In an ancient Tuareg settlement in the sands of northern Niger, Africa’s newest reality TV contestants are tackling a different type of challenge — the slow process of desertification, and the threat of global warming.
They’re the cast of “Desert Warriors,” which bowed in March on Nigerian pubcaster LTV and commercial webs Silverbird TV and TVC. Part “Big Brother,” part National Geographic, the series looks at the environmental challenges facing Africa while giving viewers a chance to vote for their favorite contestants each week.
The show is the brainchild of environmentalist Newton Jibunoh, who for more than 40 years, has been traveling the world, raising awareness about environmental issues. With “Desert Warriors,” the Nigerian-born activist says he hopes to pass the torch to a younger generation of environmentalists.
Contestants are drawn from Nigeria and neighboring Niger. Each week they face a series of challenges testing their survival skills in the desert, with viewers voting to keep their favorite contestants on the show. The final 15 will join Jibunoh on a trip across the Sahara this year.
For the 72-year-old activist, who has already crossed the desert three times, the journey will offer one last opportunity to spread the word about the dangers of climate change.
“No one is able to tell when they will leave this world,” he told the BBC, “but I’m hoping that before I do, I will have mobilized enough environmentalists, enough scientists, enough interested people to continue this battle, to become part of this crusade.”