The Lake Chad Basin which is shared by Algeria, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, Libya, Niger, Nigeria, and Sudan (see map attached as annex 1) is a large entity representing about 8% of the total size of the African continent, with a population estimated at 40 million inhabitants according to statistics of 2010. It is an essential water resource for fishermen, livestock farmers and farmers of the riparian countries most of them among the poorest in the world.
Despite poverty and the security challenge in the Lake Chad basin area, this fresh water body is a source of water supply for drinking and a sound environment conducive to socio-economic development. It also offers a unique social and cultural environment contributing to the rich diversity of the region. Lake Chad riparian populations have their cultural values, beliefs and traditional practices shaped by their relationship with the natural environment and therefore influencing environmental sustainability.
However, Lake Chad is facing a myriad of onerous challenges. In the sixties, its surface area was 25,000 km 2 with about 135 species of fish and an annual production estimated at 200,000 tonnes. It was the epitome of productivity, food security and wealth to the people residing in the basin and beyond. In Chad alone, it was estimated that there were about 20,000 commercial fish sellers at the period. As of today, the lake is a source of insecurity, instability, and loss of livelihoods.
Prior to the drought, in the 1960s, the best grazing land was in the Sahel zone of the Lake Chad Basin. The Sahel was good for extensive herding as there was rarely conflict with crop farming and it was estimated that seven (7 ha) hectares of land could feed one Tropical Livestock Unit for six (6) months of the year. The drought led to the loss of pasture and the initiation of the transhumance migration towards the guinea savanna in the south of the basin.
Unfortunately, Lake Chad is experiencing variability in size due to both human pressure and adverse effects of climate change. Its size has reduced from 25,000km 2 in the 60s to 2,500 km 2 in 1985 due to the combined effects of climate change and the unsustainable water and natural resource management. However, in 2013, the surface area of
Lake Chad has increased to 5,000 km 2 following an exceptional improvement of the rainfall pattern. A review of the hydrology of the Lake Chad Basin shows that the wet years (before 1973) inflow averaged between 30 – 40 Km 3 per annum, while the dry years (after 1974) inflow averaged 20 – 21 Km 3 per annum while the lowest was 16 Km 3 recorded in 1984. The current Basin Water use as at 2011 is estimated at 2 Km 3 per annum.