Desertification in Africa

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Moroccan Farmer outside of Marrakech

Desertification – the spreading of conditions akin to desert-like climates in arid or semi-arid areas, due to loss of agriculturally productive soils, overgrazing, or climate change.

Over the summer I had a chance to visit Marrakech, Morocco while on vacation. Some of the first things that popped out at me besides the scorching heat and desert climate were the resilience of the people, the culture, and the economic boom it seemed the city was having from the prevalence of construction sites around every corner. It seemed that the new Marrakech was abound in high rise projects, renovations, and city beautification projects along with the hustle and bustle of the locals. When I got out to the nearby desert to explore the landscape on camel, I couldn’t help but notice the beauty of the landscape from mud/clay villages to beautiful palm groves. Their were many rural farmers and goat and sheep herders that shepherded their flocks to graze on the natural vegetation. At the time though, I didn’t realize that the water was spoiled from human activities and the vegetation was overgrazed.

Desertification is a term that popped up in recent years in growing popularity. Desertification occurs when once usable land in dry areas becomes infertile or unusable due to climate change or other human activities. The Sahara Desert in Africa is rapidly spreading south at a rate of 48km per year. Countries of Northern Africa along the coast of the Mediterranean are particularly prone to desertification as well due to their climate and soil erosion.

Agricultural Practices Contributing to Soil Erosion

Destructive agricultural practices and severe water pollution are threatening Morocco’s finite supply of water. The population is expected to double in the next 30 years which can exacerbate the problem, increasing the need for water and the danger of shortages. Soil erosion along with continued drought has continued to add a sense of priority in the management of Morocco’s water supply as well as other African nations.

Desertification in Africa

Desertification in Africa is an environmental issue that has plagued the continent for the past few decades. Africa has experienced all the classic symptoms of desertification which include the degradation of land as a direct result of soil erosion from overgrazing, farming of marginal areas, and destruction of naturally occurring vegetation. Desertification and land degradation are further impacted by improper treatment of water supplies from contamination by raw sewage, salt contamination in reservoirs, and oil pollution on coastal waters.

Desertification Is A Major Environmental Issue

Desertification in a major global environmental issue because it is caused and fueled by both climate change and by human activities. It is a firsthand threat to the balance of ecological biodiversity in many regions across Africa and the world. Efforts to reclaim land can be expensive and hard to pull off. Programs to re-claim land through reforestation have been implemented by governments and non-profit organizations alike. Asian countries have implemented massive reforestation plans where China has planted millions of trees to hold back the effects of its desertification issues.

With education on farming practices, pollution, and contamination issues from factories along water sources, one component of fighting against desertification can be accomplished. Planting trees to aid in biodiversity and to help stop desertification is needed as well but is sometimes a harder task to complete due to costs.

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Photo Credit: Some rights reserved by John Tarantino – The Environmental Blog

About John Tarantino (325 Posts)

My name is John Tarantino ... and no, I am not related to Quinton Tarantino the movie director. I love writing about the environment, traveling, and capturing the world with my Lens as an amateur photographer. You can connect with me via Google+ or via Twitter: Follow @EnvironmentBlog

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