In every facet of human existence, water is the center of life. Whether in agricultural production or in the home, water is indispensable. In northeast Nigeria and communities in neighboring countries bordering the region, Lake Chad provides this precious natural resource and is a vital source of livelihoods for those who have come to depend on it. This has been the case since time immemorial, until a few decades ago, when communities around the Lake Chad basin began to face increasing challenges with regard to both water and its associated livelihoods.
Lake Chad’s water levels are dwindling as a consequence of climate change, its exploitation as an irrigation water source and population growth, further compounded by the instability produced by the various conflicts in the region. All of these factors affect the plight of the region’s inhabitants. Recently, the governments of the countries bordering the lake—Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria—came together to chart a way forward with the aim of revamping the lake. While this is ongoing, affected communities have continued to struggle with persistent water issues, even as violent conflicts and mass forced migrations took center stage.
The livelihoods of those living in communities in the Lake Chad region are anchored in crop production, artisanal fishing and other minor agro-related enterprises. These activities combined have not only generated conflict over water access but have also led to a significant decrease in water levels due to the unsustainable use of this resource.