On the edge of the Sahara Desert lies one of the world’s most productive wetlands. The Inland Delta of the Niger River in Mali is a vast expanse of lakes, channels, and marshes. The Niger River divides into countless channels and forms the largest wetland in Western Africa. The river and wetland form an important water resource for Mali, a landlocked and generally dry country.
This delta floods seasonally from September to December, as rainfall from the river’s headwaters in the Guinea Highlands reaches the delta’s vast flat floodplain. The southern part of the delta is low-lying floodplain with expanses of wetland grasses and reeds. The northern part has sand ridges that emerge from the water during the flood season. The seasonal flooding supports fisheries, pasture, and rice farming. Over 1 million people depend on resources in the delta.
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