Experts advise world policies to cope with causes, rising consequences of creeping desertification

d animal worlds; and

  • Diminish the health risk posed by a massive continental-sized haze that impacts Africa and India.

Dr Lal says that by modestly improving soil quality in developing countries, an extra 20-30 million metric tons of food per year could be produced enough to feed the number of people being added to their populations annually at a cost of less than $2 billion per year, about the price of a single modern jet fighter.

Karl Harmsen, Director of UNU's Ghana-based Institute for Natural Resources in Africa, notes estimates that Africa may be able to feed just 25% of its population by 2025 if the decline in soil conditions continues on the continent.

"UNU-INRA was created in part to help address the potential soil fertility catastrophe on the African continent but the problem demands a much greater level of effort from the international community than that underway. It is a critical part of the answer to creeping desertification and world hunger."

Environment-related migrants now outnumber political refugees

While desertification is a truly global issue (for example, desert dust affects the health of people even continents away), it is estimated to directly affect some 10 to 20% of dryland regions, where population pressure is increasing and where renewable water supplies are limited, says Dr. Adeel of UNU-INWEH.

Over 2 billion people living in hyper-arid, arid, semi-arid and subhumid regions are extremely vulnerable to the loss of ecosystem services, including water supply, he says. According to research:

  • Drylands make up 41% of Earth's land cover and about 35% of world population resides in drylands;

  • 10 to 20% of drylands are already degraded, affecting nearly 200 million people;

  • Pressure is increasing on dryland ecosystems for food and water;

  • Droughts are becoming more frequent and climate cha

Contact: Terry Collins
United Nations University

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