Action for students

Life on the margins:
the inequality of food and nutrition security
PowerPoint presentation by
Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders
Schools Team: Mary Doherty and Severa von Wentzel
January 2014
Distribution of
Action for students: What is the impact on Tradewinds of continentality and
topography on Tradewinds and how does this affect aridity? Drylands mostly occur
because of one or more of the following factors:
Atmospheric stability – Either side of the equator solar heating is greatest. Given global
circulation patters, subtropics are generally warm arid zones where precipitation is scarce
and irregular and which are surrounded by narrow semi-arid regions. Seasonal monsoon
offers relief.
Continentality – rain fails to penetrate deep into across large landmasses deep into the
continent where the distance from marine or other sources of moisture is great (e.g.,
Central Asia)
Topographic effects – Mountain ranges create rain shadows and makes the air laden with
moisture rise so that it does not reach certain regions (e.g., Argentinian drylands)
Cold ocean currents – Cold ocean currents reinforce low rates of sea-surface
evaporation, low precipitation and low temperature range. They flow from the Poles to the
Equator, affecting the western coastal margins of South America, southern Africa (e.g.,
Namib Desert) and Australia
Lower human
well-being in the drylands
According to the Millennium Assessment, the human well-being of
dryland peoples is generally lower than that of people in other
ecological systems (e.g., highest infant mortality rates are highest
in drylands and lowest gross national product (GNP) per capita). By
implication, populations in the drylands experience comparatively
low levels of well-being, among the most acute food insecurity
problems, least technological advancement.
Droughts and desertification threaten the livelihoods and wellbeing of more than 1.2 billion people in 110 countries, the poorest
and most marginalised, who live in vulnerable areas in around 100
countries (e.g., Horn of Africa, Australia, China, Mongolia, Gobi
desert, Aral Sea, The Sahel, Haiti, China, Zimbabwe)
Droughts and loss of land are the main reasons why people
migrate from drylands to others areas.
Source: UN Food Security -; Reviewing the link between desertification and food insecurity; Edexcel 6GE04 Unit 3 Life on the Margins: the food supply problem
Populations in
different dryland subtypes
Population of developing and industrial
countries in different dryland subtypes and
population of industrial countries in each
dryland subtype as percentage of total
global dryland population (CIESIN 2004)
Dryland subtype and socioeconomic status:
Starved for attention
195 millions stories of malnutrition. Rewrite the story.
Do you know where the Sahel is?
The Sahel is the vast stretch of dry land, a semi-arid region on the
Southern fringe of the Sahara desert extending from the Atlantic Ocean to
the West to the Indian ocean in the East. The Sahel is the northern
part of Sub-Saharan Africa along with the Horn of Africa.
Action for students:
1. With your teacher and fellow students, discuss how and what you
should capture in notes as the starting point for your case study on the
Sahel and do so.
2. Watch each of these videos as the starting point for understanding the
difficulties and challenges in the Sahel.
– OCHA Films. Sahel: a crisis of food security and malnutrition
– MSF Malnutrition in the Sahel Strip;
– On the MSF malnutrition page, hover of the photo to find video on treating malnutrition
in Chad
– MSF Starved for attention on poverty among subsistence farmers “A mother’s
Devotion in Burkina Faso”
Image Sahel:
One of the poorest and environmentally most degraded and depleted areas in the
Population density (number of inhabitants per sq km) low in the semi-arid regions of
the Sahel, but only a small part of the Sahel is suitable for ecological and
economically sound agriculture.
Population pressure on the Sahel is increasing and has led to reduced availability of
communal land, low crop yields, the breakdown of the fallow system.
Inconsistent climate with the effect of intermittent drought made worse if they follow
wet periods, which allowed for farming of borderlands crops that then fail during
Variable rainfall: after years of heavy rainfall, years of drought.
Very food insecure region due to a range of geographic, demographic and economic
Food insecurity has been consistently worsening over past decades.
Food shortages and famines have also played a part in outbreaks of conflicts in
Sudan (Darfur).
