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Combating Desertification in Africa Imperative for Security

The effects of desertification are widespread and growing worse, contributing to heightened resource competition, conflict, and hunger.

Desertification Management in Tinfu, Morocco

Desertification management in Tinfu, Morocco. Photo: Richard Allaway.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that by 2030, Africa will lose two-thirds of its arable land if desertification is not stopped. Desertification exacerbates the effects of climatic and political crises in countries where livelihoods and incomes rely on agriculture. Sixty-five percent of Africa’s labor force works in the agricultural sector.

Studies on the desertification of the Sahel and its impact on the livelihoods of people living in the region show that the problem is widespread and getting worse. A region covering parts of Ethiopia, Somalia, and Kenya is now into its third year of drought which has severely impeded any attempts at recovery and left 12.8 million people food insecure and vulnerable to outbreaks of disease. Southern Africa, too, is in the middle of a 50-year-long drying trend as a result of substantial warming of the Indian Ocean. The UN predicts that in 2017, almost 15 million Southern Africans will be seriously affected by drought.

While most famine in Africa is a result of conflict, experts predict that food and water shortages caused by climate change will exacerbate resource competition and state failure, which in turn will perpetuate the cycle of hunger and violence.

Africa Center Experts

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