A reference book on the oldest population, environment and health observatory in Africa

Revisiting 50 years of interdisciplinary research conducted by the IRD and many international scientific partners, the book Niakhar, mémoires et perspectives honours the oldest population, environment and health observatory still operating in Africa.

Founded in 1962 in a rural area 150 km from Dakar, Senegal, in the Sereer country, the Niakhar Observatory, at the heart of an original scientific and human history, has made it possible to ensure, since its creation, the health, demographic, social, economic and environmental monitoring of more than two generations.

Niakhar's research results, with indicators monitored over time, have informed and supported national and international health policies, as highlighted by Awa Marie Coll Seck, Minister of State to the President of the Republic of Senegal, in the preface to the book: "For our country, Senegal, Niakhar has been a sentinel site, an observatory, a research centre and a training centre for health professionals and managers, social sciences and the environment. All this has contributed to the overall development of our country, particularly through scientific knowledge on infectious diseases such as malaria, meningitis and hepatitis.

Outcome of the symposium "Niakhar : 50 années de recherche en population et santé" organized in February 2014 in Dakar, this book describes and analyses the construction of this multidisciplinary prospective observation platform. It illustrates the value of the long-term approach in the various research fields - demography, health, environment - and opens up a reflection on the ethical issues specific to this collection instrument. Finally, it proposes avenues for methodological and governance development for research.

This first synthesis about the Niakhar Observatory will provide the Senegalese State and West African decision-makers, together with international institutions and scientists, with concrete bases to optimize these research platforms and mobilize them in the perspective of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDOs).

Scientific publishers

This book is the work of a large collective formed over the years around the Niakhar Observatory. It was coordinated by three scientists:

  • Valérie Delaunay is a demographer at the IRD, within the Population Environment and Development Laboratory. She has been co-responsible for the Niakhar Observatory on several occasions. For nearly thirty years, she has conducted demographic research on family and childhood issues in Senegal;
  • Alice Desclaux is an anthropologist at the IRD, Translational Research on HIV and Infectious Diseases laboratory. Together with Mamadou Badji, she was co-responsible for the Senegalese component of the history and anthropology research project "Memories and traces of medical research in Africa", centred on the Niakhar site;
  • Sheikh Sokhna is a paludologist at the IRD, in the Vectors, Tropical and Mediterranean Infections laboratory, and in charge of the IRD observatories in Senegal. In particular, he is studying the epidemiology of pathogens responsible for febrile diseases in West Africa.

The preface to this book was written by Professor Awa Marie Coll Seck, and the afterword by Professor Jean-Paul Moatti, CEO of IRD and Laurent Vidal, IRD representative in Senegal.

This paper has first been published by IRD. It has been translated in english by


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