Posts

Desertification is a process that destroys fertile land. This can be caused by drought, overpopulation, over-farming, deforestation and climate change. The effects of desertification are seen in many parts of the world, but is predominantly in India, Australia, Asia and Africa. More than six million acres of land in India are turned into a desert-like state annually. The U.N. estimates about 30 million acres of land across the globe are impacted by desertification every year.

The most vulnerable region is a 3,000-mile stretch of land that includes ten countries in the Sahel region of Africa. The Sahel is the area between the Saharan Desert and the Sudanian Savannah. This region is under constant stress due to frequent droughts and soil erosion. A dense forest can become a field of dust in a matter of years, making mass migrations inevitable. Africans frequently migrate south in search of fertile land.

Desertification in Senegal and Beyond

Desertification affects about 46 percent of Africa. Yet, the process of reversing its effects is slow going, usually taking a decade to see major improvements. Agriculture in Africa tends to result in low productivity, as most of the land is characterized as a semi-desert. Clearing the land of trees also reduces the structure of the soil. Coupled with wind erosion, the topsoil blows away and leaves a desert-like land. The issue is seen in many parts of the world, but it is most prevalent in Africa.

The country that is arguably the most damaged by desertification is Senegal. Migrations in Senegal are common, as wind erosion, deforestation and climate change wreaks havoc on farms and livestock. In 2015, Khalidou Badara, a cattle herder in Senegal, said, “There are almost no more trees, and the grass does not grow anymore, and so each year, we have to go further and further away to find grazing for our cattle.” Those most affected by desertification in Senegal move to Gabon, a country in West Africa, or even to Europe or South America. More than half of Senegalese work in agriculture, and desertification forces those with meager profits to move elsewhere to escape poverty.

The Great Green Wall

One ambitious initiative created to reduce desertification in Africa is the Great Green Wall. Once completed, the Great Green Wall will be the largest living structure on the planet, spanning more than 4,500 miles across the entire Sahel. The idea is that planting trees can combat desertification, create jobs, improve food security and bring migrated populations back home. The initiative began in 2007 and has already planted 12 million trees in Senegal. The wall prevents the Saharan Desert from encroaching on land most affected by desertification in Africa, while simultaneously reducing soil erosion. More than 37 million acres of degraded land in Ethiopia was restored as a result of this initiative.

There are similar results in Burkina Faso, Nigeria and Niger. Only 15 percent of the project is complete, and the Great Green Wall is creating a lasting impact. The Great Green Wall’s goals for 2030 include restoring 247 million acres of destroyed land and creating 10 million jobs in rural areas.

Will Desertification Halt or Slow?

As climate change continues to place a burden on poor farmers in the Sahel region, scientists and initiatives, like the Great Green Wall, continue to restore the region to its original structure. The Great Green Wall is growing every month. Its ambitious goals for 2030 express that their work will not slow in Africa. The greatest impact of these solutions lies in preventing further desertification in Africa so that those in poverty can depend on fertile land for food and sufficient income to escape poverty.

Lucas Schmidt

Photo: Flickr

Solutions to Desertification
Desertification is the “degradation of land in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas,” according to the United NationsWorldwide, people are seeing the encroaching effects of desertification increasing due to factors such as climate change, overgrazing of pastoral lands, deforestation, over drafting groundwater and over-farming land. When clearing trees and using groundwater, soil begins to lose root systems and hydration, causing it to simply blow away.

According to the United Nations Education, Science and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), one-third of the world’s land surface is susceptible to desertification. The issue is even more dire for areas already suffering from water scarcity, for when they lose their resources, there is often little rain or irrigation available to allow for the regeneration of forests and green lands. This then leads to subsequent food scarcity. However, many global initiatives exist to come up with solutions to desertification and its impact.

Technology

Satellite data has become an integral tool to map the spread and suppression of desertification globally. For 10 years, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) has worked with the European Space Agency (ESA). Its partnership involves efforts to monitor global desertification.

Satellites allow scientists a bird’s eye view to be able to strategize better and cut off desertification as it spreads. They can map the levels of moisture in the soil, allowing scientists the foresight into areas that may become more susceptible to desertification. Satellites are also offering scientists the ability to maximize their rehabilitation efforts. In doing so, they can gauge the number of trees an area can withstand. Planting too many trees in an area involves wasting time and resources, considering the trees will not survive.

