The Sahel's experience of adapting to changes in rainfall on a scale at least comparable to that of climate change scenarios, between the 1960s and the 1990s, suggests that lessons can be learnt that may have a wider utility for policy in the future. The Sahel is a major global agroecological region and its success in adaptation will influence the achievement of the global Millennium Development Goals. From simple typologies of adaptation strategies, our understanding of adaptive capacity has evolved over time (with accumulating observations) into a contextual model which places drought management at the center of a development process. Climate change impacts in future are very uncertain. Policies and interventions should therefore aim to build on the platform of past achievements and existing local knowledge to enable flexibility and diversity and the protection of assets of small-scale farmers and herders. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
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