Environmental Issues in Africa

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Environmental issues in Africa are caused by anthropogenic effects on the African natural environment and have major impacts on humans and nearly all forms of endemic life. Issues include desertification, problems with access to safe water supply, population explosion and fauna depletion. These issues are ultimately linked to over-population in Africa, as well as on a global scale. Nearly all of Africa's environmental problems are geographically variable and human induced, though not necessarily by Africans.[1]

Desertification[edit]

The large scale falling of trees and the resulting decreases in forest areas are the main environmental challenges of the African Continent. Rampant clearing of the forest goes on for agriculture, settlement and fuel needs. Ninety percent of Africa’s population requires wood to use as fuel for heating and cooking. As a result, forested areas are decreasing daily, as for example, in the region of equatorial evergreen forests. Africa’s desertification rate is twice that of the world’s.

The rate of illegal logging, which is another main cause of deforestation, varies from country to country, such as 50% in Cameroon and 80% in Liberia. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, desertification is primarily caused by the needs of the poor, along with unsupervised logging and mining. In Ethiopia, the main cause is the country’s growing population, which induces an increase in agriculture, livestock production, and fuel wood. Low education and little government intervention also contributes to deforestation. Madagascar’s forest loss is partially caused by citizens using slash-and-burn techniques after independence from the French. Nigeria has the highest rate of deforestation of primary forests, according to the FAO. Deforestation in Nigeria is caused by logging, subsistence agriculture, and the collection of wood for fuel. According to the FAO, deforestation has wiped out nearly 90% of Africa’s forest. West Africa only has 22.8% of its moist forests left, and 81% of Nigeria’s old-growth forests disappeared within 15 years. Deforestation also lowers the chance of rainfall; Ethiopia has experienced famine and droughts because of this. 98% of Ethiopia’s forests have disappeared over the last 50 years. Within 43 years, Kenya’s forest coverage decreased from about 10% to 1.7%. Deforestation in Madagascar has also led to desertification, soil loss, and water source degradation, resulting in the country’s inability to provide necessary resources for its growing population. In the last five years, Nigeria lost nearly half of its primary forests.

Ethiopia’s government, along with organizations like Farm Africa, is starting to take steps to stop excessive deforestation.[2]

Soil degradation[edit]

The erosion caused by rains, rivers and winds as well as over-utilization of soils for agriculture and low use of manures have resulted in turning the soils infertile, as for example, in the plains of the River Nile and the River Orange. A main cause of soil degradation is lack of manufactured fertilizers being used, since African soil lacks organic sources of nutrients. The increase in population has also contributed when people need to crop, as a source of income, but do not take measures to protect the soil,[3] due to low income.[4] The current methods create too much pressure on other environmental aspects, such as forests, and are not sustainable.[5] There are also ecological causes of the poor soil quality. Much of the soil has rocks or clay from volcanic activity. Other causes include erosion, desertification, and deforestation.

Degradation of African soil causes decreased food production, damaging ecological effects, and an overall decrease in the quality of living in Africa.[6] This issue would lessen if fertilizers and other cropping supplies were more affordable and thus used more.[7] The United Nations has commissioned a Global Assessment of Human Induced Soil Degradation (GLASOD) to further investigate the causes and state of the soil. Access to information collected is freely available, and it is hoped that awareness will be raised among politicians in threatened areas.[8]

Air Pollution[edit]

The air in Africa is greatly polluted due to multiple reasons stated below. The primitive method of farming that takes place in most areas in Africa is certainly a causal factor. The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization estimates that 11.3 million hectares of land are being lost annually to agriculture, grazing, uncontrolled burning and fuelwood consumption.[9] Combustion of wood and charcoal are used for cooking [10] and this results to a release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which is a toxic pollutant in the atmosphere [11] Also, due to the poor supply of power, most homes have to rely on fuel and diesel in generators to keep their electricity running.[12]

