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Desertification in Africa

Africa is facing a large problem called desertification. Desertification is an increase in the desert like conditions in arid or semi-arid lands, or more easily said, the spreading of the deserts. It can be caused by the climate, humans, and animals. Climate causes desertification because Africa goes through droughts which makes it pretty much impossible for vegetation to survive, thus, creating desert like conditions. Humans continue to expand their area, cutting down trees and building buildings which is again killing of vegetation but also ruining the environment of the animals that may live in that area pushing them farther out and leaving them with less to eat. Which brings in the problem of overgrazing. Because there isnt a whole lot of vegetation it is causing animals to continue to eat over and over the vegetation that is available which is not giving the vegetation enough time to grow back. Desertification is the degradation of land in any drylands.[2] Caused by a variety of factors, such as climate change and human activities, desertification is one of the most significant global environmental problems.[3]

Contents
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1 Definitions 2 History 3 Areas affected 4 Causes 5 Desertification and poverty 6 Countermeasures and prevention 7 See also 8 References 9 Bibliography 10 External links

[edit] Definitions
Considerable controversy exists over the proper definition of the term "desertification" for which Helmut Geist (2005) has identified more than 100 formal definitions.[2] The most widely accepted[2] of these is that of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification which defines it as "land degradation in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas resulting from various factors, including climatic variations and human activities"[4] The earliest known discussion of the topic arose soon after the French colonization of West Africa, when the Comit d'Etudes commissioned a study on desschement progressif to explore the prehistoric expansion of the Sahara Desert.[5]

[edit] History
The world's great deserts were formed by natural processes interacting over long intervals of time. During most of these times, deserts have grown and shrunk independent of human activities. Paleodeserts are large sand seas now inactive because they are stabilized by vegetation, some extending beyond the present margins of core deserts, such as the Sahara, the largest desert.[6] Desertification has played a significant role in human history, contributing to the collapse of several large empires, such as Carthage, Greece, and the Roman Empire, as well as causing displacement of local populations.[3][7]

[edit] Areas affected

Global Desertification Vulnerability Map Drylands occupy approximately 40-41% of Earths land area[8][9] and are home to more than 2 billion people.[9] It has been estimated that some 1020% of drylands are already degraded, the total area affected by desertification being between 6 and 12 million square kilometres, that about 16% of the inhabitants of drylands live in desertified areas, and that a billion people are under threat from further desertification.[10][11] The Sahara is currently expanding south at a rate of up to 48 kilometres per year.[12]

[edit] Causes

A herd of goats in Norte Chico, Chile. Overgrazing of drylands is one of the primary causes of desertification.

A shepherd guiding his sheep through the high desert outside of Marrakech, Morocco. Dryland ecosystems are already very fragile, and can rarely sustain the increased pressures that result from intense population growth. Many of these areas are inappropriately opened to development, when they cannot sustain human settlements.[13] The most common cause of desertification is the over cultivation of desert lands.[14] Overcultivation causes the nutrients in the soil to be depleted faster than they are restored. Improper irrigation practices result in salinated soils, and depletion of aquifers.[13] Vegetation plays a major role in determining the biological composition of the soil. Studies have shown that, in many environments, the rate of erosion and runoff decreases exponentially with increased vegetation cover.[15] Overgrazing removes this vegetation causing erosion and loss of topsoil.[13]

[edit] Desertification and poverty


At least 90% of the inhabitants of drylands live in developing nations, where they also suffer from poor economic and social conditions.[10] This situation is exacerbated by land degradation because of the reduction in productivity, the precariousness of living conditions and the difficulty of access to resources and opportunities.[16] A downward spiral is created in many underdeveloped countries by overgrazing, land exhaustion and overdrafting of groundwater in many of the marginally productive world regions due to overpopulation pressures to exploit marginal drylands for farming. Decision-makers are understandably averse to invest in arid zones with low potential. This absence of investment contributes to the marginalisation of these zones.When unfavourable agro-climatic conditions are combined with an absence of infrastructure and access to markets, as well as poorly adapted production techniques and an underfed and undereducated population, most such zones are excluded from development.[17] Desertification often causes rural lands to become unable to support the same sized populations that previously lived there. This results in mass migrations out of rural areas

and into urban areas, particularly in Africa. Because of these migrations into the cities, there are often large numbers of unemployed people who end up living in slums.[18][19]

[edit] Countermeasures and prevention

Anti-sand shields in north Sahara, Tunisia.

Jojoba plantations, such as those shown, have played a role in combating edge effects of desertification in the Thar Desert, India. Techniques exist for mitigating or reversing the effects of desertification, however there are numerous barriers to their implementation. One of these is that the costs of adopting sustainable agricultural practices sometimes exceed the benefits for individual farmers, even while they are socially and environmentally beneficial. Another issue is a lack of political will, and lack of funding to support land reclamation and anti-desertification programs.[20] Desertification is recognized as a major threat to biodiversity. Some countries have developed Biodiversity Action Plans to counter its effects, particularly in relation to the protection of endangered flora and fauna.[21][22] Reforestation gets at one of the root causes of desertification and isn't just a treatment of the symptoms. Environmental organizations[23] work in places where deforestation and desertification are contributing to extreme poverty. There they focus primarily on educating the local population about the dangers of deforestation and sometimes employ them to grow seedlings, which they transfer to severely deforested areas during the rainy season.[citation needed]

Techniques focus on two aspects: provisioning of water, and fixation and hyperfertilizing soil. Fixating the soil is often done through the use of shelter belts, woodlots and windbreaks. Windbreaks are made from trees and bushes and are used to reduce soil erosion and evapotranspiration. They were widely encouraged by development agencies from the middle of the 1980s in the Sahel area of Africa. Some soils (for example, clay), due to lack of water can become consolidated rather than porous (as in the case of sandy soils). Some techniques as za or tillage are then used to still allow the planting of crops.[24] Enriching of the soil and restoration of its fertility is often done by plants. Of these, the Leguminous plants which extract nitrogen from the air and fixes it in the soil, and food crops/trees as grains, barley, beans and dates are the most important. Sand fences can also be used to control drifting of soil and sand erosion.[25] As there are many different types of deserts, there are also different types of desert reclamation methodologies. An example for this is the salt-flats in the Rub' al Khali desert in Saudi-Arabia. These salt-flats are one of the most promising desert areas for seawater agriculture and could be revitalized without the use of freshwater or much energy.[26] Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR) is another technique that has produced successful results for desert reclamation. Since 1980, this method to reforest degraded landscape has been applied with some success in Niger. This simple and low-cost method has enabled farmers to regenerate some 30,000 square kilometers in Niger. The process involves enabling native sprouting tree growth through selective pruning of shrub shoots. The residue from pruned tress can be used to provide mulching for fields thusincreasing soil water retention and reducing evaporation. Additionally, properly spaces and pruned trees can increase crop yields. The Humbo Assisted Regeneration Project which uses FMNR techniques in Ethiopia has received money from The World Banks BioCarbon Fund, which supports projects that sequester or conserve carbon in forests or agricultural ecosystems.[27]

