Much of China’s tree cover gains consist of low-height, sparse and/or scattered plantations


Photo credit: Science Daily

Shrubs and trees in China’s western deserts are shown.
Credit: Xu Jianchu

New look at satellite data questions scale of China’s afforestation success

May 3, 2017
World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF)
China has invested massive resources into halting and reversing tree cover loss. However, ‘planting trees is not the same as gaining forests.’ It is likely that much of China’s tree cover gains consist of low-height, sparse and/or scattered plantations, which are unlikely to provide the same benefits as natural forests, such as diverse habitats for wildlife, prevention of soil erosion, and timber resources.

Read the full article: Science Daily


Photo credit: Foodtank


Trials and Tips for Southwest Gardening

The Spruce Park Community Garden adapts to scarce water resources in an arid and urban environment. Located in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the community faces fines of US$20 to US$2,000 for wasting water, enforced by patrolling water cops. Spruce Park serves as an example for local growers by employing specialized landscaping and garden techniques to stretch water resources while boosting productivity.

The garden sprouted from an empty lot near the heart of Albuquerque. Margaret Ménache is the Facilitator and Juliane Bohan is the property owner, and both are Master Gardeners. As Margaret explains, “In starting the garden [the founders] wanted it to help build a sense of community within the neighborhood and to introduce neighborhood kids to food plants and how they grow.”

To conserve water, landscapers employ a style called xeriscaping that requires little to no irrigation or maintenance. Xeriscapers commonly use gravel and local plants, adapted to an arid environment, such as lavender bushes, rosemary, desert willow, and purple smoketrees. New Mexico State University’s Southwest Yard and Garden Plant Advisor includes a database of hundreds of plants ideal for xeriscaping in this region. Spruce Park gardeners grow locally adapted crops like chili peppers and desert herbs.

The original garden soil is sandy loam, common in the region but poor at retaining water. The garden uses drip irrigation hoses to slowly deliver water so roots can soak up more. Water retention is increased by using compost to promote symbiotic fungal growth in plant root systems. Mulch helps reduce evaporation. Unfortunately, the city of Albuquerque currently has no water program to encourage community gardens, but the County does provide a rebate for water barrels.

Compost is important for holding water, lowering fertilizer use, and providing nutrients to the soil, which is often poor quality in the Southwest. Composting needs the right amount of moisture to work effectively. In a desert environment, the Bernalillo County Master Composters recommendperiodic soaks, keeping the material in the shade, and using a container with few air holes to keep the moisture up while conserving water.

Read the full story: Foodtank


Desertification and Canada


Photo credit: Huffington Post

(Photo: UNCCD)

How Canada Is Taking Action To Combat Desertification

This Earth Day, we invite you to take your children outside, into nature, to strengthen their connection with the environment. It is the best way to motivate them to protect it.

The effects of climate change are not always obvious to us. Yet, they are undeniable. It is easier to see the harmful effects in parts of the world with very different geography from Canada: the arid lands, where three billion people live.

Such areas are extremely vulnerable to desertification, land degradation and drought–phenomena exacerbated by climate change.

Too often the people who live in these areas, particularly small-scale farmers, are seeing their means of subsistence threatened and their families overwhelmed by water, food and energy shortages. When these shortages go on long enough, they escalate into greater crises: famines, armed conflicts and forced migrations.

In sub-Saharan Africa, an estimated 75 per cent of the land is degraded and 10 million hectares becomes so every year. For farmers, this represents lost income of more than $4 billion annually. For woman farmers it’s even worse, because women often have access only to less fertile land. They also receive less training and financial aid.

Like poverty, desertification affects women and girls disproportionately. Twice as many women and girls suffer from malnutrition as men and boys. Women and girls spend an enormous amount of time providing their families with water: in sub-Saharan Africa, 40 million hours every day. And when conflicts break out, they are more affected by violence and lack of security.

In the next few decades, desertification could create as many as 135 million climate refugees. By 2050, water shortages will affect 52 per cent of the world’s people.

Read the full article: Huffington Post



PHOTO CREDIT: National Geographic

China’s ‘Great Green Wall’ Fights Expanding Desert

Throughout the past 40 years, the Earth has lost a third of its arable land to erosion and degradation. China’s efforts to fight the problem have seen mixed results.




China has been battling large-scale desertification since at least the 1950s, when the young People’s Republic went on a nation-building spree, razing farm and wild lands to build cities and create infrastructure to accommodate a growing population. Such human activity left much of the land unprotected against wind erosion and deposition from the surrounding deserts.


“[It’s like what the] American farmer did to cause the Dust Bowl in the 1930s,” says Xian Xue, a leading expert on aeolian desertification in China and professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.


In a big move to address the problem, in 1978, the Chinese government implemented the Three-North Shelterbelt Project, a national ecological engineering effort that called for the planting of millions of trees along the 2,800-mile border of northern China’s encroaching desert, while increasing the world’s forest by 10 percent. Also known as the “Great Green Wall,” the project’s end date isn’t until 2050; so far, more than 66 billion trees have been planted.


However, some say the Great Green Wall hasn’t been the perfect solution.

Read the full story: National Geographic

Subtropical dry areas are going to expand over large parts of the Earth as the climate warms.


