Current dynamics of desertification in Africa. Facts and statistics

Desertification is considered as one of the world's most alarming global environmental problems. It is also the primary cause of environmentallly induced displacement in many regions of the world. The term “desertification” has been in use since 1949 when French ecologist and botanists Andre Aubreville published a book entitled Climate, Forets et Desertification de l'Afrique Tropicale. He defined desertification as the changing of productive land into a desert as the result of ruination of land by man-induced soil erosion. According to many estimates, desertification affects at least 135-250 million people worldwide. However, some scientists argue that only in China does the problem of desertification concerns more than 400 million people. Primary areas of the world that are affected by desertification is Sahel region, as well as Southern Africa (the Kalahari Desert), China (the Gobi Desert) and Latin America.

As Kofi Annan said in 2006, “If we don't take action, current trends suggest that by 2020 an estimated 60 million people could move from desertified areas of sub-Saharan Africa towards North Africa and Europe, and that worldwide, 135 million people could be placed at risk of being uprooted”. According to Allen and Ober (2008) over 67 million people in the Sahel already exist under the effects and threats of desertification. Desertification of soils appears to be one of the fundamental causes of hunger in many regions of the world. Soil degradation is actually very dangerous phenomenon in land degradation and has severe effects on soil functions. To the most important causes of soil degradation we can include deforestation, overgrazing and various agricultural activities. According to Salfrank and Walicki (2005) over a half of total Central Asian land area is prone to desertification and over 80 percent of total land area in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan is affected by salinization and desertification.

Facts and Statistics:

- Desertification is especially important problem in Africa. Two-thirds of the continent is desert or drylands, and 74 per cent of its agricultural drylands are already seriously or moderately degraded.

- Worldwide, desertification is making about 10-12 million hectares useless for cultivation each year. This is territory equal to 10% of the total area of South Africa.

- The areas with the biggest dynamics of desertification are concentrated in the Sahelian region, the Kalahari in the south and the Horn of Africa. According to many estimations 70 percent of African land is already degraded to some degree and land degradation affects at least 485 million people or sixty-seventy percent of the entire African population. (United Nations).

- More than 35 percent of the land area (approximately 83,489 km, 49 out of the 138 districts) of Ghana is prone to desertification. Recent research indicates that the land area prone to desertification/drought in the country has almost doubled during last two decades. (United Nations).

- Approximately 70 percent of Ethiopia and 80 percent of Kenya is reported to be prone to desertification in recent years. (United Nations).

- Recent estimations suggest that between 48 and 78 percent territory of Swaziland is at risk of desertification.

- According to the UN Nigeria is losing 1,355 square miles of cropland and rangeland due to desertification each year. This problem affects each of the 11 states of northern Nigeria. Nigeria loses approximately 320,000-350,000 hectares of land per year, which causes mass displacement of local communities in the North. At least 35 million people are facing threats of hunger and economic problems due to present scale of desertification.

- Recent estimations suggests that more than 30% of the land area of Rwanda, Burundi, Burkina Faso, South Africa Lesotho and is very severely degraded. The statistics are still growing up and up.

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Articles by Bogumil Terminski