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The Ghana Empire began when the Soninke people joined forces to resist the raids of pastoral nomads.

Nomads herding animals in the fringes of the desert, the Sahel, posed a threat to the early Soninke who lived south of the Sahara as agriculturalists. During times of drought, the nomads would raid the villages to the south in search of water and pastures for their herds. To protect themselves from these raids, the communities of African farmers joined forces, possibly to form a loose federation of states that eventually became the kingdom of Ghana.

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