Here is some information on the SAHEL region from a Christian missionary:
The Sahelian Environment
The province has low rainfall, about 300mm(10 inches)/yr, and the landscape for most of the year is dry, generally covered in sparse acacia trees and the occasional baobab.
It has traditionally been pasture land for the nomadic Fulani and their cattle. As other peoples have moved into the area, increasingly marginal land is being used to farm millet and sorghum, the only crops that really grow in the zone. The increasing population pressure on the land results in the erosion of fertile land and the advance of the desert. The first sand dunes are found here, and in June, as the rainy season is approaching, occasional sand storms roll across the landscape, blocking out the sun.
The Development of the Sahel
The Sahel is the least developed part of Burkina. It is a vastly rural area, used predominantly for livestock, with some farming. There has however been some success in building dams to harvest the rain that falls between July-Sept, to irrigate previously uncultivated land for rainy season rice fields. The zone has been struck by frequent droughts and locust swarms, making for a fragile existence and the well-publicised famines of 1973, 1984, and 2005. Climatic conditions seem to be getting worse with global warming, deforestation and the advance of the desert. The government and development agencies have invested in environmental protection and in reforestation programmes, but wood is increasingly scarce - being sought for daily life in cooking as well as for building. Experiments with alternatives for cooking fuel and for building materials inevitably meet resistance because of cost, inconvenience, and reluctance to leave tradition.
Human development in the region is also the most fragile in the country, with low literacy and life expectancy. Oudalan, for example, has a population of about 170 000, with a literacy rate of 8%, a life expectancy of 42, and with only 2 doctors and 34 nurses for the whole province.
There is little in the way of infrastructure, although the first paved road in the area was recently finished in 2006, linking Dori to the nation's capital, Ouagadougou.
The Sahelian Peoples and Culture
The Sahel is inhabited primarily by the Fulani, but there are also many Tamacheq and Songhai especially in Oudalan, and Kurumba villages around Djibo. The southern border of the sahel meets the "Mossi plateau", and some Mossi and other peoples from the south work in the sahel, mostly in commerce or government services, such as teaching, health, or police.