[edit] See also


Environment portal Ecology portal Earth sciences portal Biology portal Global warming portal Sustainable development portal

BioGrout; another possible technique for reducing desertification[28]

Desert greening Arid Lands Information Network Aridification Deforestation Ecological engineering Global warming Green Wall of China Oasification Water crisis

[edit] References
1. ^ Mayell, Hillary (April 26, 2001). "Shrinking African Lake Offers Lesson on Finite Resources". National Geographic News. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2001/04/0426_lakechadshrinks.html. Retrieved 20 June 2011. 2. ^ a b c Geist (2005), p. 2 3. ^ a b Geist (2005), p. 4 4. ^ UNCCD (1994), Part I - Article 1 5. ^ Mortimore, Michael (1989). Adapting to drought: farmers, famines, and desertification in west Africa. Cambridge University Press. p. 12. ISBN 9780521323123. http://books.google.com/books? id=Dx89AAAAIAAJ&pg=PA12. 6. ^ United States Geological Survey, "Desertification", 1997 7. ^ Whitford, Walter G. (2002). Ecology of desert systems. Academic Press. p. 277. ISBN 9780127472614. http://books.google.com/books? id=OZ4hZbXS8IcC&pg=PA277. 8. ^ Bauer (2007), p. 78 9. ^ a b Johnson et al (2006), p. 1 10. ^ a b Holtz (2007) 11. ^ World Bank (2009). Gender in agriculture sourcebook. World Bank Publications. p. 454. ISBN 9780821375877. http://books.google.com/books? id=XxBrq6hTs_UC&pg=PA454. 12. ^ Hunger is spreading in Africa 13. ^ a b c Ci, Longjun & Yang, Xiaohui (2010). Desertification and Its Control in China. Springer. p. 10. ISBN 9787040257977. http://books.google.com/books?id=agd8MFDYLXEC&pg=PA10. 14. ^ Mares, Michael S., ed. (1999). "Middle East, deserts of". Encyclopedia of deserts. University of Oklahoma Press. pp. 362. ISBN 9780806131467. http://books.google.com/books?id=g3CbqZtaF4oC&pg=PA362. 15. ^ Geeson, Nichola et al (2002). Mediterranean desertification: a mosaic of processes and responses. John Wiley & Sons. p. 58. ISBN 9780470844489. http://books.google.com/books?id=G_0qg0f49GQC&pg=PA58.

16. ^ Dobie, Ph. 2001.Poverty and the drylands, in Global Drylands Imperative, Challenge paper, Undp, Nairobi (Kenya) 16 p. 17. ^ Cornet A., 2002. Desertification and its relationship to the environment and development: a problem that affects us all. In: Ministre des Affaires trangres/adpf, Johannesburg. World Summit on Sustainable Development. 2002. What is at stake? The contribution of scientists to the debate: 91-125.. 18. ^ Pasternak, Dov & Schlissel, Arnold (2001). Combating desertification with plants. Springer. p. 20. ISBN 9780306466328. http://books.google.com/books?id=B-i8-DPf6xgC&pg=PA20. 19. ^ Briassoulis, Helen (2005). Policy integration for complex environmental problems: the example of Mediterranean desertification. Ashgate Publishing. p. 161. ISBN 9780754642435. http://books.google.com/books? id=CpYnV45hVRsC&pg=PA161. 20. ^ Briassoulis, Helen (2005). Policy integration for complex environmental problems: the example of Mediterranean desertification. Ashgate Publishing. p. 237. ISBN 9780754642435. http://books.google.com/books? id=CpYnV45hVRsC&pg=PA237. 21. ^ Techniques for Desert Reclamation by Andrew S. Goudie 22. ^ Desert reclamation projects 23. ^ For example, Eden Reforestation Projects. 24. ^ Arid sandy soils becoming consolidated; zai-system 25. ^ List of plants to halt desertification; some of which may be soil-fixating 26. ^ Rethinking landscapes, Nicol-Andr Berdell July 2011 H2O magazine 27. ^ http://blogs.ei.columbia.edu/2011/10/18/sprouting-trees-from-theunderground-forest-a-simple-way-to-fight-desertification-and-climate-change/ 28. ^ BioGrout

[edit] Bibliography

Arnalds, lafur & Archer, Steve (2000). Rangeland Desertification. Springer. ISBN 9780792360711. http://books.google.com/books?id=E7kaBkPlJfAC. Barbault R., Cornet A., Jouzel J., Mgie G., Sachs I., Weber J. (2002). Johannesburg. World Summit on Sustainable Development. 2002. What is at stake? The contribution of scientists to the debate. Ministre des Affaires trangres/adpf. Bauer, Steffan (2007). "Desertification". In Thai, Khi V. et al. Handbook of globalization and the environment. CRC Press. ISBN 9781574445534. http://books.google.com/books?id=mR3E4xJFNw0C&pg=PA77. Batterbury, S.P.J. & A.Warren (2001) Desertification. in N. Smelser & P. Baltes (eds.) International Encyclopdia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences. Elsevier Press. pp. 35263529 Geist, Helmut (2005). The causes and progression of desertification. Ashgate Publishing. ISBN 9780754643234. http://books.google.com/books? id=acbWdynlU3cC.

Hartman, Ingrid (2008). "Desertification". In Philander, S. George. Encyclopedia of global warming and climate change, Volume 1. SAGE. ISBN 9781412958783. http://books.google.com/books?id=mNoW858izZcC&pg=PA312. Hinman, C. Wiley & Hinman, Jack W. (1992). The plight and promise of arid land agriculture. Colombia University Press. ISBN 9780231066129. http://books.google.com/books?id=dMmEjsySvrUC. Holtz, Uwe (2007) Implementing the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification from a parliamentary point of view - Critical assessment and challenges ahead Johnson, Pierre Marc et al., ed. (2006). Governing global desertification: linking environmental degradation, poverty and participation. Ashgate Publishing. ISBN 9780754643593. http://books.google.com/books?id=da6vhzHEpf0C. Lucke, Bernhard (2007): Demise of the Decapolis. Past and Present Desertification in the Context of Soil Development, Land Use, and Climate. Online at [1] Mensah, Joseph (2006). "Desertification". In Leonard, Thomas M.. Encyclopedia of the developing world, Volume 1. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 9780415976626. http://books.google.com/books?id=3mE04D9PMpAC&pg=PA452. Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005) Desertification Synthesis Report Moseley, W.G. and E. Jerme 2010. Desertification. In: Warf, B. (ed). Encyclopedia of Geography. Sage Publications. Volume 2, pp. 715719. Oliver, John E., ed. (2005). "Desertification". Encyclopedia of world climatology. Springer. ISBN 9781402032646. http://books.google.com/books?id=mwbAsxpRr0C&pg=PA319. Parrillo, Vincent N., ed. (2008). "Desertification". Encyclopedia of social problems, Volume 2. SAGE. ISBN 9781412941655. http://books.google.com/books?id=mRGr_B4Y1CEC&pg=PT271. Reynolds, James F., and D. Mark Stafford Smith (ed.) (2002) Global Desertification Do Humans Cause Deserts? Dahlem Workshop Report 88, Berlin: Dahlem University Press UNCCD (1994)

