SOS Sahel International UK was created in the mid 1980s as a response to the drought and famine across the Sahel. We started with country programmes across Sudan, Mali and Ethiopia and slightly later launched programmes in Niger and Kenya (as well as some short-term projects in Eritrea). We have always put a lot of emphasis on community-led development and so it was a logical step to start discussing how to decentralise our operations. As far back as the early 1990s, we started the dialogue about creating fully independent national NGOs to implement our work. This became a reality in the 2000s when the first national NGOs were registered in Niger (2003), Mali (2004) and Ethiopia (2005). The country programme in Kenya naturally drew to a close. Our country programme in Sudan continued as part of the UK for many more years until registration in 2010 and full independence in 2014. In 2011, the SOS Sahel partners in East Africa and the UK established a new independent organisation: SOS Sahel South Sudan, and continue to support it to grow.
Since establishment of the independent national NGOs, the organisations have been free to implement their own projects and to partner with SOS Sahel UK when there is a need. We retain strong ties between members of the SOS Sahel family and where possible collaborate on a regional basis. Between 1999 and 2004 we ran a joint programme across the Sahel: the Shared Management of Common Property Resources Programme, that continued to unite the SOS Sahel family. SOS Sahel UK, SOS Sahel Ethiopia, SOS Sahel Sudan and SOS Sahel South Sudan are currently designing a regional pastoralism programme.
We are a member of SOS Sahel International - a federation of voluntary associations in six African and three European countries that are all active in development in the Sahel. This federation was founded in Africa in the 1970s by Africans responding to the droughts that were affecting their region. The African associations are operational, while the associations in France and Luxembourg are solely fundraising. SOS Sahel UK, the only Anglophone member of the federation, is the only Europe-based member that has implemented its own projects by obtaining grants from bilateral and multilateral aid agencies for the majorityof its work.
The member associations share an exclusive focus on the Sahel region; however each organisation is autonomous and each has differences in approach and speciality. SOS Sahel UK has always been keen to play a unique role in linking developments in environmental management in Anglophone and Francophone areas of the Sahel, which have been historically divided.