The Sahel region of Africa has been suffering from drought on a regular basis since the early 1980s. The area naturally experiences alternating wet and dry seasons. If the rains fail it can cause drought.
In addition to natural factors, the land is marginal. Human activities such as overgrazing, overcultivation and the collection of firewood can lead to desertification, particularly when combined with drought conditions.
The result is crop failure, soil erosion, famine and hunger: people are then less able to work when their need is greatest. It becomes a vicious circle and can result in many deaths, especially among infants and the elderly. In Niger in 2004, the situation was made worse when a plague of locusts consumed any remaining crops. In these cases, people rely on food aid from the international community.
On its own, food aid is unsustainable in the long term. What is really needed is development aid, which involves educating the local community in farming practices.