Desertification: 20 year old publication

Photo credit: WVC 1998-02

Niamey, Niger – Reforestation project “Friendship Wood” 1997

Desertification – a threat to the Sahel


Desertification is a man-induced process that leads to soil nutrient depletion and reduction of biological productivity. In the Sahel slashing and burning of natural forest and bushland in order to clear land for annual agriculture is the main cause of this destruction. Farmers continue to degrade their environment in the agricultural zone even after the decimation of perennials. A few months after harvest, farmers cut the millet stalks and burn them leaving their fields exposed to strong winds until the next sowing season. These winds blow away the top soil, uproot seeds and seedlings and suffocate seedlings and plants where soil later accumulates.

Niamey, Niger 1998-02: TC-Dialogue's reforestation project - fruit trees in local school yard (Photo WVC)
Niamey, Niger 1998-02: TC-Dialogue’s reforestation project – fruit trees in local school yard (Photo WVC)

The Director of the National Department of the Environment in Niger said at the Direct Seeding seminar in Zinder that 250,000 hectares are being lost each year in Niger through desertification. This is equivalent to 2,500 km², an area about the same size as Luxembourg. The Department of the Environment, Zinder, explained that firewood destined for Zinder town is collected up to 200 km away.

Many people are concerned about the unsustainable slash-and-burn of rain forests in Brazil and its terrible effects on the local population through soil fertility loss. But few know about the similar destruction in the Sahel even though the consequences are just as dire for the Sahelians. Projects have tried to revegetate the region themselves but it is too vast. It is more appropriate for farmers to revegetate their own land as they are cultivating throughout the Sahel and can cover the area more effectively.

Read the full article: Eden Foundation

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