Poverty and desertification


Does poverty cause land degradation and desertification, or vice-versa? Or are they parts of a feedback loop? This issue is controversial. Whether the poor are major agents of desertification or not, it is clear that they suffer especially from its consequences because they are highly dependent on the land's productivity for their livelihoods (Hazell et al. 2002). Cleaver and Schreiber (1994) hypothesized that poverty, overpopulation and land degradation create a selfreinforcing downward spiral leading to ever-greater misery and land degradation. Farmers may be 'mining' their soils

of nutrients and vegetative cover without replacing them, triggering soil erosion and productivity decline - although the extent and importance of soil mining is still an issue of debate. But the opposite dynamic has also been proposed. In the 'induced innovation' concept of Boserup (1965), increasing populations stimulate increasing demand for agricultural products. As land becomes more costly compared to labor, incentives emerge for more intensive, yet sustainable land management in order to reap the benefits of the enlarged market opportunity year after year. Both downward-spiral and induced-innovation scenarios have been reported under different situations (Pender 1998). Cases of the downward spiral were described by Durning (1989), Leonard (1989), Lopez (1998), Kates and Haarmann (1992), Mink (1993), Ram et al. (1999) and White and Jickling (1995). Induced innovation has been reported by Leach and Mearns (1996), Mortimore and Adams (1999), Templeton and Scherr (1999), Tiffen (2002), Tiffen et al. (1994), Tiffen and Mortimore (2002), and Wiggins (1995). Comparing the downward-spiral vs. induced-innovation evidence, it appears that outcomes largely depend on how well societies adapt to rapid population growth, globalization, market development, technological change, climate change, and agro-ecological conditions (Heath and Binswanger 1996; Jodha 1998; Lele and Stone 1989; Kuyvenhoven and Ruben 2002; Lopez 1998; Mazzucato and Niemeijer 2002; Mortimore and Harris 2004; Niemeijer and Mazzucato 2002a; Pender et al. 2001a; Prakash 1997; Scherr 2000). Both of these models may be true at different times for the same area of land. Tiffen and Bunch (2002) suggest a general pattern of development in Africa which begins from extensive, low-intensity animal herding; gradually degrading the land as populations of humans and animals increase; but ultimately recovering as dense human populations create markets for agricultural produce that must be met by rehabilitating the limited remaining land area available for farming. Intensification of land use, even if it is sustainable does not necessarily imply that poverty will be reduced. If more labor-productive systems are not employed, then wages cannot increase or may decrease due to the increased availability of labor. This is why the cases of successful poverty escape exhibit productivityincreasing dynamics such as:

The exploitation of local comparative advantages (soil, climate, biodiversity, labor, etc.) The use of technologies that increase land and labor productivity faster than population growth; and

Improved access to growing markets (Hazell and Haddad 2001; Pender, 1998; Pender et al. 2001b).

Return to "What causes desertification? References Boserup, E. 1965. The Conditions of Agricultural Growth: The Economics of Agrarian Change Under Population Pressure. Aldine, Chicago. Cleaver, K. M. and Schreiber, G. A. 1994. Reversing the Spiral: The Population, Agriculture and Environment Nexus in Sub-Saharan Africa. The World Bank, Washington, D.C. Durning, A. 1989. Poverty and the environment: reversing the downward spiral. Worldwatch Paper 92. Worldwatch Institute, Washington, D.C. Hazell, P. and Haddad, L. 2001. Agricultural Research and Poverty Reduction. Food, Agriculture, and the Environment Discussion Paper 34. Washington, DC: International Food Policy Research Institute. Hazell, P., Jansen, H., Ruben, R. and Kuyvenhoven, A. 2002. Investing in poor people in poor lands. Paper prepared for the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). Heath, J. and Binswanger, H. P. 1996. Natural resource degradation effects of poverty are largely policy-induced: The case of Colombia. Environment and Development Economics 1: 65-84. Jodha, N.S. 1998. Poverty and environmental resource degradation: An alternative explanation and possible solutions. Economic and Political Weekly, Sept. 5-12, pp. 2384-90. Kates, R. and Haarmann, V. 1992. Where the poor live: Are the assumptions correct? Environment 34:4-28. Kuyvenhoven, A. and Ruben, R. 2002. Economic conditions for sustainable agricultural intensification. Pp. 58-70 in Uphoff, N. (ed.), Agroecological Innovations. London: Earthscan. Leach, M. and Mearns, R. (eds.) 1996. The Lie of the Land: Challenging Received Wisdom on the African Environment. African Issues, The International African Institute in association with James Currey, Oxford, and Heinemann, Portsmouth (NH). Lele, U. and Stone, S.1989. Population pressure, the environment, and agricultural intensification in sub-Saharan Africa: variations on the Boserup hypothesis. MADIA Discussion Paper No. 4, World Bank, Washington, D.C.

