Current Dynamics of Land Degradation in Africa: Facts and Statistics

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Current Dynamics of Land Degradation in Africa: Facts and Statistics

Human-induced soil degradation is now a global problem and one of the leading causes of environmentally-induced displacemen. Environmental consequences of poor farming are currently visible in the vast majority of developing countries. The most famous example of the demographic consequences of bad agricultural practices was the Dust Bowl in the US. The worst consequences of land degradation are: food insecurity, decrease of sustainable agricultural growth, health problems, GDP decrease, expansion of poverty, forced migrations (rural-urban) and long-term, irreversible desertification. According to Roshan Cooke (et al.):

"Primary causes of land degradation are related to recurrent droughts and the existence of severe aridity, increase in human populations and associated growth in livestock populations, and inappropriate national agricultural and human settlement policies. Land degradation can be a slow process, or extremely rapid depending on the environmental and social conditions. The resulting outcome however is a reduced carrying capacity of the land due to the loss of ecosystem functions"

Source: R. Cooke, T. Jallow, S. Lafleur, M. Laman, J. Njoroge, V. Nyagah and E. Obas (eds.), Promoting Farmer Innovation. Harnessing local environmental knowledge in East Africa, UNDP – Office to Combat Desertification and Drought (UNSO/SEED/BDP), 1999, p. 27.

According to recently conducted research among the most important causes of land degradation in Africa we can mention:

- Land clearance (deforestation, clearcutting)
- Agricultural depletion of soil nutrients caused by poor agricultural practices

- Overdrafting and inappropriate irrigation practices

- Land pollution, industrial disasters and chemical contamination

- Commercial development and urban sprawl
- Vehicle off-roading
Current land degradation in Africa: Facts and Statistics

- 77 % of Africa is affected by erosion. Serious erosion areas in Africa can be found in RSA, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Ghana, Liberia,, Kenya, Nigeria, Zaire, Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Senegal, Mauritania, Nigeria, Niger, the Sudan and Somalia.

- Nearly 90 % of rangelands and 80 % of farmlands in the area of West African Sahel, Sudan, northeast Ethiopia are seriously affected by land degradation – including soil erosion, deforestation and several forms of land degradation.

- More than 25 % of South Africa is seriously degraded. According to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) nearly 90 % of the country is arid, semi-arid and sub-humid.

- Almost 70 percent territory of Uganda were degraded by soil erosion and soil nutrient depletion between 1945 and 1990. More than 20 % of agricultural land and pastures has ben irreversibly degraded.

- More than 65 % of Africa's population is affected by the consequences of land degradation.

- Nearly 3,3 % of agricultural GDP in Sub-Saharan Africa is lost annual because of soil and nutrient loss.

- According to GLASOD degradation of cropland affecting 65 % of agricultural areas in Africa, comapred with 38 % in Asia and 51 % in Latin America. Pasture degradation affecting 31 % of pasture land in Africa, compared with 20 % in Asia nad 14 % in Latin America.

- According to Oldeman et al. (1992) about 25 % of the world`s degraded areas is located in Africa.

- 65 % of agricultural land in Africa is degraded. It is estimated that 31 % of pasturelands and 19 % of forests in Africa are degraded.

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