State of the Environment in Africa
The main objective of the State of Environment in Africa report is to identify and highlight the major environmental issues of concern on the continent and to make recommendations for action. The information presented confirms that the state of the environment in Africa has been (and continues to be) influenced principally by rapid population growth, increasing and chronic poverty and inappropriate development practices, especially agriculture production methods. These factors have led to what has become popularly known as the population-agriculture-environment nexus. Other factors include unfavourable terms of international trade, the debt burden, the impact of drought and other natural disasters, and ineffective development policies. The cumulative impact of the above-mentioned factors on the environment is extensive degradation of land and other natural resources. The issues of concern are many and include: widespread land degradation and desertification; loss of arable and grazing land; declining soil productivity; loss of biodiversity; pollution and depletion of freshwater resources; and deteriorating air quality (especially in urban areas). These have wider implications on food security, sustainable natural resources management, human health and efforts towards poverty eradication. Details of the identified factors and major environmental issues of concern are discussed below. Africa’s large population (estimated at 778.4 million in 1999) and its high rate of growth are exerting pressure on the continent’s natural resources. Per capita arable land has dropped from 0.6 ha/person in 1961 to 0.27 ha/person by 1993. The majority of the people are poor and they depend on natural resources for their livelihoods (i.e. to meet their food, energy, water and other basic needs). Because of their poverty, many farmers are incapable of undertaking intensive agriculture that requires significant inputs or to undertake other soil improvement investments. The only alternative left for them is to use the soil until it is completely degraded. Land degradation is widespread and a major problem throughout Africa. Nearly 500 million hectares are moderately to severely degraded. This is linked to population pressure, as well as inappropriate land uses, poor agricultural production technologies, poor land management and drought. The degradation has given rise to increased desertification, decreasing land productivity and loss of arable land. Approximately 50 per cent of land degradation in Africa is from overgrazing, 24 per cent from activities related to crop production, 14 per cent from vegetation removal and another 13 per cent from over exploitation of the land. A degraded environment produces less food, makes biomass fuel scarcer, reduces ecosystem resilience, and renders people malnourished and more susceptible to diseases.
- Miscellaneous