Leonard, H. J. (ed.) 1989. Environment and the Poor: Development Strategies for a Common Agenda. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Books. Lopez, R. E. 1998. Where development can or cannot go: the role of povertyenvironment linkages. Pp. 285-306 in Pleskovic, B. and Stiglitz, J. E. (eds.) 1997 Annual World Bank Conference on Development Economics. Washington, D.C.: The World Bank. Mink, S. D. 1993. Poverty, population and the environment. World Bank Discussion Paper No. 189. The World Bank, Washington, D.C. Mazzucato, V. and Niemeijer, D. 2002. Population growth and the environment in Africa: Local informal institutions, the missing link. Economic Geography 78:171193. Mortimore, M. and Adams, W. M. 1999. Working the Sahel: environment and society in northern Nigeria. London: Routledge. Mortimore, M. and Harris, F. 2004. Do smal

sUnited Nations Convention to C

Desertification is the process which turns productive into nonproductive desert as a result of poor land-management. Desertification occurs mainly in semi-arid areas (average annual rainfall less than 600 mm) bordering on deserts. In the Sahel, (the semi-arid area south of the Sahara Desert), for example, the desert moved 100 km southwards between 1950 and 1975. WHAT CAUSES DESERTIFICATION? * Overgrazing is the major cause of desertification worldwide. Plants of semi-arid areas are adapted to being eaten by sparsely scattered, large, grazing mammals which move in response to the patchy rainfall common to these regions. Early human pastoralists living in semi-arid areas copied this natural system. They moved their small groups of domestic animals in response to food and water availability. Such regular stock movement prevented overgrazing of the fragile plant cover. In modern times, the use of fences has prevented domestic and wild animals from moving in response to food availability, and

overgrazing has often resulted. However, when used correctly, fencing is a valuable tool of good veld management. The use of boreholes and windmills also allows livestock to stay all-year round in areas formerly grazed only during the rains when seasonal pans held water. Where not correctly planned and managed, provision of drinking water has contributed to the massive advance of deserts in recent years as animals gather around waterholes and overgraze the area. * Cultivation of marginal lands, i.e lands on which there is a high risk of crop failure and a very low economic return, for example, some parts of South Africa where maize is grown. * Destruction of vegetation in arid regions, often for fuelwood. * Poor grazing management after accidental burning of semi-arid vegetation. * Incorrect irrigation practices in arid areas can cause salinization, (the build up of salts in the soil) which can prevent plant growth. When the practices described above coincide with drought, the rate of desertification increases dramatically. Increasing human population and poverty contribute to desertification as poor people may be forced to overuse their environment in the short term, without the ability to plan for the long term effects of their actions. Where livestock has a social importance beyond food, people might be reluctant to reduce their stock numbers. WHAT ARE THE EFFECTS OF DESERTIFICATION? Desertification reduces the ability of land to support life, affecting wild species, domestic animals, agricultural crops and people. The reduction in plant cover that accompanies desertification leads to accelerated soil erosion by wind and water. South Africa losing approximately 300-400 million tonnes of topsoil every year. As vegetation cover and soil layer are reduced, rain drop impact and run-off increases. Water is lost off the land instead of soaking into the soil to provide moisture for plants. Even long-lived plants that would normally survive droughts die. A reduction in plant cover also results in a

reduction in the quantity of humus and plant nutrients in the soil, and plant production drops further. As protective plant cover disappears, floods become more frequent and more severe. Desertification is self-reinforcing, i.e. once the process has started, conditions are set for continual deterioration. HOW WIDESPREAD IS DESERTIFICATION? About one third of the world's land surface is arid or semi-arid. It is predicted that global warming will increase the area of desert climates by 17% in the next century. The area at risk to desertification is thus large and likely to increase. Worldwide, desertification is making approximately 12 million hectares useless for cultivation every year. This is equal to 10% of the total area of South Africa or 87% of the area of cultivated lands in our country. In the early 1980s it was estimated that, worldwide, 61% of the 3257 million hectares of all productive drylands (lands where stock are grazed and crops grown, without irrigation) were moderately to very severely desertified. The problem is clearly enormous. DESERTIFICATION IN SOUTHERN AFRICA About half of southern Africa is semi-arid and thus at risk of desertification. The area already transformed into desert-like conditions is not accurately known because uncertainty surrounds the precise definition of a desert, and what the original state of the vegetation was in the semi-arid areas of southern Africa. The areas which are known to have deteriorated this century are mainly on the edges of the southern Kalahari. The deterioration of the Karoo is less well established. It is possible that desertification of the Karoo began in the last century, when sheep were first introduced, and before good records were available for the area. In recent years the introduction of artificial water points into the Kalahari within Botswana, together with the widespread erection of veterinary fences, has led to the rapid desertification of huge areas. Similar schemes have had the same effect in the southern Kalahari within South Africa and Bophuthatswana. HOW CAN DESERTIFICATION BE HALTED?

To halt desertification the number of animals on the land must be reduced, allowing plants to regrow. Soil conditions must be made favourable for plant growth by, for example, mulching. Mulch (a layer of straw, leaves or sawdust covering the soil) reduces evaporation, suppresses weed growth, enriches soil as it rots, and prevents runoff and hence erosion. Reseeding may be necessary in badly degraded areas. Mulching and reseeding are expensive practices. However, the only realistic large-scale approach is to prevent desertification through good land management in semi-arid areas. WHAT YOU CAN DO? Desertification often occurs over many generations, on a very large scale and so it is difficult for individuals to take action. Some ideas for combatting this problem include: * Take part in the activities of conservation groups. * Bring overgrazing and land mismanagement to the attention of the Directorate of Resource Conservation (address below). FURTHER READING WORLD RESOURCES 1988-89. World Resources Institute. Basic Books, New York, 1988. AFRICA IN CRISIS. Lloyd Timberlake. Earthscan, London, 1991. YOUR HEART YOUR PLANET. H. Diamond, J. Burnham and H. Taylor. Eartheart, Cape Town, 1991. USEFUL ADDRESSES Director: of Agricultural Information. Department of Agriculture, Private Bag X144, Pretoria 0001. Tel. 012-319 7327 Director: of Resource Conservation. Department of Agriculture, P/Bag X120, Pretoria, 0001. Tel. 012-3197685. The National Botanical Institute. Private Bag X7, Claremont

7735. Tel. 021-762 1166.

Created and maintained by: Jocelyn Collins Last Updated:

Desertification In The Sahel Introduction You read in the chapter on Land Degradation that: Desertification is the degradation of land in arid, semi-arid, and dry sub-humid areas. It is caused primarily by human activities and climatic variations. Desertification does not refer to the expansion of existing deserts. It occurs because dryland ecosystems, which cover over one third of the world's land area, are extremely vulnerable to over-exploitation and inappropriate land use. Poverty, political instability, deforestation, overgrazing, and bad irrigation practices can all undermine the land's fertility. From Food and Agricultural Organization web page on Desertification. You also read that both nature and humans influence desertification. Here we look at one region that has captured the attention of the world for at least the past 40 years the Sahel of north Africa. Beginning in the 1960s, the area became very dry and hundreds of thousands died of starvation. Was the devastation the result of human misuse of the land, was it the result of natural changes in climate, or was it the result of both? Answers to these questions have not come easily. At first, land use and land degradation were thought to be the primary causes. The United Nations Conference on Desertification focused attention on land use, and led to the emphasis on land degradation as the cause of desertification. Since then, we have found that the issue is more complicated. What is the Sahel? The Sahel is the semi-arid transition region between the Sahara desert to the north and wetter regions of equatorial

Africa to the south. It extends from the Atlantic in the west to the Indian ocean in the east. It has high variability of rainfall, and the land consists of stabilized ancient sand seas. It is one of the poorest and most environmentally degraded areas on earth.

