Land degradation in Africa

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The Center for Development Research presents its findings on land degradation in Berlin.

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Alarm over land degradation in Africa

New studies show that land degradation is advancing and that African countries are among the worst hit. Poorer communities suffer the most though there is some cause for hope.

To establish the scale of land degradation, experts have been conducting research from space. A team of scientists from Bonn’s Center for Development Research and other partner institutions has been shifting through huge quantities of satellite images.

They also carried out studies in 12 world regions and countries, including India, Argentina, Central Asia and parts of Africa. “The results are pretty dramatic. Worldwide 33 percent of grasslands and 25 percent of croplands have experienced degradation,” said Joachim von Braun, the center’s director.

Land degradation spells a loss of resources and a loss of income. It is the poor who are left struggling with this shortfall.

Joachim von Braun said the global costs of land degradation amount to 300 billion euros ($337 billion) per year. That’s 40 to 50 euros per person per year across the globe. “The rural population in low-income countries loses between 10 to 20 percent of their income through land degradation,” said von Braun. Farmers in developing countries are particularly badly affected.

In Africa, about 28 percent of the land is being degraded and this costs the continent an estimated 56 billion euros annually. Natural causes are only part of the explanation. “Other countries [on other continents] have been busy looking for strategies to improve land management and prevent land degradation, Africa lagged behind”, says Oliver Kirui, a researcher with the Center for Development Research.

Read the full story: Deutsche Welle

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Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.