The Sahara Desert, the world’s largest desert, has been advancing southwards at the rate of about five square kilometres per annum, resulting in the submergence of vegetative lands by sand dunes. Continuous sand storms will eventually subsume the vegetation, rendering the land arid. Without vegetative cover, cloud formation and moisture condensation will be limited and far between. Drought will therefore set in, desert will grow further, and the ambient and surface temperatures will rise. Forty percent of African countries on the fringes of the Sahara Desert are under the threat of drought and desertification.

The Result
  • Prevalence of malnutrition and diseases, leading to higher rates of human (infant and adult) mortality in the desert states caused by the loss of arable and fertile agricultural lands and poor harvests.
  • Increased incidence of poverty among the rural poor as means of livelihoods are lost
  • Desertification and land degradation are the major causes of poverty, hunger, social ills, and loss of bio-diversity, loss of natural resources and loss through death of grazing animals in the desert affected regions in Nigeria.
  • Desertification leads to migration of rural farmers and herdsmen to fertile regions further south of the desert causing conflicts amongst communities competing for farmlands. These conflicts can sometimes lead to clashes and eventual loss of lives and properties. The problem also leads to migration from the rural areas to the urban centres.
  • Within the period of fifteen (15) years, 1960 to 1975, African countries in desert-prone areas have suffered damages from desert encroachment and drought worth US $15 billion.
  • The desert encroaching into our lives in sub-Saharan Africa leads to loss of rivers and lakes due to high levels of saltation and drought, (Lake Chad and River Niger are examples).
The people of the desert

The people of the Sahara desert are traditional Nomads. They include the Touaregs, Bedouin Arabs, the Nubians, Hausas, Fulanis, etc. These people are traditionally animal herdsmen, ever on the move, searching for oasis and fertile grazing grounds in the desert and Sahel regions.

Beyond these natives, there are those of them who decided to stay and cultivate the land. These people live on the fringes of the desert, the Sahel and Savannah regions. Majorly, they practice subsistence farming, with a few going into commercial agriculture. However, these settled farmers suffer the devastating effect of desert encroachment. Inundated by sand dunes, families and sometimes a whole community are dislocated or completely wiped out over years. The people migrate away and into communities where they might not be welcomed or fully integrated, with no lands to farm on. With no other skills, their lives suddenly become miserable. Ultimately,they will either have to re-skill or die from hunger.