies

I arrived as the sun was setting in the sedentary Tuareg village of Intatolen, once the men and women had returned from planting millet in the fields….


From School to Guerwuls

Fada came bouncing towards me one day – adorned with his round feather topped hat, a Tuareg saber, little charm talismans, and a walking stick – as I was battling my way through prickly burrs walking from Fulani camp to camp…