Near Wolof village of Ndiagene in Senegal in the Sahel. From Ewan Robinson Rural Visit as shown in NASA Earth Observatory article on Desertification.

Map of the sahel in north Africa. Some scientists include Eritrea in the sahel.

From Millennium Ecosystem Assessment report on Ecosystems and Human Well-Being Desertification Synthesis. History of Desertification in Sahara and Sahel Climate of the Sahel and the Sahara has changed greatly over the past 11,000 years since the end of the last ice age. The Sahara has expanded and contracted, changing the course of civilizations. One of the most striking climate changes of the past 11,000 years caused the abrupt desertification of the Saharan and Arabia regions midway through that period. The resulting loss of the Sahara to agricultural pursuits may be an important reason that civilizations were founded along the valleys of the Nile, the Tigris, and the Euphrates. German scientists, employing a new climate system model, have concluded that this desertification was initiated by subtle changes in the Earth's orbit and strongly amplified by resulting atmospheric and vegetation feedbacks in the subtropics. The timing of this transition was, they report, mainly governed by a global interplay among atmosphere, ocean, sea ice, and vegetation. From ScienceDaily article on Sahara's Abrupt Desertification Started By Changes In Earth's Orbit, Accelerated By Atmospheric And Vegetation Feedbacks. The changing climate first attracted people to the Sahara as rainfall increased abruptly throughout the region beginning about 10,500 years ago (8,500 BC) at the end of the Younger Dryas (See Abrupt Climate Change). Then increasing drought drove them southward into the modern Sahel as the rains became less frequent beginning about 7,200 years ago. By 5,500 years ago (3,500 BC) the Sahara had returned to full desert conditions. It appears that many who left the Sahara settled in the Nile valley about 5,500 years ago, setting the stage for the First Dynasty starting with the reign of King Narmer in 3,000 BC (5,000 years ago).

Climate-controlled occupation in the Eastern Sahara during the main phases of the Holocene. Red dots indicate major occupation areas; white dots indicate isolated settlements in ecological refuges and episodic transhumance. Rainfall zones are delimited by best estimate isohyets on the basis of geological, archaeozoological, and archaeobotanical data. (A) During the Last Glacial Maximum and the terminal Pleistocene (20,000 to 8500 BC), the Saharan desert was void of any settlement outside of the Nile valley and extended about 400 km farther south than it does today. (B) With the

abrupt arrival of monsoon rains at 8500 BC, the hyper-arid desert was replaced by savannah-like environments and swiftly inhabited by prehistoric settlers. During the early Holocene humid optimum, the southern Sahara and the Nile valley apparently were too moist and hazardous for appreciable human occupation. (C) After 7000 BC, human settlement became well established all over the Eastern Sahara, fostering the development of cattle pastoralism. (D) Retreating monsoon rains caused the onset of desiccation of the Egyptian Sahara at 5300 BC Prehistoric populations were forced to the Nile valley or ecological refuges and forced to exodus into the Sudanese Sahara where rainfall and surface water were still sufficient. The return of full desert conditions all over Egypt at about 3500 BC coincided with the initial stages of pharaonic civilization in the Nile valley. Click on the image for a zoom. From Kuper and Krpelin (2006). Since 3,000 BC the Sahel has had periods of more rain followed by periods of drought at intervals of 1,500 500 years. The more recent changes are tied to changes in north Atlantic ocean temperatures. Recent Climate Change and Rainfall Years of above average rainfall from the 1950s to the 1970s, were followed by drought in the sahel starting in the late 1960s. The drought has had a devastating impact on this ecologically vulnerable region and was a major impetus in the establishment of the United Nations Convention on Combating Desertification and Drought. Since then, meteorologists, oceanographers, and geographers have sought to understand what caused the drought.

Sahel rainfall from 1900 to 2007 averaged over June, July, August, September, and October JJASO. Click on image for a zoom. From Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean, University of Washington, Sahel Rainfall

Index. Recent work by meteorologists and oceanographers has shown that much of the recent year-to-year changes in Sahel rainfall are forced by changes in sea-surface temperature in the Gulf of Guinea (on the equator near the prime meridian) and by El Nio in the Pacific. When the gulf is warm, the Intertropical Convergence Zone shifts south away from the Sahel reducing the African monsoon that draws moist air into the Sahel. Longer term changes in rainfall from decade to decade are forced by changes in sea-surface temperature in the western Indian and tropical Atlantic oceans. When these areas are cool, Sahel rainfall increases. The oceanic forcing of Sahel rainfall is amplified by land-atmosphere feedbacks. As the land dries out, there is less vegetation, less evaporation from the land, and more sunlight is reflected from the land. These processes further weaken the monsoon. This positive feedback also involves land degradation due to human interactions with the land.

Land-atmosphere feedbacks amplifying climate change in the Sahel. Click on image for a zoom. From Dryland Systems in Ecosystems and Human Well-Being: Current State and Trends, part of the Millennium Assessment. Rains return when the gulf is cooler, and rainfall shifts north watering the Sahel. Evaporation from the land increases, less sunlight is reflected, and the African monsoon strengthens.

Changes in Sahel rainfall are forced by changes in sea-surface temperature in the Gulf of Guinea. The response is amplified by land-atmosphere feedbacks in the Sahel. From Zeng (2003). Human Dimensions of Sahel Land Degradation The drying of the Sahel in the late 20th century caused widespread famine that attracted world-wide attention, including the United Nations Conference on Desertification (UNCOD) in Nairobi, Kenya in 1977, the 1993 Convention to Combat Desertification, the 2006 International Year of the Desert and Desertification, and the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. The studies show that climate change strongly influences the Sahel in recent decades, but it is only part of the story: Rainfall variability is a major driver of vulnerability in the Sahel. However, blaming the environmental crisis on low and irregular annual rainfall alone would amount to a sheer oversimplification and misunderstanding of the Sahelian dynamics. Climate is nothing but one element in a complex combination of processes that has made agriculture and livestock farming highly unproductive. Over the last half century, the combined effects of population growth, land degradation (deforestation, continuous cropping and overgrazing), reduced and erratic rainfall, lack of coherent environmental policies and misplaced development priorities, have contributed to transform a large proportion of the Sahel into barren land, resulting in the deterioration of the soil and

water resources. From From United Nations Environmental Programme, World Agroforestry Center. Climate Change and Variability in the Sahel Region: Impacts and Adaptation Strategies in the Agricultural Sector. The human influences include: 1. Population increase. Population is doubling every 20 years. The growth rate of population (3% per year) exceeds the growth rate of food production (2% per year). The total population is around 260,000,000 people. 2. Poverty. Per capita income varies from $500/year in Burkina Faso to $1,000/year in Mali to $2,000/year in Nigeria. In contrast, the per capita income in France, German, and the UK is about $35,000/year. All are estimates for 2007. The area includes three of the four poorest countries on earth. 3. Over grazing, poor farming methods, and use of trees and vegetation for firewood. Overgrazing and poor agricultural practices lead to soil erosion, further degrading the land. The traditional Parkland system (integrated crop-tree-livestock systems), which is the predominant land use system and the main provider of food, nutrition, income, and environmental services, is rapidly degrading woody biodiversity and cover is being lost, and soil fertility is declining from already low levels through exhaustive cropping practices and soil erosion. From West Africa Drylands Project.

