The Waves Will Take Us Away
Climate change is destroying thousands of miles of West Africa's coastline. It's only a matter of time before it knocks out the region's economy, too.
Photographs by Matilde Gattoni
The waves crept farther inland each year. First they swallowed the beach, then the mangroves and the coconuts, until finally they washed away the village, one brick dwelling at a time. It is the story of thousands of communities along the western coast of sub-Saharan Africa, stretching more than 4,000 miles from Mauritania to Cameroon. Rising sea levels — the result of global warming — are causing unprecedented erosion. In places like Agbavi, a beach town on the outskirts of the Togolese capital of Lomé, more than 100 feet of coastline is disappearing each year. Livelihoods and cultural heritage are disappearing as well, leaving behind communities beset with drugs and crime. In a region where nearly a third of population lives along the coastline, generating more than half of total GDP, rising sea levels represent an existential threat. Yet aside from temporary fixes like seawalls and groins, there is no plan to address it.
Read the companion piece on the devastating effects of climate change on the region "West Africa Is Being Swallowed by the Sea" by Matteo Fagotto.