Source: Lifland, Amy. Starvation in the Sahel
Sahel countries
Action for students: on an outline map of Africa label the
Sahel, Sub-Saharan Africa, (parts of) countries, main cities,
equator, Sahara desert, Sudanian Savannas, Atlantic and Red
Sea. Add a key.
Dryland systems in
the Sahel
Shifting Sahel
The Sahel is the interface between
• Arid desert and lush sub-tropical environments.
• Nomadic herders and settled agriculturists
Climate change is shifting the whole Sahel south, so that the nomads
are pushing south into the settled agricultural lands. This has been a
key issue in Darfur, for example.
The harshness of the environment, lack of resources and the pressures
between nomads and settled agriculture leads to tensions and conflict.
Further info: Article on how the Sahel is defined by its climate:
Food insecurity
factors in the drylands
According to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification
Internal drivers:
Worsening factors:
• High prices on the
commodity market
• Lack of investment
• Governance issues and
land grabbing
• Lack of regional
cooperation and conflicts
• Migration
• Climate change
Inherent poor soil
Water scarcity
Land degradation
Low growth on agricultural
Population growth
Further info and Source:
The Sahel:
Permanent emergency
Recurrent and cyclical
Malnutrition rates always
at or above warning level
Spikes of malnutrition
cases during hunger
season (between July and
September depending on
Further info:
Malnutrition in the Sahel: One Million children treated -- What’s next?
Welthungerhilfe on Sahel, climate change and desertification
Guardian on “Sahel hunger crisis risks being another example of too
little, too late”
To give you an idea of the scale of
activities– here are the operations run by
one large humanitarian organisation. MSF
runs regular programs to prevent
malnutrition and treat other childhood
diseases in the Western Sahel.
Image and source: Center for International Earth Sciences Network, “Migration in Risk-Prone Areas”
in the drylands
In low income countries the
move to urban areas both
inside and outside dryland
areas was due mostly to climate
variability (especially frequency
of droughts) and the difficulty of
making a living from traditional,
rain-fed forms of agriculture and
pastoralism on these marginal
lands. (Definition:
The Sahel: growth in
informal urban settlements
The Sahel is not only rural – a common misconception. The region with a population
of about 50 million people has experienced unprecedented urban population
explosion and most future growth is set to occur in cities.
Urban environments are more heterogeneous than rural ones.
Many of the newcomers are from most disadvantaged rural backgrounds, and thus
have fewest resources to help them cope in cities.
Economic decline or slowdown (stagnating or declining gross domestic product
annually),results in urban economies strained with limited ability of local and national
governments to provide minimally decent living conditions, basic social services and
livelihood opportunities.
Overcrowded and extremely unsanitary slums and shantytowns which leads to
epidemics and outbreaks of diseases – pockets of severe deprivation, poverty and
concentration of ill health.
Health care systems affecting health and mortality tend to be better for urban than
rural populations. However, overall the rural-urban gap in child health is narrowing
due to increase in urban malnutrition, and health and nutritional outcomes for poor
urban children can be worse in cities.
Source: Lifland, Amy. Starvation in the Sahel
Urban-Rural Differentials in Child Malnutrition Trends and Socioeconomic Correlates in Sub-Saharan Africa
Growing urban poverty:
Mali, Chad, Burkino Faso
Action for students:
How do growing poverty and a
breakdown of the country’s
social fabric relate to growing
urban settlements and
malnutrition in the Sahel?
• Bamako, Mali
• BBC Photo journal on Chad urban
migrant story
• Burkino Faso’s urban hunger
What do the slums look like in the
Sahel? More on Chad’s N’Djamena,
for example, pictured here:
Climate change
in arid and semi-arid areas
“650 million people now live in arid or semi-arid areas where floods and droughts and price
shocks are expected to have the most impact. The recent crises in the Horn of Africa and
Sahel may be becoming the new normal. Droughts are expected to become more
frequent....Climate change is a creeping disaster.” - UN's World Food Programme climate change office,
Action for students: Climate change in arid and semi-arid areas poses the
greatest threat to the food security of people living in these areas. Discuss.
