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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.
The state of the environment 1985. Environmental aspects of emerging agricultural technologies. Population and the environment.
Nairobi, Kenya, UNEP, 1984. , vi, 43 p.World production of food crops has basically increased from 1945-1985 due to the emergence of agricultural technologies such as petroleum- based chemical fertilizers and pesticides, efficient and sophisticated farm equipment, hybridization, and, recently, genetic engineering. However, only developed countries and a few developing countries, for example India, have experienced this growth. Social, economic, environmental, and political factors such as inequitable access to resources have prevented this phenomenon from occurring in developing countries where the people often experience famine and malnutrition. Nevertheless the technical path which lead to high food crop yields cannot always be adapted by many poor farmers and landless laborers in developing countries. Further, this path is energy intensive and destroys the environment. To increase production in developing countries, the governments must encourage environmentally sound agricultural development, such as integrated pest management and minimum tillage. Despite any attempts at increasing food production in these countries, however, rapid population growth hampers any increases. As population grows, the availability of fertile, tillable land for food crops decreases. In addition, soil degradation and deforestation occur because more trees and plants are cleared to grow crops and, immediately following harvest, a new set of crops are grown quickly thereby depleting the topsoil and its nutrients. Further, people gather more wood for cooking. These governments, with cooperation and aid from developed countries and international agencies, need to address a multitude of problems such as poverty, population growth, environmental degradation, and women's status, in order to bring food production, the status of the environment, and population growth into balance.