Area devoted to crops in the Sahel since 1960. The need to grow more crops, both for export and for local use, has led to expansion of agriculture into areas poorly suited for crops, leading to land degradation in dry years. From United Nations Environmental Programme, World Agroforestry Center. Climate Change and Variability in the Sahel Region: Impacts and Adaptation Strategies in the Agricultural Sector.

4. Colonial Influence. The Sahel was divided into countries by European nations. The boarders were set by political processes that mostly ignored the local people and their use of the land. The new countries began to enforce boundaries limiting the ability of nomads to move their herds in response to changing rain, from dry to wet areas. As a result, nomads were forced into villages, and in dry years their herds overgrazed the area around villages and cities.

Major historical migration routes used by nomadic herders in the past. Now the borders with Chad and the Central African Republic are closed, and even borders between provinces in the Sudan are closed, and herders must stay within their own province. The closing of the borders causes environmental and political problems. Click on the map for a zoom. From United Nations Environmental Program.

Desertification in Bara, Sudan due to restrictions on movement of herds of animals. Notice the devegetated areas around Bara. Click on the image for a zoom. From United Nations Environmental Programme Natural Disasters and Desertification (a 0.6 MByte pdf file).

Cattle concentrated around a waterhole near Bamako, Mali, Africa. Click on image for a zoom. From Manfred Schweda. 5. Migration due to political instability and war. Conflicts in Niger, Nigeria, Mali, Darfur, and Eritrea have caused mass migration of people from rural areas to refugee camps to nearby countries. The End

The end result of land degradation. Completely degraded land in northern Darfur, just outside a large refugee camp. From United Nations Environmental Programme Natural Disasters and Desertification (a 0.6 MByte pdf file). References Kandji, Serigne Tacko; Verchot, Louis; and Mackensen, Jens. 2006. Climate Change and Variability in the Sahel Region: Impacts and Adaptation Strategies in the Agricultural Sector. United Nations Environmental Programme and World Agroforestry Centre. Giannini, A., R. Saravanan, and Chang. (2003). Oceanic forcing of Sahel rainfall on interannual to interdecadal time scales. Science 302 (5647): 10271030. We present evidence, based on an ensemble of integrations with NSIPP1 (version 1 of the atmospheric general circulation model developed at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in the framework of the Seasonal-to-Interannual Prediction Project) forced only by the observed record of sea surface temperature from 1930 to 2000, to suggest that variability of rainfall in the Sahel results from the response of the African summer monsoon to oceanic forcing, amplified by land-atmosphere interaction. The recent drying trend in the semiarid Sahel is attributed to warmer-thanaverage low-latitude waters around Africa, which, by favoring the establishment of deep convection over the ocean, weaken the continental convergence associated with the monsoon and engender widespread drought from Senegal to Ethiopia. Reynolds, J. F., D. M. S. Smith, et al. (2007). Global Desertification: Building a Science for Dryland Development. Science 316 (5826): 847851. In this millennium, global drylands face a myriad of problems that present tough research, management, and policy challenges. Recent advances in dryland development, however, together with the integrative approaches of global change and sustainability science, suggest that concerns about land degradation, poverty, safeguarding biodiversity, and protecting the culture of 2.5 billion people can be confronted with renewed optimism. We review recent lessons about the functioning of dryland ecosystems and the livelihood systems of their human residents and introduce a new synthetic framework, the Drylands Development Paradigm (DDP). The DDP, supported by a growing and welldocumented set of tools for policy and management action, helps navigate the inherent complexity of desertification and

dryland development, identifying and synthesizing those factors important to research, management, and policy communities. Zeng, N. (2003). ATMOSPHERIC SCIENCE: Drought in the Sahel. Science 302 (5647): 999-1000. Revised on: 2 March, 2010

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"Rapid and catastrophic environmental changes in the Holocene and human response" first joint meeting of IGCP 490 and ICSU Environmental catastrophes in Mauritania, the desert and the coast January 4-18, 2004 Field conference departing from Atar Atar, Mauritania

Organizers Suzanne Leroy, Aziz Ballouche, Mohamed Salem Ould Sabar, and Sylvain Philip (Hommes et Montagnes travel agency) View Abstracts Conference Homepage

Desertification in Africa, Asia and Australia: Causes, consequences, solutions


by

Williams, Martin
Geographical & Environmental Studies, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia 5005, Australia. Introduction: Desertification is land degradation in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas resulting from climatic variations and human activities. Consequences include accelerated soil erosion by wind and water salt accumulation in the surface horizons of dryland soils a decline in soil structural stability with an attendant increase in surface crusting and surface runoff and a concomitant reduction in soil infiltration capacity and soil moisture storage replacement of forest or woodland by secondary savannah grassland or scrub an increase in the flow variability of dryland rivers and streams an increase in the salt content of previously freshwater lakes, wetlands and rivers a reduction in species diversity and plant biomass in dryland ecosystems.

