|The Sahel sadly only seems to feature in the news when
disaster strikes, which it seems to do with monotonous regularity. On the
Southern boundary of the Sahara, it is becoming slowly eroded by the seemingly
unstoppable spread of the desert so that Timbuktu (Tombouctou), legendary cultural centre of
the Islamic world and jumping off point
from the wealth of the Niger is being slowly engulfed by sand and remains as
inaccessible as ever.
At least, that is what I was led to believe.
However, if there is one thing you learn from travel, it is never to believe all
you are told, to treat maps with scepticism and guide books with the contempt
they normally deserve, primarily because their authors rarely seem to have
actually visited the place within the last twenty years!
The main purpose of the expedition, apart from my
interest in the Bandiagara escarpment, home to the fascinating Dogon people, is
to study the effects of Climate Change in the region. To minimise our
impact on the environment we decided to drive rather than fly and thus reduced
our carbon emissions by around two-thirds.
Even so we felt rather self-indulgent visiting an
area supposedly on the brink of extinction without making some kind of positive contribution to
the local community; that is, something in addition to our usual arbitrary
contributions to the tourist industry. For that reason we are raising
sponsorship for the Joliba Trust, a UK organisation supporting sustainable
development in the
Dogon region. If you wish to contribute, please follow the link to the