The role of drought bears special mention. The threat of drought constantly looms over dryland agriculture. Drought depletes vegetative cover and may lead to human actions, such as overgrazing and the expansion of farmlands, that propel drylands more rapidly towards a desertlike condition. Increasing agricultural pressure on the land due to population growth also aggravates this downward spiral (Akhtar-Schuster et al. 2000).
But where does drought leave off, and climate change begin? Drought is a natural cycle of stress and renewal inherent to these regions (Breman and Wit 1983; Niemeijer and Mazzucato 2002; Rasmussen et al. 2001; Tiffen and Mortimore 2002). At what point should long-duration drought be reclassified as climate change, and its land-degrading consequences be included within the umbrella of desertification (Hulme 2001; Humphreys and Carr 2001; Norton-Griffiths and Rydén 1989)? Global warming may be the reason why droughts are becoming more frequent in some areas such as East Africa.
But these may be academic issues as far as the dryland poor and hungry are concerned. Drought and desertification are an intertwined nemesis in their daily lives. This is why the DDPA tackles them in an integrated, holistic way.
Return to "What Causes Desertification?"
References Akhtar-Schuster, M., Kirk, M., Gerstengarbe, F.-W., and Werner, P. C. 2000. Causes and impacts of the declining resources in the Eastern Sahel. Desertification Control Bulletin 36:42-49.
Breman, H. and Wit, C. T. 1983. Rangeland productivity and exploitation in the Sahel. Science 221:1341-46.
Hulme, M. 2001. Climatic perspectives on Sahelian desiccation: 1973-1998. Global Environmental Change 11:19-29.
Humphreys, D. and Carr, S. 2001. Land degradation and sustainable resource management in an African context. Pp. 23-38 in Thomas, A., Carr, S. and Humphreys, D. (eds.) Environmental policies and NGO influence: land degradation and sustainable resource management in sub-Saharan Africa. London: Routledge.
Niemeijer, D. and Mazzucato, V. 2002a. Soil degradation in the West African Sahel: how serious is it? Environment 44:20-31.
Norton-Griffiths, M. and Rydén, P. 1989 (eds.) The IUCN Sahel Studies 1989. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN-The World Conservation Union.
Rasmussen, K., Fog, B., Madsen, J. E. 2001. Desertification in reverse? Observations from northern Burkina Faso. Global Environmental Change 11:271-282.
Tiffen, M. and Mortimore, M. 2002. Questioning desertification in dryland sub-Saharan Africa. Natural Resources Forum 26:218-233.