Land degradation can affect human health through complex pathways1.As land is degraded and in some places deserts expand, food production isreduced, water sources dry up and populations are pressured to move to morehospitable areas. The potential impacts of desertification on health include:· higher threats of malnutrition fromreduced food and water supplies· more water- and food-borne diseasesthat result from poor hygiene and a lack of clean water· respiratory diseases caused byatmospheric dust from wind erosion and other air pollutants· the spread of infectious diseases aspopulations migrateLast but not least, it is worth mentioning that thereare many off-site effects related to soil and land degradation.
For example,dust storms or eroded sediment cause problems such as damage by mudflows,siltation of dams, or pollution of drinking water in downwind or downstreamareas. SSA – THE MOST AFFECTED AREAIt is worth noticing that nutrientdepletion as a form of land degradation has a severe economic impact at theglobal scale, especially in SSA. The economic impact of land degradation isextremely severe in densely populated SSA2.Land degradation currently leads to the loss of an average of more than 3percent annually of agriculture Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the SSA region.
Theextent and rate of soil degradation in SSA is still under debate. Nevertheless,certain soils are losing their ability to provide food and essential ecosystemservices, and we know that soil fertility depletion is the primary cause3.An estimated 83% of Sub-Saharan Africans are dependent on the land for their livelihoods, yet 40% of Africa’s land resources are currently degraded4.
In many African countries land degradation is higher than65%. Land degradation erodes the productivity of farming systems, thereby reducing incomes and food security. Land degradationreduces the resilience of ecosystems and populations particularly in the faceof climate change. It also has negative impacts on populations atnational/regional level (by reducing the capacity of landto support economic development and negatively affecting the climate and watercycle and ecosystem services), and at global level (greenhouse gases emissionsand climate change, biodiversity loss) potentially driving increased poverty,hunger, unemployment, forced migration and conflict.According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO),agricultural production in SSA is falling by 3% a year as a result of land degradation5, with potentially disastrous implications for sustainabledevelopment. This provides a strong justification forgovernments to pro-actively mitigate the impacts of land degradation. InEthiopia, GDP loss from reduced agricultural productivity is estimated at USD130 million per year.
In Uganda land degradation in the dry lands threatens to wreck havoc on the country’s economy andescalate poverty. This is because these drylands constitute the Uganda cattlecorridor, which accounts for over 90% of the national cattleherd and livestock production contributes 7.5% to the GDP and 17% to the agricultural GDP”6. The UnitedNations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) points out that landdegradation is intricately linked to poverty and that addressing this problemrequires the participation of the resource users and, where appropriate, providing them with alternative livelihood options7..