Rehabilitation Efforts

Rehabilitation is critical in reducing desertification. In Africa, a plan that the African Union instituted will create a wall of trees stretching from Senegal to Djibouti. The Great Green Wall will reduce the spread of desertification across the African plains and create an ecosystem for animals to be able to return. With purposeful and considerate planning, the green wall should allow for the cohabitation of humanity and nature. The wall also offers industry. By planting fruit-bearing trees, local people will be able to see the trees as a profit rather than a hindrance.

As of 2019, these efforts have only resulted in the planting of 15 percent of the planned 8,000 km of trees due to monetary issues. In addition, the process of planting and caring for trees is very slow. In 2002, China began enforcing the Law of Prevention and Control of Desertification. This involved the world’s first integrated wall for the prevention and resolution of desertification. The law itself is rather vague, merely stating that “units or individuals that use desertified land have the obligation to rehabilitate the land.” However, that is intentional as it allows provinces affected to implement solutions to desertification that work for them, rather than trying to make the same program fit for a vast range of peoples and landscapes.

Education

In 1994, the United Nations instituted The World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, held annually on June 17. Observing the day acts as a way to promote education on the impacts of desertification globally. It also serves as a reminder that land degradation neutrality is achievable through problem-solving, community action and consistent cooperation at all levels.

Desertification has become a growing global concern, but affected countries are keenly and routinely taking action to develop solutions to desertification. Through preventative initiatives, pushes towards clean energy and climate change reducing measures, the hope is that someday land can restore so that desertification will be a problem of the past. However, it will need a global effort invoking the power of nations and people to care for the planet.

Emma Hodge
Photo: Flickr

Where is desertification happeningApproximately 42 percent of the planet is covered by dry land. With so much of our world covered by this specific ecosystem, it is important to draw attention to the environmental issues which affect it. Desertification, for instance, can be described as the process in which dryland is degraded permanently. This is caused by human activity such as deforestation and over-cultivation. With such a large global impact, desertification is something worth paying attention to. However, it can be challenging to understand how this issue affects the planet. Furthermore, the question still stands: where is desertification happening?

Global Impact

With the exception of Antarctica, desertification affects every continent. According to the UNEP (United Nations Environment Program), 36 million square miles of the world are currently affected by this. Land that is susceptible to desertification can become uninhabitable if not managed with sustainable environmental practices.

The UNEP estimates that by the year 2045, 135 million people may be displaced due to this environmental crisis. Currently, 1 billion people live in areas vulnerable to desertification.

Desertification in Africa

Africa is the simple answer to the question: where is desertification happening? More specifically, desertification plays its largest role in the grasslands of East Africa, the Kalahari Desert and the Sahara Desert. These regions span over 65 percent of the land.

In Ethiopia, 80 percent of the land is at risk of desertification. In addition, one-third of the continent is unsuitable for living due to climate changes. As Africa’s population continues to grow and desertification continues to be ignored, more of the land becomes arid and uninhabitable. This issue is particularly prevalent in Africa. This is due to the low soil fertility and bedrocks found across the continent.

Countries within the Sahara remain some of the poorest in the world. Malawi, for example, has a GDP per capita of $338.50 and an average lifespan of only 63 years. Desertification can also be linked to poverty because it creates climates which are not suitable for food production and other economic activities. This reflects negatively on the infrastructure and the economy.

One example of how poverty affects Africa is through its agricultural losses. Every year, the continent loses about 280 million tonnes of cereal crops. Poverty, in turn, leads to unsustainable environmental practices such as poor irrigation and overgrazing. Thus, creating a vicious cycle between poverty and desertification.

Helping Hands

To further the answer of, “where is desertification happening?” it’s important to note those that are successfully fighting against the issue. The Great Green Wall is an African-led movement. It is aiming to reduce the effects of desertification. It does this by creating a wall of plants along the Sahel region. The organization has already restored 15 million hectares of degraded land in Ethiopia. Additionally, 12 million drought-resistant trees have been planted in Senegal. The goal is not only to rehabilitate the land but also to create a symbol of sustainable environmental practices around the world.

In addition, the Global Drylands Initiative is being used to create global discourse around this topic. The International Union for Conservation Nature manages the initiative. It aims to reduce the effects of desertification through advocacy work. The mission is to create government policies which monitor desertification through scientific basis.

Where is Desertification Happening?

Desertification is a climate issue that is occurring on almost every continent. It affects more than half of Africa’s land. People living in areas where desertification is occurring are more likely to face poverty. Those affected by poverty are less likely to practice environmentally-sustainable actions. This, in turn, creates a vicious cycle of poverty and environmental deterioration. The good news is that there are people looking to help. Organizations such as the Great Green Wall and the Global Drylands Initiative are working to create a world in which desertification can be prevented for future generations.