Three case studies, drawn from three continents, demonstrate the importance of maintaining the native vegetation cover and provide the basis for deducing three principles of sustainable land use. Deforestation and accelerated soil loss in Ethiopia Ethiopia has the potential to be one of the most successful agricultural nations in Africa, being richly endowed with deep, fertile volcanic soils, a range of microclimates and a great diversity of natural ecosystems. However, rapid rates of forest clearing this century in areas of steep slopes and seasonally torrential rains have resulted in accelerated loss of soil from many upland regions. Traditional farming methods recognized that soil losses during cultivation were high and so allowed long years of fallow for the soils to recuperate. Mean annual rates of soil loss amount to about 40 t/ha (2 mm/a) on mountain slopes, but attain rates of over 300 t/ha (15 mm/a) during cultivation years, or some 5-10 times more than in non-mountainous areas. The increasing demand for land has meant a reduction in fallow to virtually zero and an expansion of the area under cultivation. In one region in Gojjam Province the area cultivated rose from 40 Removal of forest in Ethiopia and other tropical uplands can alter the local hydrological balance, increasing runoff and soil erosion, and reducing infiltration and the perennial maintenance of springs and stream headwaters. The downstream effects are not always confined to the country of origin. Within ten years of its completion, The Roseires dam was built on the Blue Nile near the Ethiopia-Sudan border to provide irrigation water for the central Sudan. By 1996, the capacity of the Roseires reservoir had been reduced by almost 60 In order to achieve a more sustainable form of agriculture, the local farmers need to be actively involved in soil and water conservation measures and a programme of long-term re-afforestation of steeplands and interfluves initiated as a matter of urgency. Overgrazing and desertification in northern China The Alashan region of Inner Mongolia in northern China is one of the driest regions in China and covers an area of about 270, 000 km2. Rainfall declines from about 300 mm in the east to less than 50 mm in the west. Mountains occupy roughly 10, 000 km2 of the area and are flanked by gently sloping sand and gravel alluvial plains. These cover about 91, 000 km2. There are three major active dunefields that cover a total area of about 81, 000 km2. Fixed and semi-active dunefields cover about 90, 000 km2 and are the areas most vulnerable to desertification. Until the 1950s many of these low dunefields and sandsheets were covered in a relatively dense cover of shrubs, trees and grasses. Since that time the human population has doubled and livestock numbers have tripled. In addition, there have been a number of severe droughts, including the exceptionally severe 1989 drought. The combination of greatly increased stock numbers, the influx of immigrants from the south, and the occurrence of sporadic but severe droughts over large tracts of Alashan have resulted in widespread and locally severe desertification. Official local estimates

suggest that some 30, 000 km2 of land are now severely degraded and that the rate of desertification is increasing by about 1, 000 km2 each year. There is widespread concern over the perceived increase in sand and dust storms and the decline in quality of pasture. Accelerated soil erosion by wind and water has increased since the 1950s. Former agricultural settlements immediately west of the Helan Shan ranges have been abandoned and the fine-grained alluvial soils are extensively gullied. In places, a single tree is all that remains of the 1950s riparian woodland. In the sand deserts north and west of these mountains, removal of the plant cover of previously vegetated and stable dunes through overgrazing by goats and sheep has reactivated many of the dunes. Monitored rates of dune advance range from more than 10 m/a near the Yellow River to less than 1 m/a further inland. The dunes along an 80 km long stretch of the left bank of the Yellow River opposite the industrial city of Wuhai are currently advancing from the northwest at rates of up to 10 m/a. An estimated 80 million m3 of sand is being blown into the river each year. Control of sand movement into the Yellow River is an important element of Chinas national plans to combat desertification. Major re-afforestation of the active dunes in this sector has now begun. The key issue is to minimise grazing pressure and not to exceed the carrying capacity of the vegetated dunefields. Dune stabilisation using the straw mulch chequer-board technique combined with forest shelter-belt planting is both feasible and desirable in areas of potentially high agricultural and economic productivity or major strategic and environmental importance such as close to the Yellow River and along the main railway line. Tree clearing and dryland salinity in southern Australia Clearing of the deep-rooted eucalyptus trees from extensive regions of southern Australia since the onset of European settlement some 200 years ago has caused local and regional water-tables to rise, bringing dissolved salts to the surface, resulting in widespread dryland salinization. Half the original woodland and forest that grew 200 years ago has now gone from Australia. In terms of land degradation, the repercussions have been equally dramatic, and the process continues. In the ten years before 1993, Australia cleared an average of 500 000 ha of woodland and scrub, equivalent to two football pitches a minute. In 1990 Australia cleared 650 000 ha (more than half the area cleared in the Amazon Basin). One insidious consequence of this tree clearing only became apparent many years later. The deep-rooted eucalyptus trees acted as natural groundwater pumps and kept the local water table well below the rooting depths of wheat, barley, improved pasture and other crops widely grown in the southern third of the continent. Groundwater recharge under native vegetation is 1-2 mm/a. Under wheat cultivation it is 40-120 mm/a. Once cleared, the groundwater levels rose, slowly but inexorably, bringing dissolved salts to the surface. This process of dryland salinization has resulted in massive loss of productive agricultural land in many parts of southern Australia. More than 2.5 million ha of former

agricultural land in Australia are now unusable because of dryland salinity. The cost to the Australian economy is nearly
Date received: January 27, 2004

Copyright 2004 by the author(s). The author(s) of this document and the organizers of the conference have granted their consent to include this abstract in Atlas Conferences Inc. Document # camu-33.

The magnitude of the problem


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Little reliable data is available on the extent of land degradation in Africa. However, anyone who has travelled through the continent has observed that land degradation is widespread and serious. The presence of gullies and sand dunes, of degraded forests and grazing lands are obvious, although the effects of sheet erosion and declining soil fertility are less noticeable. The wealth of Africa depends on her ability to conserve and manage her land resources. It is a well known fact that soil degradation not only results in decreased food production but also in droughts, ecological imbalance and consequent degradation of the quality of life. In Africa, the most conspicuous symptoms of the negative impact of land degradation on food production are stagnating and declining yields and increasing levels of poverty. Throughout the continent, regardless of the climatic zone, meteorological records show that unpredictability of rains is a common feature. In the Sahel, variations in total annual rainfall can be up to 30 or 40 per cent. Even, the humid and sub-humid zones are subject to rainfall fluctuations of 15 to 20 per cent. In most cases, the rainfall is rarely gentle and even. It usually comes as torrential downpours, which are destructive to soils and harmful to plants. The continent can be divided into four major climatic zones:

The humid zone with an annual rainfall exceeding 1,500 mm and covering 14 per cent of the land area; The sub-humid zone with annual rainfall between 600 and 1,200 mm and covering 31 per cent of the land area; The semi-arid zone with an average rainfall equaling or less than 600 mm, which covers 8 per cent of the total land area; and The arid and desert zone with an erratic rainfall of between O and 100 mm and having the greatest share (47 per cent) of the total land area.

