Working with Bugs to Mitigate Drought in West Africa

by | Nov 3, 2022 | Uncategorized

Working with Bugs to Mitigate Drought in West Africa

It’s so much easier to get people’s attention with a cuddly looking panda, or tiger cub, right? Termites don’t exactly make the top of the animal favourite list.

We’re passionate about supporting climate heroes that need our help most, usually underfunded and under-researched.

We’re currently focusing on a project in an area where both people and biodiversity are hardest hit and most vulnerable to climate change.

Every holiday booking supports this project and others. You can find out more here. 

Where drought is predicted to become more frequent, termites are a critical and (quite frankly) impressive species.

That’s why our amazing customers are supporting the research taking place in Benin, West Africa.

Working with our partner Mossy Earth and the Benin’s National University of Agriculture, we’re supporting this ground-breaking research into termite mounds.

Below are images from the project site in Benin, West Africa where critical research is being gathered.

With headlines and scientists reporting on the driest conditions and hottest temperatures since satellite record-keeping began in Africa, these ecosystem engineers could make areas more resilient to climate change than previously thought, but could also inspire a change in how scientists determine the impact of climate change on ecosystems.

Why Are Termites Climate Heroes?

They may appear too small in the face of something as enormous as climate change, but the mounds they create aren’t just aesthetically impressive, they have an important ecological role to play in protecting savannahs.

In the parched grasslands and savannas – or drylands – of West Africa, the clever construction of these termite mounds…

  • Alter the soil structure so it retains more water
  • They bring plant material to their mounds which fungi decompose, increasing the concentration of nutrients in the soil
  • They generate ‘islands of fertility’ or an ‘oasis of life’ which have a greater diversity & abundance of plants than the surrounding area
  • They provide small havens where plants can survive and start recolonising after rainfall
  • The vegetation on and around termite mounds persists longer and declines slower


What Does The Project Look Like?

Below are some images captured during the drone mapping stage that show the potential of termite mounds to help ‘green’ the area.



There are 3 key stages to this project.

The first stage is mapping the area using drone technology to create high resolution maps so th team can monitor existing mounds and the surrounding vegetation.

The second phase will focus the team on identifying which plant species termites feed on. With the drone mapping and the feeding tests, we hope this will give a clear picture of what conditions termites need to thrive.

The final stage of this exciting project will be a captive breeding programme for the bugs. Having termites form colonies in captivity will provide a source to re-introduce to an area where the termites are struggling to recolonise by themselves.

“Drone mapping has proved to be a great way to monitor existing termite mounds and the vegetation that surrounds them. This is important because it means that we now have an effective way to monitor future efforts to conserve and restore them in this region. The data has demonstrated that most trees are found close to termite mounds suggesting that these termites may be shaping the entire landscape.” – Tiago, Biologist at Mossy Earth


Why Focus Efforts In Benin, West Africa?

The team are targeting termite mounds in the semi-arid area of northern Benin where areas of degraded lands are known as Bowé. They’re suffering from the process of degradation called Bowalisation which is the result of soil erosion and soil hardening caused by drought and desertification.

The rate of Bowalisation is occurring at an alarmingly increasing rate. Up to 53% of the region, which makes up 6.7 million hectares of Benin, has become degraded savannah and farmland.

The health of the soils and vegetation is connected to every other species that call this home, through the fascinating web of life. If we want to see elephants, leopards, lions, antelope, monkeys and buffalo flourish, it all starts with the soil and health of the landscape, of which termites are key.



“It is that range of biodiversity that we must care for – the whole thing – rather than just one or two stars.”  – David Attenborough


Thank you to our clients who are continuing to make this important research project in West Africa possible by choosing Rock My World. Discover more about the Climate Hero projects here.


Written by Rebecca Woolford