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UN Chronicle. 1984 Mar; 21: p..Africa, the Assembly pointed out, contains three quarters of the countries designated as "least developed" and 50 per cent of the world's land-locked nations. There vulnerable States suffer particularly from the effects of the crises, which touch all sectors of the economy--especially food production and agriculture, the backbone of these primarily rural societies. Drought has swept through the savannas, deserts and coastlines of all parts of Africa. Food shortages are rampant throughout at least half of all African countries, affecting millions of Africans. Hundreds of thousands of cattle have died from lack of feed and epidemics of cattle plague. Rivers and streams have vanished and wells have dried up. At least 150 million persons are faced with starvation in the 24 most seriously affected countries: Angola, Benin, Botswana, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Lesotho, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Somalia, Swaziland, Togo, United Republic of Tanzania, Upper Volta, Zambia and Zimbabwe. (excerpt)
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.