Thursday, November 28, 2019

Desertification In Ghana Essays - Environmental Soil Science

Desertification In Ghana What exactly is desertification? Unfortunately, there are many responses and many contradicting definitions. Some say that it is permanent, others say it is a reversible process. There are even debates on whether the definition should include human involvement or not. It seems that all that can be agreed on is that it is "the most serious environmental problem facing Africa today" (Nsiah-Gyabaah, Kwasi. Environmental Degradation and Desertification in Ghana pg 27). At the United Nations Conference on Environment and Developments (Earth Summit, 1992) desertification was defined as "land degradation in arid, semi-arid and dry semi-humid areas, resulting from various factors, including climate variations and human activities" ("Desertification," Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential (S J0180). www.uia.org/uniademo/str/j0180.htm). When pondering the terms'desertification' or 'desertified land' our culture forms mental images of large dunes with sand slowing moving over them like in an ocean. Perhaps a camel or two, baking in the sun. This romanticized idea is far from what scientists call desertification. In real life desertification looks like an area of hard and cracked earth with sand blowing above. In this scene you are more likely to see a nomad with emaciated cattle wandering the deserted plane in search of something to eat. Not too romantic, huh? Desertification is more the "destruction of the biological potential of the land or the creation of desert-like conditions in previously productive areas" (Nsiah-Gyabaah, 28). There are many reasons for desertification. The two most substantial are the recent droughts in Africa and humans trying to sustain themselves on marginal lands (Glantz, Michael H. Drought Follows the Plow pg 35). More specifically, the reasons for desertification and land degradation include "climate changes, overgrazing, over-cropping, deforestation, and over-exploited water" (Mainguet, Monique Desertification pg 66). Although it is hard to say exactly how much area has already been turned to desert, there is a basic consensus among most scholars that estimates somewhere around 60 percent of the world and between 65 and 73 percent in Africa alone (Nsiah-Gyabaah, 3) (Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential. www.uia.org/uiademo/str/j0180.htm). Some places are worse than others are, for instance Ghana's forests have been degraded into savanna, and the savanna areas are fast turning to deserts. The invasion of desert through over-cultivation, forest clearing, and overgrazing has been worsened by extreme changes in climate of West Africa since the recent severe persistent drought (Nsiah-Gyabaah, 10). Most people do not know this, but desertification has been around since the Mediaeval period, perhaps even farther back in history (Middleton, Thomas Desertification: Exploding the Myth pg 2). It did not receive very much public interest, however, until a series of droughts plagued the West African Sahel between the years 1968 and 1974. This drought caused a widespread famine, killing approximately 100,000 to 200,000 people and about 12 million cattle (Glantz, 35). What are people doing to cope with losing their land, homes and jobs? It all depends on how much of the farmland they can salvage. If they are still able to grow some crops on it then they can switch to substitute foods (tree fruits) and share what they can grow between houses. If there is little or nothing that can be saved, the situation changes into that of the Dust Bowl. These people sell whatever livestock and possessions they have left and perhaps migrate to other areas to farm or try to sell themselves as labor (Nsiah-Gyabaah, 162). There are general ways to fix desertification as well. These involve either modifying each individual's farming methods or massive restoration efforts that would have to be coordinated and funded by the government. One way that the government could help rectify the situation is fairly simple and cost efficient. The theory is based on the idea that people would be more concerned with the negative effects on the land if they owned the land themselves and got something from it. Because of local interest in certain areas, some countries are considering land title registration (Nsiah-Gyabaah, 171). There are also two major undertakings that a government can try in order to not only prevent and slow, but to actually restore pastoral areas and eventually farming areas that are currently desert. They are natural and artificial recovery. "Natural recovery may be obtained by exclusion of human influence: neither people nor cattle can penetrate the fenced area" (Mainguet, 209). Some examples of where natural recovery has worked are Southern Tunisia and Iran. "Natural recovery can work in poor soil, coarse sandy soils, saline soils, even with rainfall lower than 80 mm" (Mainguet, 204). Natural recovery does have drawbacks though. First of

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