The Nile Ecosystem
460 million people, over 3.2 million square kilometers, 11 countries, countless cultures, and rich traditions dating back millennia: the longest river in the world, the Nile, is a microcosm in its own right.
The Nile River traverses 11 countries, covering around 3.2 million square kilometers; that is almost 10% of the African landmass. This vast piece of land, the Nile basin, is located in the Eastern and Northern parts of Africa. As the Nile travels in its unique South to North journey, the basin experiences significant variations in latitude, elevation, and slope. The basin extends over 35 latitude degrees (from 4 degrees South to 31 degrees North). The elevation changes gradually from highlands and plateaus over 2000 meters in the upper reach of the basin of Ethiopia and the equatorial region to flatlands, swamps, and deserts in the lower reaches across Sudan and Egypt. The slope in the basin ranges from 0 degrees in the Sudd swamp lowland up to a staggering 33 degrees in the steep rugged areas in the Ethiopian highlands.
Owing to this large variation, the Nile basin is blessed with a wide range of ecoregions, including highlands and plateaus, open water surfaces, wetlands, flatlands, and deserts. The basin comprises 16 terrestrial ecoregions, with their distinct flora and fauna, and 17 registered wetlands, including the famous Sudd wetlands in South Sudan.
From the handicraft seller in the hustle and bustle of the Maasai market in Nairobi to Abuna climbing the strenuous ascent to the rock church in Tigray, to the girl walking to school chanting in Kalenjin, to the Nubian young man sailing on the waters that submerged the village of his ancestors, to the Bishari herding camels towards the dusty market in Khartoum, to the Imam cycling to the mosque in the narrow roads of Zanzibar, to the urban dwellers crossing the street in busy downtown Cairo, to the Shilluk women milking their cattle in the early mornings in Malakal … nearly 500,000,000 people, which amounts to 40% of the population of the entire African continent.