Defending land against desertification and drought
What do you think of when you hear the word ‘desertification’?

Before I started working in the field of forest restoration, I imagined it meant the spread of existing deserts like the Sahara. In fact, it’s something far more serious. 

Desertification happens when – usually either by human activity or climate changes – ecosystems in already dry areas become degraded. Land in dry climates is extremely vulnerable to overexploitation and inappropriate use, as it is often an essential support to families living in harsh conditions. Deforestation, overgrazing and bad irrigation reduce the productivity of the soil, which leads to desertification. So it’s not just the spread of existing deserts – it is creating new ones and devastating the families that live there.

In northern Ethiopia, our restoration projects are a defence against desertification and drought. As well as growing trees, our activities in Tigray involve the building of hundreds of thousands of microbasins and mini dams. These help reduce surface runoff and increase soil infiltration and water availability. Not only will they improve access to water for local communities, they’ll also help our tree seedlings to establish and thrive. 

To date, the work has:

  • improved access to water for around 250 households that live far from rivers or springs (based on estimated annual water requirements);  
  • saved approximately 20 515 m³ of soil from erosion – enough to fill more than 8 Olympic-size swimming pools!

Watch how the communities make the microbasins in the video above. 

Find out more about Desertification and Drought Day 2021 here.


Below: a well-prepared planting site showing different soil and water conservation structures. @ ANM, WeForest