|Lake Faguibine is located in the Sahelian−sub desert zone to the west of Timbuktu in northern Mali. Annual precipitation in the Faguibine area is in the range of 250 mm/yr, with the rainy season beginning in mid-June and lasting 3 to 4 months. When full, the lake is among the largest in West Africa − an estimated 590 square kilometers in 1974 − and is an important source of water for the surrounding area (top left image). In the late 1980s Lake Faguibine essentially dried up, making the traditional economic practices of fishing, agriculture and pastoralism difficult or impossible. It remains nearly dry in spite of normal rainfall in several of recent years (bottom right image).|
Lake Faguibine is at the end of a series of basins that receive water from the Niger River when it floods. This creates a close relationship between the mean flow of the Niger River and water levels in Lake Fagubine. Because of this a lack of rainfall in either the Lake Fagubine catchment or the Niger River catchment upstream of the Niger Inland Delta can affect the water levels in the lake.
West Africa has a history of rainfall fluctuations of varying lengths and intensities. Sub−Saharan West Africa has experienced severe droughts in 1972, 1984 and 1992 and experienced a general trend of reduced rainfall from the early 1970s until the mid 1990s. The Lake Fagubine area in particular has seen a trend of decreasing rainfall since at least the 1920s (see figure 1 under photos). While water levels have also fluctuated widely in Lake Fagubine since the beginning of the 20th century, the period between the late 1980s and 2000 saw an extended period of low water with a complete drying up of the Lake in the 1990s. A 2003 Columbia University study links changes in Ocean temperature to drought in the Sahel in the 1970s and 1980s. There is speculation that global warming may be responsible for the recent increase in precipitation − since 2000 − and may continue to increase precipitation. In any case these findings "add another dimension to the variability of the global climate" and to the lives of peoples who rely on natural systems for their livelihood.
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