Malnourishment in Sudan – Human Induced Desertification

GDS Blog

by Heidi Trott • September 21, 2011 • 0 Comments

I had the initial intention of investigating factors that contribute to malnutrition through various case study examples across the sub-Saharan region. However, as I began some general research I quickly discovered that this would be far too difficult because there is simply too much information available. Therefore, I decided to narrow my focus. I have begun my research by concentrating upon the Sudan; a country where chronic malnutrition is a widespread phenomenon as demonstrated by the fact that out of a population of approximately 33 million people around 90% of the country suffers from poverty and food insecurity, according to the Food and Agricultural Organization.

The factors that directly cause or contribute to malnourishment among the Sudanese population are complex, highly varied and widespread. The first particular issue I would like to focus upon is environmental degradation, which appears to be a major contributing factor to food insecurity and the subsequent malnutrition that results from an insufficient and unvaried diet.

Degradation of land in the Sudan has resulted partly from naturally occurring phenomenon, namely consequences of global climate change such as frequent droughts stimulated by changes in rainfall patterns. However, I would like to focus on the man-induced environmental deterioration that has greatly contributed to the steadily declining per annum agricultural output.

One significant problem is that growing populations (2.143% growth rate per annum[1]) have led to the expansion of both arable and pastoral farming practices. However, the landmass available for these industries remains fixed. As a result farmers have been forced into unsustainable practices that have had a vast array of consequences, most damaging of which is desertification.

Desertification is estimated to have spread the Sahel region in the Sudan southwards by around 100km over the past four decades,[2] encroaching upon and transforming previously agricultural land into desert. As desertification spreads it limits and even reduces agricultural output because land becomes either uncultivable or its productive capacity is greatly limited.


Author: Willem Van Cotthem

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

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