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AFRICA UNDERLYING CAUSES

Major Environmental Concerns  More

[ Land | Forest | Biodiversity | Water | Marine & Coastal Environments | Urban & Industrial Environments ]

 

Underlying Causes

[ Social | Economic | Institutional | Environmental ]

 

Environmental deterioration in Africa is intricately linked to poor economic performance and poverty. The chain of dependencies is all too familiar: rapid population growth and poverty accelerate deforestation and the expansion of agriculture into marginal areas, leading in turn to land degradation, which exacerbates food insecurity, loss of biodiversity, decline in water quality, and decrease in health status (UNEP, 1995).

Taken in isolation, any one link in the chain is neither entirely irrational nor perverse. Large families, for example, ensure an adequate labour force to cope with increasing time costs for gathering fuel and water, clearing of new land, or moving herds farther afield in the dry season (World Bank, 1995). Clearing a patch of forest and selling the timber to buy improved agricultural technology may be the most sustainable form of conversion in that situation.

The largest unknowns in the equations of environmental degradation are not the states and magnitudes but the relative importance of the driving forces and what actually drives what. Such knowledge would allow progress beyond the usual truisms and tautologies-for example, that economic development is a key to protecting and improving the environment and that growth must be environmentally sustainable to achieve the necessary economic development.

United Nations Environment Programme
United Nations Environment Programme

 

 

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