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WORLDWIDE PARTNERSHIP ON LOCATION NEWSWIRE © THIERNO IBRAHIM WADE 36 CNRS INTERNATIONAL MAGAZINE Africa on the Move explains unit director Gilles Boëtsch. “Anthropologists and ecology experts are working alongside doctors and chemists to find out how human health is impacted by a host of fluctuating factors. Although new challenges unfold every day, we are very pleased with the significant progress that has been achieved in understanding chronic illnesses, disease vectors, and ecological degradation.” The Great Green Wall of Africa Key to the health issue is the natural environment, which has seen considerable deterioration due to global warming and desertification. CNRS and UCAD 2 researchers joined forces in 2009 to launch the OHMi Téssékéré,6 a CNRS observatory in northern Senegal dedicated to the complex social-ecological interactions resulting from the Great Green Wall (GGW), the monumental ecological restoration project stretching 7000 kilometers from the west to the east coast of Africa. “We are using ‘applied ethnobotany,’ or the understanding of the interactions between people and plants, to solve social and ecological issues in a sustainable fashion,” explains Deborah Goffner, local team leader and CNRS senior researcher. “For instance, we urged decision-makers to plant more species than the three envisioned, not only to maximize the biodiversity potential of the GGW, but also to meet the needs of local populations, who use different trees for fuel, food, construction, or medicinal purposes.” I n its sixth year of existence, the mission of the ESS1—the only CNRS International Joint Unit (UMI) in sub-Saharan Africa—has become increasingly urgent due to global warming acceleration and demographic evolution. With unique North-South and South-South research profiles, the UMI’s 60-plus researchers in France, Senegal,2,3 Mali,4 and Burkina Faso,5 are conducting research on human health in this rapidly-changing region. “Five different teams are exploring the relationship between health, society, and the environment, doing so from a broad range of interdisciplinary approaches,” ESS researcher Deborah Goffner speaking about biodiversity in a Great Green Wall plant nursery in Widou Thiengoly (Senegal). 1. Environnement, santé, sociétés (CNRS / UCAD / USTTB / UGB / Aix-Marseille Université / CNRST). 2. Centre Université Cheikh Anta Diop (UCAD) (Senegal). 3. Université Gaston Berger (UGB) (Senegal). 4. Université des sciences, des techniques et des technologies de Bamako (USTTB) (Mali). 5. Centre national de la recherche scientifique et technologique (CNRST) (Burkina Faso). 6. Observatoire hommes-milieux international de Téssékéré. 7. Agence Française de Développement. BY ARBY GHARIBIAN Environment, Health, Society. An interdisciplinary collaboration looks at environmental transformation and its impact on health and society in West Africa.


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