Photo credit: Climate Home

As subtropical drylands expand, trees and food crops will struggle (Pic: Ollivier Girard/Center fo… via @ClimateHomeDryland expansion to hit food crops as planet warms

Dryland expansion to hit food crops as planet warms

Studies warn climate change will bring faster warming to subtropical dry areas, making crops like wheat and potatoes unviable

By Santosh Koirala

In what may be good news only for cactus, termites and drought-resistant grasses, subtropical dry areas are going to expand over large parts of the Earth as the climate warms.

This will seriously reduce the amount of land that can be used to grow crops for human consumption and prevent many deeper-rooted shrubs and trees from growing at all.

This latest finding in Nature Communications overturns received wisdom that deep-rooted woody plants would survive better in subtropical dry areas because they would be able to extract moisture from far below ground.

Scientists discovered that these deep soils dried out and stayed dry for longer periods because the moisture from the rains evaporated or was used by shallow-rooted plants before it could percolate down to the subsoil.

Groups of scientists studied vast areas of land in North and South America, Asia, Southern Africa and the Western Mediterranean basin. They found that temperate drylands reduced in size by about one-third but only because they morphed into subtropical drylands as temperature rose. Absence of frost from temperate drylands enabled subtropical plants and insects to invade them.

Read the full article: Climate Change News

Lake Tchad: a forgotten crisis (In French)


Photo credit: Ritimo

Vue aérienne de la région du Lac où les activités de pêche, d’agriculture et commerce sont fortement perturbées par la crise Nigériane. Crédit OCHA C. BIRCH (2)

Le lac Tchad : une crise oubliée

Le drame de l’assèchement du lac Tchad est méconnu, pourtant il menace directement la survie de millions de personnes. Ainsi, la dégradation écologique dans le bassin du Tchad a déclenché la dernière crise humanitaire d’Afrique.

L’année dernière, quand le Nigeria a déclaré une urgence alimentaire à Borno, signalant une insécurité nutritionnelle aiguë dans l’état et a indiqué que la région perdait 80 enfants tous les jours, il a attiré l’attention du monde entier. Plus d’une douzaine d’organisations humanitaires travaillant en Afrique de l’Ouest ont publié une déclaration conjointe, affirmant que le conflit en cours avec le groupe militant djihadiste Boko Haram a fait croître le nombre de personnes confrontées à une famine sévère dans la région à plus de 6 millions. En janvier de cette année, le Coordonnateur des secours d’urgence de l’ONU, Stephen O’Brien, a informé le Conseil de sécurité : « La crise humanitaire dans le nord-est du Nigéria et dans certaines parties du Cameroun, du Tchad et du Niger, déclenchée par la campagne horrible, violente et inhumaine de Boko Haram, s’accroît. “L’ONU a depuis révisé son appel et a appelé à plus de fonds pour une aide humanitaire et salvatrice dans la région, également connue sous le nom de bassin du Tchad. Les organisations internationales ont également élargi leur réponse pour assurer la sécurité alimentaire, réduire la malnutrition et fournir un refuge aux réfugiés et aux personnes déplacées à l’intérieur de la région.

Alors que presque toutes les discussions semblent tourner autour de la crise immédiate, l’urgence humanitaire qui se déroule dans le bassin est en marche depuis des décennies. “le récent conflit civil armé et ses conséquences sécuritaires ne font qu’ exacerber de manière significative les problèmes de nutrition et d’alimentation régionaux préexistants”, déclare un rapport du Programme mondial de l’alimentation (PAM) publié en 2016. “Bien que les menaces à la sécurité soient des éléments indéniables de la crise, les récents articles et rapports (sic) sur la situation d’urgence régionale alarmante attribuant la crise aux activités de Boko Haram, risquent de simplifier trop grossièrement les problèmes socio-écologiques étroitement liés qui ont conduit à l’insurrection dans le bassin “, dit-il.

Read the full article / Lisez l’article entier: RITIMO

Food Insecurity and Urban Growth in Africa


Photo credit: Foodtank

Food Insecurity a Pressing Issue Amidst Urban Growth in Africa

According to the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), more people are relocating to African cities from rural areas than ever before. UN-Habitat reports that “the global share of African urban dwellers is projected to rise from 11.3 percent in 2010 to 20.2 percent by 2050.” A new study by Dr. Takemore Chagomaka entitled “Food and Nutrition Insecurity Mapping (FNIRM) in Urban and Periurban Areas in West African Cities” seeks to “understand and map the dynamics of household food and nutrition insecurity in urban, periurban and rural settings.” Chagomaka, lead author of the study, conducted the research in two growing sub-Saharan African cities.

While the study draws some broad conclusions across the two localities, such as finding that households that grow crops and keep livestock tend to be more food secure than those that do not, the study highlights far more distinctions. Future policy to effectively address food insecurity will have to take into account each locality’s unique aspects.

The study examined two sub-Saharan African cities and their surrounding areas: Tamale, Ghana, and Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. For each locality, the area was transected into four sections and then divided into three zones. Using the city market as the center point, urban zones were defined as those within 10 km of the center; periurban zones were within 10 km to 40 km of the center; and rural zones between 40 km and 70 km from the center. Researchers surveyed a total of 240 households in each area through questionnaire and interviews, with questions focused on production, access, and consumption of crops and livestock, as well as food coping strategies. Additionally, researchers took anthropomorphic metrics of children under five years present in the household.

Read the full article: Food Tank