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Published On: Thu, May 8th, 2014

The impact of desertification

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Desertification remains a serious potential environmental threat to the country’s biodiversity, considering its effects on the country’s flora and fauna. Its cause is surrounded by various factors some of which are avoidable by humans. However, most eminent factors of desertification includes; farming, destruction of trees, climate change, deforestation, drought and overgrazing to name just a few.

Suffice it to say Gambia is endowed with a small land area and a beautiful environment which can be responsibly harnessed to extract raw materials and turn them into finished products for greater economic gains, and the acquisition of important elements for human survival.

In this edition of environment, we wish to outline the imminent consequences of desertification to the nation’s natural heritage, if action is not taken with strict measures and legislation to ensure that unacceptable human activities towards environment are controlled. The edition also seeks to highlight some of the most outstanding causes of desertification, which in general terms are nothing new to the country.

Desertification could be simply defined as the destruction of a vast land mainly dry area, thus degrading it to a virtual desert. It could also be define as the gradual transformation of a thick or habitable land into a virtual desert through unwanted bush burning, overgrazing, cutting down of trees (deforestation) and also the effects of climate change.This action includes the cutting down of tress and unwanted bush burning. It is caused by a variety of factors, such as climate change and human activities. Desertification is a significant global ecological and environmental problem.

As indicated above, this environmental menace is effected by numerous factors and each of these factors if not responsibly addressed can single handedly put the livelihood of human beings under threat, because man cannot live without a protected environment.

The Gambia, as at now might not experience a situation where the effects of desertification put food security under great threat, but places in the North Bank Region, notably areas like Badibou, needs urgent action as greater part of the region’s farming areas are virtually becoming a desert thus putting the Gambia’s natural environment on alert. Therefore, areas of such nature need more and more afforestation (tree planting exercise) in order to avert further environmental degradation and equally dent the ongoing desertification in the area.

Also, destruction of plants in dry areas, burning dry lands and destroying vast lands could have serious effects on the environment, thereby causing desertification. In the same vein cutting down trees on an enormous scale for economic purposes such as; charcoal and firewood collection could both have devastating impacts on the country’s biodiversity. It should therefore be noted that once all these trees are cut down, nothing will be left to protect the soil, thus turning it into mere dust (desert) and eventually unfit for farming.

Overgrazing is another issue that can cause desertification although not as serious as other factors mentioned above. This factor can be simply avoided . For example in the rural Gambia, most of the animals are managed under an extensive system of animal management, thus making it possible for a farmer to move with animals from one place to another. This method has the potential to prevent overgrazing in such areas.

Irresponsible Farming could also cause desertification through clearing of lands and other farming activities. In the Gambia for instance, shifting cultivation could be an outstanding contributing factor to deforestation and eventually desertification if not well practiced, as it allows farmers to clear and cultivate distinct areas of land thus, succumbing it to a virtual desert.

The effects of desertification can be very severe because it can cause not only famine but huge economic loss to humanity. Desertification can cause the top soil to be blown away by wind or washed away by rain, ridding it of its nutrients. This on the other hand allows salt intrusion to eventually take place, making it even harder for plants to grow well. This could seriously undermine the drive towards national food security.

Places that experience severe drought, mainly face famine as a result of lack of rainfall or little rainfall – a condition that can simply downgrade the prospect of food security. This kinds of condition can force people into poverty and poor social wellbeing. Situations of this nature can also be exacerbated by land degradation and reduction in agricultural production.

Source: Daily Observer


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