The Problem

Our climate is changing and so does our land

The Sahel desert is situated between the great Sahara desert and the green heart Africa. It’s surface is more than 3 million square kilometers and over 900 million people are living here. Every year live gets harder for these people because of desertification. Crops are harder to cultivate, livestock is harder to keep and groundwater is running out rapidly.

Estimations from the United Nations state that, if this problem will not be solved, over 50 million climate refugees will be arriving in Europe between now and 7 years. It is expected that one thirth of the African continent will turn into desert within 20 years. These numbers are very alarming. Our climate is changing very fast and the people living in the Sahel are probably hit the hardest by it right now.

The Sahel is turning into desert

Two key-factors are playing a role here. The first one is the fact that the world is getting warmer and the second one is that less rain is falling every year. Because of climate change in some areas of the Sahel rain become very rare thing. Everything living in this area will die out if nothing is done.

The solution to re-green dry areas again and combat desertification in the Sahel is in fact very simple. Many people think desertification is something we can not reverse, but we are convinced that we actually can. To understand the solution we need to know what causes desertification.

What causes desertification?

The main cause of desertification is mismanagement of the land by people. African farmers like to ‘clear’ their land. They do this by removing whatever is laying on the ground. Mainly grasses and bushes. They do this by setting ‘controlled’ fires. Local people chop trees to sell and to use for firewood. Overgrazing by animals is also a common problem in the Sahel. This has been going on for hundreds of years now had has taken its toll.

Nature is unable to reverse desertification by itself

Because of the lack of rain and the constant heat, the layer of topsoil has become incredibly hard. The rain that falls has no chance to penetrate this hard layer. The seeds that are still in the top layer might germinate when it rains, but their roots have no chance in the hard soil. As a result of this hard layer of topsoil, the rain will flow back to the river. And when it flows to the river, the water will take the last bit of fertile topsoil to the river. The land continues to degrade and nature is unable to reverse this proces by itself.