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Desertification, explained

Find out about what desertification is and how you can support us to combat it.

For people living in the Sahel that rely on farmland for their food and income, desertification is making it harder to grow crops, and poverty is increasing. But trees provide a solution.  

What is desertification?

The effects of the climate crisis, overuse of the land, and clearing of forests for farms — known as deforestation — are causing Africa's fertile land to rapidly turn to desert. This degradation of dryland areas is known as desertification. 

Without trees to stabilise the soil, store water, and protect the land, droughts, and floods are becoming more frequent and severe. Soil that was once rich in nutrients is no longer able to support life — this is referred to as land degradation.

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    hectares of land are lost to desertification globally each year

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    people are vulnerable to desertification in in Africa's drylands

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    hectares of forest landscapes are already degraded in Africa

Community members digging zai pits in the land - these help to conserve water and nutrients in the soil.

How is Tree Aid helping?

Every year, we work with local people to grow millions of trees across Africa's drylands. These trees help to stabilise the soil, improve its fertility, and protect the land from droughts and floods. They also absorb carbon dioxide, a leading cause of the climate crisis.

We also support farmers to learn sustainable land management methods like digging zai pits — holes filled with compost that conserve water and nutrients. This training helps communities to restore degraded land today, and protect the land for tomorrow.

Tree Aid's contribution in 2018/19

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    hectares of land protected and restored

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    trees grown in Africa's drylands

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    people vulnerable to desertification supported

Kazigu, a lead farmer on a Tree Aid project and chief of the village, smiling in front of trees.

“The environment is growing hotter and hotter because there is degradation of the environment. But the Grow Hope project has come to help us halt desertification in this area. And if we really embrace it, the area will be green again.” Kazigu, Paga, Ghana

Read more about the project

A wall to stop the desert

Tree Aid is partnered with the UN Convention to Combat Desertification in support of the Great Green Wall initiative — an African-led movement aiming to grow an 8,000km natural wonder across the width of Africa. The movement is “a symbol of hope in the face of one of the biggest challenges of our time — desertification.” 

We are growing one tree every 19 seconds for the Great Green Wall, providing futures for millions of people whose lives are threatened by desertification.