Africa also suffers from geologically induced and inherently low soil fertility as the bedrock consists of mostly granites and gneiss. African rocks are among the oldest in the world. The relationship between the parent soils and the soil forming factors are very complex because the land surface has undergone a series of shifts in vegetation and climate. Nearly one-third of the central plateau of Africa is of Pre-Cambrian age (over 600 million years old). The rest of the surface is covered with sand and alluvial deposits of Pleistocene age (less than 2 million years old). A recent volcanic activity occurred mainly in the eastern and southern parts of the continent, principally between Ethiopia and Lake Victoria. For this reason, most of the soils in Africa are characterized by a low proportion of clay, making them easy to work, but also easy to lose. Not only is Africa geologically old and afflicted with a harsh climate, but also large parts of the continent have been occupied by human beings much longer than in other continents. Human activities in obtaining food, fibre, fuel and shelter have, therefore, significantly altered the soil. Though degradation is largely man-made, and hence its pace is governed primarily by the speed at which population pressure mounts, irregular natural events, such as droughts, exacerbate the situation. The 1982/85 drought, for example, had a dramatic effect on the speed of land degradation and desertification. Essential though food aid is in such emergencies, it clearly does nothing to alleviate environmental damage. Many African countries have already lost a significant quantity of their soils to various forms of degradation. Many areas in the continent are said to be loosing over 50 tones of soil per hectare per year. This is roughly equivalent to a loss of about 20 billion tones of Nitrogen, 2 billion tones of Phosphorus and 41 billion tones of potassium per year. Serious erosion areas in the continent can be found in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea, Ghana, Nigeria, Zaire, Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Senegal, Mauritania, Niger, the Sudan and Somalia. Nomadic herders, grazing animals on arid and semi-arid lands, are particularly vulnerable to drought, since it depletes their most precious assets: their livestock herds. In northern and eastern Kenya, we saw the drought of 1992 decimate the livestock herds of pastoral communities, forcing herders to sell cheaply to local traders. At the same time, shortages of cereals forced 4p prices of food staples. The result has been widespread malnutrition, with an estimated 1.7 million people left dependent on relief assistance. In Somalia, drought in 1991 and 1992 forced the nomadic pastoralists of the central region to sell off their herds at a time of escalating food prices caused by ethnic and tribal armed conflicts and civil wars, exposing them to severe hunger. Desertification is a serious problem in the continent. It has been estimated that 319 million hectares of Africa are vulnerable to desertification hazards due to sand movement. An FAO/UNEP assessment of land degradation in Africa suggests that large areas of countries north of the equator suffer from serious desertification problems. For example, the desert is said to be moving at an annual rate of 5 km in the semi-arid areas of West Africa.

Desertification, of course, did not begin with the recent drought. Archaeological records suggest that Africa's arid areas have been getting progressively drier over the past 5 000 years What is new is the coincidence of drought with the increasing pressures put on fragile arid and semi-arid lands by mounting numbers of people and livestock. This is basically what is accelerating land degradation throughout much of Africa. In the wetter areas, however, there is a better chance that degradation can be halted and the land restored. Soil degradation caused by deforestation is also a serious threat in Africa. Deforestation exposes the soil to high temperatures which break down the organic matter, increase evaporation and make the soils vulnerable to erosion. Thirty-seven million hectares of forest and wood lands in Africa are said to be disappearing each year (FAO, 1986). More serious still is the gradual removal of trees in farms and pastures, which are crucial for protecting productive land from erosion. To summarize, available evidence leaves no doubt that soil degradation caused by erosion, desertification, deforestation, and poor agricultural practices is undermining the very resources on which African farmers and their families depend for their very survival. In many areas of Africa, the manifestations of this calamity include the creation of deep gullies, of crusts that water cannot penetrate, rock-hard layers, laterite that handtools and plant roots cannot pierce, and shifting sand dunes that swamp villages and fields. UNEP has estimated that more than a quarter of the African continent is at present in the process of becoming useless for cultivation due to degradation. In the drier parts of Africa, millions of hectares of grazing land and rangeland are also threatened with degradation- in the arid north, the semi-arid south, the Sudano-Sahelian countries and in the drier parts of Cameroon, Ethiopia, Kenya and Nigeria. The 1983-85 and recent droughts killed huge numbers of livestock there, with the result that good breeding stock was lost and the structural balance of herds distorted. Nevertheless, the herds are now recovering, but within five or ten years the trend of increasing overgrazing could be re-established - until the next drought reduces livestock numbers again. The rangeland itself has been changed for the worse, with many of the perennial grasses being replaced by nutritionally poorer annual grasses. This has permanently Impaired the rangeland's potential for recovery and decreased its carrying capacity. As the vegetation has been removed or reduced, the wind has also winnowed out the small amount of silt that the soil contains, reducing its ability to retain moisture. When it does rain, the chances of the range recovering are correspondingly reduced. Africa's forests and woodlands are also being depleted, threatening one of the continent's most important resources. In Africa, trees play an important role in protecting the environment. They are the principal source of rural energy, and provide countless medicinal and industrial products used in both the home and in small-scale industry. They often supply food and feed, are the main source of building materials in the countryside and, directly and directly, are a source of employment and income for many rural Africans.

Nearly 4 million hectares of this resource are now being deforested or degraded annually, largely in humid and sub-humid West Africa. The rate of destruction is alarmingly high in the Cameroon, in Cte d'lvoire and in Nigeria. The cause of deforestation is mainly clearing for agriculture but uncontrolled logging, gathering for fuelwood, fire and overgrazing are also taking their toll. In most parts of Africa, the current trend cannot be continued indefinitely: in some places, deforestation rates exceed planting rates by a factor of 30:1. Despite the great potential in Africa for irrigation estimated by FAO to be about 27 million hectares, only one-sixth has so far been developed. As most of Africa has little tradition of irrigation, it is likely that its rapid expansion will not happen soon and certainly not under conditions in which the practice is fully managed by the farmers themselves. Consequently, rainfed cultivation accounts, and will continue to account, for any increase in food production in Africa. One of the causes of degradations is that population pressure is forcing farmers to cultivate increasingly marginal land. In Malawi, for instance, escarpment land that has a slope of more than 12 per cent - and that should therefore be forested - is being cultivated, causing erosion, the flooding of fertile crop land below, and the situation of stream beds and irrigation canals. Thus erosion is threatening the future of one of the few countries in Africa that is successfully feeding itself. FAO's 1985 study of the carrying capacity of land in developing countries compared Africa's projected future population with its food production potential. According to the study, the number of countries that will be unable to feed themselves from home production using the present low level of inputs will rise from 22 out of 49 in 1975 to 32by the end of the century and to 35 by the year 2025. Indeed, even as early as the year 2000, 16 countries will have a critical food shortage even if they use intermediate inputs. They include the five North African countries together with Mauritania, Niger, Somalia, Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, Lesotho, Namibia and the Indian Ocean islands of Mauritius, Reunion and the Comoros. Nigeria and Ethiopia would be close to being in a critical state. These predictions are based on the assumption of using every scrap of suitable and marginal land to grow nothing but crops. If we consider only production from land that is likely to be actually cultivated, and deduct one third for non-food crops and unequal food distribution, the results are very alarming. By 2000 A.D. Africa would be able to feed only 55 per cent of its population with low inputs. By 2025, it would be able to feed only 40 per cent of its population.