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    075500

    Population crisis and desertification in the Sudano-Sahelian region.

    Milas S

    ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION. 1984 Summer; 11(2):167-9.

    People living in the area just south of the Sahara Desert in Africa face their 3rd major drought since 1900. This drought brings about famine. Drought and famine are only manifestations of more profound problems: soil erosion and degradation. They diminish land productivity which aggravates the population's poverty. Yet soil erosion and degradation occur due to an expanding population. Continued pressures on the land and soil degradation results in desertification. The UN Environment Programme's Assessment of the Status and Trend of Desertification shows that between 1978-84 desertification spread. Expanding deserts now endanger 35% of the world's land and 20% of the population. In the thorn bush savanna zone, most people are subsistence farmers or herdsmen and rely on the soils, forests, and rangelands. Even though the mean population density in the Sahel is low, it is overpopulated since people concentrate in areas where water is available. These areas tend to be cities where near or total deforestation has already occurred. Between 1959-84, the population in the Sahel doubled so farmers have extended cultivation into marginal areas which are vulnerable to desertification. The livestock populations have also grown tremendously resulting in overgrazing and deforestation. People must cook their food which involves cutting down trees for fuelwood. Mismanagement of the land is the key cause for desertification, but the growing poor populations have no choice but to eke out an existence on increasingly marginal lands. Long fallow periods would allow the land to regain its fertility, but with the ever-increasing population this is almost impossible. Humans caused desertification. We can improve land use and farming methods to stop it.
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