Africa’s Deserts are in Spectacular Retreat

Africa’s Deserts are in ‘Spectacular’
Retreat

After years of what seemed like irreversible desertification,
the southern Saharan desert is currently in retreat, making the
land viable for farming and raising livestock. A largely unnoticed
trend until now, the greening of the desert from Mauritania to
Eritrea has been happening since the 1980s, writes Fred Pearce in
New Scientist.

Despite new evidence, the process of desertification is often still
viewed as an unstoppable effect caused by declining rainfall and
destructive farming methods. The U.N. Environment Program told the
Johannesburg World Summit in August that more than 45 percent of
Africa was in the grip of desertification, with the southern
Saharan region the worst affected.

Though confusion remains about exactly why this desert is becoming
overcome with greenery, satellite images demonstrate that the
shrinking desert is a bona-fide trend throughout the southern
Saharan. Farmers surveyed in one Saharan region, reported a 70
percent increase in recent sorghum and millet yields. One
explanation posits that the growth is due to increased rainfall
after the droughts of the 1970s and ’80s, as well as farmers
adopting better methods of retaining soil and water on their
land.
–Erica Sagrans
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