Losing land to desertification
To dispel the myth, desertification is not a natural advance of the desert or the movement of sand dunes. It is a process by which fertile soils get degraded due to climate change and human activities like overgrazing, over-exploitation by intensive farming and forest exploitation for fuel. Each year, the earth is losing 12 million hectares of land and global forest cover is shrinking by 13 million hectares. The green patches on the world map are being replaced by brown specks.
According to a UNCCD report, land degradation due to drought and desertification affects about 1.9 billion hectares of land and 1.5 billion people globally. In Africa, some 60 million people face displacement within five years as their land turns into desert. In fact, two-thirds of Africa’s fertile land could be lost by 2025 due to growing desertification.
The Sahel area, which straddles 27 countries from Senegal in the west to Djibouti in the east, is home to about 232 million people. In a first, the entire area has been mapped and about 166 million hectares of degraded land have been identified, which, decades ago, were covered with forests, crops and grasslands. The early results of the Great Green Wall initiative, a flagship programme to combat the effects of desertification, pale in comparison to enormity of the challenge that lies ahead.