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Des liaisons dangereuses? Géographie, coopération et développement au lac Tchad

Magrin Giraud
Articolo Immagine
Geotema N.48/2015

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Dangerous relationships? Geography, cooperation and development in lake Chad The purpose of this paper is twofold : first, it aims to illustrate how Geography can be mobilized through expertise for development in a complex regional area ; second, it underlines the difficulty for social sciences to modify representations and decision making processes in contexts characterized by strong technical and financial dependency and low institutional capacity. During all the XXth century, Lake Chad has been a subject of interest for geographers, public administration and the development community through two opposite approaches : its productive potential on one hand (either for its potentiallities for modern irrigated agriculture or for its endogenic adaptation to environmental variability) and, on the oher hand, the risk of its disappearance. In 2010, a debate was organized in N’Djamena (Chad), during a “World Forum for Sustainable Development”, regarding the diagnostic and the possible solutions for Lake Chad : was there an emergency to save the Lake or did this emblematic water body “only” needed adequate public development policies suited to its changing environment ? An expert group was set up after the forum on behalf the LCBC (Lake Chad Commission Basin) to gather the available scientific knowledge on the Lake and to help improve the decision making process thanks to verified and shared information. Geographers were numerous among the pluridisciplinary and international (French and riparian countries) members of the group. Its results addressed the up-to-date situation of the hydrology, demography, rural economy, the new issues (oil exploitation) and the inter-basin water transfer project from the Oubangui to Lake Chad. The study raised opposite reactions. While the technical staff of LCBC and other national institutions considered the data provided as very useful, it was not easy for the politicians to accept a diagnostic much more optimistic than the one they usually put forward. Their representation of Lake Chad is strongly influenced by the dependency of regional institutions and African States on international funding. That’s why the belief on an environmental crisis is so important, whether or not it is substantiated by the available scientific data. Keywords: Lac Tchad, aide au développement, géographie, expertise.