Sunday, 5 September 2010
Desertification is to describe the process by which land that once was covered in vegetation turns into desert. Both natural events and human activities may cause desertification.
Throughout the world, farmers and livestock owners are contributing directly to desertification by growing crops and grazing animals in an unsustainable manner.
Poor farming techniques and overgrazing cause soil degradation in the vicinity of deserts, making it easier for deserts to expand. People should address the problem by implementing environmentally friendly land-management policies and by replanting vegetation in ecologically sensitive areas surrounding deserts to curb desertification.
More than 40% of the Earth's land surface is covered by either deserts or "dryland ecosystems," environments with little to no annual precipitation.
According to leading environmental experts, desertification is, in part, a natural process that accelerates and decelerates according to weather events, such as droughts, as well as broader fluctuations in the global climate.
The U.N. starkly warned of "poverty, drought and food insecurity in dry land countries experiencing desertification."
Desertification appears to be emerging as an environmental priority on par with air and water pollution, analysts say.
"What we do is that when the sand moves and buries our homes and farms and even our wells, we simply keep retreating southwards," says Aminu Mahmud, a resident of northern Nigeria who has lost several homes as a result of the Sahara's growth. "The desert's unrelenting onslaught is pushing us further away from our original homes and it seems there's absolutely nothing we can do about it," he asserts.
One thing is certain, the semi-arid lands are fragile environments and people must use them with care so that desertification is avoided.