Is there a link between poverty and desertification?
Ghana is a tropical country in West Africa. Ghana covers an area od 238,000 square kilometres, making it very similar in size to the UK (244,00 sq kilometres). While all parts of hana have a hot tropical climate, the maount of rainfall varies significantly from north to south. Northern Ghana is the driest part of the country, with a dry season that can last up to eight months of the year. The natural vegetation in this dry zone is grassland and savanna woodland. In recent years, huge numbers of trees from these environments have been felled to increase the size of farms or to use as firewood. Most rural people cook using wood or charcoal on open stoves. People in the cities buy wood from the countryside for cooking too. As a conseqence of this damage to the vegetation, soil erosion has beomce a serious issue. Deforestation may evene be contributiing to local climate change by reducing the amount of water that can return back into the atmosphere through evapotranspiration.
How do differences in quality of life affect people in Ghana?
The northern regions of Ghana face severe problems such as poverrty, lack of job opportunities (especailly for women), and a lack of safe drinking water. The region has a harsh climate and farming in an unreliable way of making a living. The lack of decent roads and public transport makes it difficult forn rural families to get to local towns to visit friends, go to the shops, or get medical attention. There is a severe shortge of teachers in the northern regions of Ghana.in rural northern Ghana, the infant mortality rate (IMR) is twice as high as in urban areas in the south. Malaria, acute respiratiry infections, diarrhoea, malnutrition and measles are still the five main causes of death in young children.
Is poor land management the cause of desertification in Ghana?
Farming in the savanna region of Ghana is a mixture of crop growing and animal grazing/ farmers keep goats and cattle for both their milk and meat. Crops are grown using a traditional bush fallow system. Scrub vegetation is removed by slashing and burning. Crops such as maize, root crops and vegetables are grown between one and three years. The land is then abandoned for between eight and fifteen years. This is known as the fallow period. Durig this fallow period, the nautral shrubs grow back. Leaves from te shrubs decompose i the soil, replacing organic fibre and nutrients that have been takne out by farming. This system is sustainable as long as the fallow period remains long enough. However, in some villages the fallow period is now only two to three years. This does not give the soil enough time to recover. It loses its organic content and its structure becomes dusty. This means that the soil is at risk of erosion from both wind and rainfall.
Is commercial farming to blame for desertifcation and food shortages?
In recent years, many European Trans National Companies (TNCs) have either boght or leased land in Africa to grow crops. This means that land is converted from the traditional bush fallow system by large agricultural businesses (known as agri-businesses) that usually grow a single crop in very large fields. Some gri-businesses grow biofuel crops (crops that are then processesed for their natural oils). These oils are then used in biofulels that replace diesel in European cars. One such crop is jatropha. A large number of foreign TNCs, including Argolis (Italy) and ScanFuel (Norway) have been buying or leasing land in Ghana over the last ten years. It is estimated that 5 million hectares (an area the size of Dnemark) is now used for commercial farming by foreign agri-businesses in this way and that as much as 37% of all of Ghana's cropland is now used to grow jatropha. Some see this an important way for Ghana to earn foreign income. In the past, Ghana earned most its income from the export of tropical timbers. This led to a rapid loss of tropical rainforest during the period 1950-1980. Growing commercial crops such as jatrpha shoud be more sustainable.