The World Health Organization reports of the need to intervene when more than one third of the total Disability Adjusted Life Years [13] was lost as a result of exposure to indoor air pollution in Africa.[14] Fuel is needed to power lights at night. The fuel being burned causes great emissions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Because of the increased urbanization in Africa, people are burning more and more fuel and using more vehicles for transportation. The rise in vehicle emissions and the trend towards greater industrialization means the urban air quality in the continent is worsening. In many countries, the use of leaded gasoline is still widespread, and vehicle emission controls are nonexistent. Indoor air pollution is widespread, mostly from the burning of coal in the kitchen for cooking.[15] Household coal and wood burning for cooking inside the house causes indoor pollution.[16] Compounds released from fuel stations and nitrogen and hydrocarbon released from airports cause air pollution. Carbon dioxide other greenhouse gases in the air causes an increase of people with respiratory issues.[17]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Duncan, B.N. , West J.J., Yoshlda, Y. , Flore, A.M. , & Zlemke, J.R. (2008). The influence of European pollution on ozone in the Near East and northern Africa. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Discussions. 8, 1913-1950. Retrieved from http://www.atmos-chem-phys-discuss.net/8/1913/2008/acpd-8-1913-2008.pdf
  2. ^ "Deforestation by Region". Wikimedia Foundation. Retrieved 15 May 2013. 
  3. ^ "IFA : International Fertilizer Industry Association - Soil Degradation in Africa / SUSTAINABILITY / HomePage / IFA". http://www.fertilizer.org/ifa/HomePage/SUSTAINABILITY/Soil-degradation-in-Africa. IFA. Retrieved 15 May 2013. 
  4. ^ "Land and Environmental Degradation and Desertification in Africa". Land and Environmental Degradation and Desertification in Africa. FAO. Retrieved 15 May 2013. 
  5. ^ "IFA : International Fertilizer Industry Association - Soil Degradation in Africa / SUSTAINABILITY / HomePage / IFA". http://www.fertilizer.org/ifa/HomePage/SUSTAINABILITY/Soil-degradation-in-Africa. IFA. Retrieved 15 May 2013. 
  6. ^ "Land and Environmental Degradation and Desertification in Africa". Land and Environmental Degradation and Desertification in Africa. FAO. Retrieved 15 May 2013. 
  7. ^ "IFA : International Fertilizer Industry Association - Soil Degradation in Africa / SUSTAINABILITY / HomePage / IFA". http://www.fertilizer.org/ifa/HomePage/SUSTAINABILITY/Soil-degradation-in-Africa. IFA. Retrieved 15 May 2013. 
  8. ^ "Soil Degradation". Goodplanet.info. Retrieved 15 May 2013. 
  9. ^ Lanly, J.P. (1982) Tropical Forest Resources. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Rome, Italy: United Nations. Retrieved from http://www.fao.org/docrep/015/an778e/an778e00.pdf
  10. ^ Wood, T.S. & Baldwin, S. (1985). Fuelwood and charcoal use in developing countries. Annual Review of Energy, 10, 407-429. Retrieved from http://www.annualreviews.org/doi/pdf/10.1146/annurev.eg.10.110185.002203
  11. ^ Jacobson, M.Z (2008). On the causal link between carbon dioxide and air pollution mortality, 35, L03809, 1-5. doi:10.1029/2007GL031101
  12. ^ World Health Organization (2013). Regional burden of disease due to indoor air pollution. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/indoorair/health_impacts/burden_regional/en/
  13. ^ World Health Organization (2013). Mental Health - DALYs/YLDs definition. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/mental_health/management/depression/daly/en/
  14. ^ World Health Organization (2013). Regional burden of disease due to indoor air pollution. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/indoorair/health_impacts/burden_regional/en/
  15. ^ "Air Quality in Africa". Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved 15 May 2013. 
  16. ^ Victor, Otti, Nwajuaku, and Ejikeme. "The Effects of Environmental Air Pollution in Nigeria" (PDF). VSD International Journal of Mechanical, Automobile, and Production Engineering. Retrieved 15 May 2013. 
  17. ^ Scorgie, Yvanne. "Air Quality and Regulation". NACA. Retrieved 15 May 2013.