Approximately 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?
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.
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.
– Anna Melnik