Photo: Flickr

Desertification in sub-Saharan Africa

The Sahara desert is already the largest desert in the world, stretching 3,320,000 square miles across the northern part of the continent. However, due to the effects of desertification in Africa, the Sahara desert continues to grow and consume fertile lands around it.

Made up of sand sheets and dunes, the Sahara desert spans 11 different countries, including Chad, Egypt, Morocco, Niger, Sudan and Libya. The region of Sahel forms a transitional zone between the arid desert lands in the north and the more humid savannas in the south. This area is facing the greatest risk from desertification as the Sahara desert pushes outward into the Sahel region.

What is Desertification?

Desertification is defined as the persistent degradation of dryland ecosystems by climatic variations and human activities. Simply put, desertification is the process by which fertile lands become deserts, typically because of drought, deforestation or inappropriate agriculture. Desertification affects up to 30 percent of land worldwide, and 1.5 billion people around the world depend on land at risk from desertification for their main source of food or income. Seventy-four percent of these people already live in poverty.

Desertification in sub-Saharan Africa

In sub-Saharan Africa, desertification may force up to 50 million people to flee their homes by 2020. Since 1923, the Sahara Desert has expanded by 10 percent, especially affecting people living in the Sahel region. Dryland covers 65 percent of the African continent, and 70 to 80 percent of people in Ethiopia and Kenya are threatened by desertification. However, The Great Green Wall, established in 2007, is helping to end desertification in Africa.

Great Green Wall

The Great Green Wall is an African-led movement to grow a wall of trees, 8,000 km long, across the continent of Africa. Once finished, it will be the largest living structure on the planet, three times larger than the Great Barrier Reef. Stretching across the Sahel region, which is the region most affected by desertification, the Great Green Wall initiative hopes to change the lives of millions of people.

Since 2007, the Great Green Wall has had countless success stories. In Ethiopia, 15 million hectares of land were restored from their desert-like state. In Senegal, the organization planted 11.4 million trees. In Niger, farmers were able to grow an extra 500,000 tons of grain to feed 2.5 million people, all because of 5 million hectares of land restored by the Great Green Wall.

With $8 billion pledged, the Great Green Wall is increasing food security, resilience to climate change and job availability while decreasing drought, famine and migration. By 2030, its goal is to restore 100 million hectares of land and create a minimum of 350,000 jobs for rural workers.

The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is one organization supporting The Great Green Wall.  They have launched a public awareness campaign called ‘Growing a World Wonder,’ and implemented the FLEUVE project, which strengthens local communities in their effort to help the Great Green Wall initiative.

With help from supporters and local communities, the Great Green Wall is working to combat desertification in sub-Saharan Africa and restore land, jobs and food for millions of people in the sub-Saharan region.

– Natalie Dell
Photo: Flickr

Great Green Wall in Africa

The Great Green Wall is a wall of vegetation that, in essence, holds back the Sahara Desert with vegetables and fruits. The Sahara Desert is notorious for being dry and arid, having very little ability to support, in terms of nutrition, those that live near it. In Senegal, however, the construction of the Green Green Wall has led to an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables from the arid desert, which has helped to combat high levels of malnutrition and deal with climate changes in the area.

The Great Green Wall project is an initiative to plant a wall of trees from Senegal to Djibouti, which is basically across the entirety of Africa. 11 countries are supporting members of this project, which aims to block desert winds and maintain the moisture in the soil and air by building a wall of trees.

Of course, the green in the Great Green Wall is the end result of the tireless work necessary in planting and nurturing tree saplings. In parts of Senegal, ripe tomatoes and purple aubergines show that the project works, yet, in many other parts, progress has been slow and is still incomplete. This does not mean that these parts have not already begun to benefit; it just means that political commitment and community support is very important to ensure that the trees have the potential to reach their full height.

A woman living in Widou Thiengoli, Khaira Haidara, says “When I was young, there was more water in the village and we produced our own crop of millet. This project has brought positive changes to our lives, giving us different things to eat, and now we worry less about food.”

These are the benefits of the Great Green Wall project and, because of the stage of the project, more benefits are sure to come. Other benefits that are the result of the Great Green Wall project are increased opportunities for occupation within the community as people who used to go into town to find work are now able to work with and cultivate their land. This results not only in work but more food, helping to combat malnutrition that is rampant in many parts of the area surrounding the Sahara Desert.

The Great Green Wall is a step in the right direction for sustainability. It, while still under construction, has already begun to benefit those that live around the Sahara Desert.

– Angela Hooks

Source: AllAfrica
Photo: TreeHugger