- Where is the Sahel located in Africa and how is it characterized in terms of climate and vegetation?
- Why is desertification taking place in the Sahel? What human activities have made the problem worse?
- Describe these activities and explain why they are happening.
- What is being done about desertification in the Sahel and how successful have the efforts been to stop desertification? Will the problem be easily solved—why or why not?
- What effects has desertification had on the people of the Sahel?
- What effects has desertification had on the environment?
The Sahel region is a zone of transition between the Sahara Desert and Sudanian Savanna, spans 5400 km, with a width of up to 1000 km. It includes parts of these countries: Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Algeria, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Sudan and Eritrea. Sahel is a semi-arid zone characterized by long dry periods, a short rainfall period and high temperatures. The area is mostly covered in grassland and savanna, with some areas of woodland.
The main reasons for the Sahel's desertification include human activities (over-grazing, over-farming, over-population) and natural soil erosion. Due to climate change, variable rainfall and extreme heat, food production has been erratic. More importantly, human intervention has been a major cause of desertification. The population growth rate in the Sahel is about 3%, compared to the 2% growth rate of food. Poverty in the region leads to the use of wood as fuel. The wood causes deforestation which in turn causes further soil erosion, worsened by over-grazing and poor farming techniques. Another issue is the political instability and resultant migration of people in the Sahel region.
Steps are being taken to control the desertification by providing a great green wall, consisting of a vegetation belt all along the border of the Sahel. Another key step is non-governmental-organizations working at the local level to implement conservative agriculture practices, thereby preserving the top soil.The problem can definitely be solved by concerted efforts at international, national and local levels. A big deterrent has been the political instability of the region.
Desertification has caused the loss of top soil and natural fertility, increased occurrences of sand storms and erratic rainfall. Consequently the human population has suffered the loss of fertile land, decreased food productivity and droughts.