Reversing desertification


Photo credit: GGW Gambia

How do we reverse desertification?

Desertification is yet another consequence of climate change that takes a great toll on biodiversity, natural resources and, ultimately, the lives of people who inhabit drylands. Along with measures to curb and compensate it, there are several solutions for bringing life back to arid lands. It is called “reversing desertification”, and it has a great deal to do with permaculture.

In 1989, in “La Chanson d’Azima”, French singer France Gall sang: “When the desert advances / Life flees / It is our decline / An impossible fight.” The song ended with these alarming words of caution: “The night is falling / Upon this dreadful emergency / And it is towards our tombstones / That the desert advances.” In the Seventies and Eighties, desertification and aridification became important concerns, as people became increasingly aware about human-induced climate change. 25 years later, desertification remains a major ecological and environmental problem. But thankfully, it is not an irreversible phenomenon. In an attempt to counter France Gall’s pessimism, here are some positive actions we can take to reverse deforestation.


But first, let’s briefly define the concept of desertification, and the main challenges it poses. According to the Princeton University Dictionary, desertification is “the process of fertile land transforming into desert typically as a result of deforestation, drought or improper/inappropriate agriculture.” There are thus various causes, but the bulk of them are human-induced. For example, tillage for agriculture, overgrazing, and deforestation for fuel or construction materials. However, vegetation loss is the primary cause of desertification, as plants play a major part in retaining water and enriching the soil.

Read the full story: Great Green Wall Gambia


Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

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