Write a report with that title, using the
Examiners Report as a guide
Resources below
Maps which follow in this section of the presentation and
Other resources you select
On climate change: Guardian article
Slideshow on climate change:
Video on work to build resilience:
Hunger and Climate Change (cover pictured on right and following two slides)
and note impact by area and initiatives
Climate change and Food Fact Sheet Action Aid
Effect of global warming
on arid and semi-arid areas in Africa
Global warming causes particular
difficulties across Africa, an especially
vulnerable continent given its large
dependence on rain-fed agriculture.
Africa is warming steadily with
temperatures as a whole 0.5 degrees
warmer than in 1900. The greatest
increases (double the global increase)
have been recorded in the interior.
• Droughts are more common such
that arid and semi-arid areas are
becoming even drier.
• Overall rainfall is decreasing with
more reductions likely in the Sahel.
• Rainy seasons are less reliable
and rains more localised.
Photo: Juan Carlos Tomasi/MSF
Digby, Bob et al, “AS Geography for Edexcel”, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008
The Sahel and
climate change
The Sahel climate
livelihood systems
Action for students: Make a note
in your folder of the climate
hotspots and how they may affect
the livelihood systems. Also
consider the impact of other
human and natural factors in the
Global water
The world supply of freshwater cannot be increased. The number of people becoming dependent
on limited supplies of freshwater that are becoming more polluted is rising.
“Falling water tables are widespread, resulting in serious water shortages and salt intrusion in coastal
areas. Contamination of drinking water and nitrate and heavy metal pollution of rivers, lakes and
reservoirs are common problems throughout the world. “ (UNCCD)
Source:;; Source:;
Resource constraints
affect people in drylands most
Like food security, water security is becoming a major national and regional priority
in many areas of the world. The global water crisis is exacerbated by drought,
land degradation, desertification and pollution.
Water scarcity, the gap between its demand and supply is likely to be one of the main
factors limiting food production. Water scarcity increases with an increase in aridity, so
it is highest in the drylands. Most of the 1-2 billion people affected are in the
drylands (UNCCD). Each person requires a minimum of 2,000 cubic metres of
water per year for well-being, but drylands people have 1,300 cubic metres only
with availability projected to decrease.
Population increase, land use, land cover change and global climate change
are likely to accelerate existing water shortages and lead to a decline in
biological production in the drylands. “Under the climate change scenario, nearly
half of the world's population in 2030 will be living in areas of high water stress. In
some arid and semi-arid areas, it will displace up to between 24 million and 700
million people.”(UN)
Water insecurity:
Role of technology
Water is arguably as
important to food
production as land.
“Natural” picture of the
human water security
threat level
Adjusted map takes into
account investment in
technology. Use of
technology can entail
risks and damage to
the environment.
Maplecroft water stress index
Further info:
Water and Food Security Faqs UNWater
Climate change fact sheet
Global water Outlook to 2025; the State
of the World’s Land and Water
Resources for Food and Agriculture,
Source:; Source: IWMI 2000 Global Water Scarcity Study 2000;
Land availability
Land and land-based sources are central to the global economy.
• Population is increasing and land per person is decreasing. Currently there is 0.72
hectares per person of agricultural land, which is projected to drop to below 0.7
hectares by 2016 without taking into account land degradation and loss of current
agricultural land (UNPD 2011)
• World globalisation and increasing interdependence mean that effect and
consequences of the loss of arable land to others uses will affect us all.
• Due to climate change and associated impacts such as sea-level rise, urbanisation,
land protected for biodiversity and unsustainable land management, the amount of
available land for agriculture is unlikely to increase.
• “Many of the countries not growing enough food to feed themselves possess the largest
remaining reservoirs of untapped agricultural resources. Latin America and subSaharan Africa have much unused land although its quality and quantity vary greatly
from nation to nation and much of it is ecologically vulnerable. The Soviet Union and
parts of North America have significant amounts of frontier land suitable for agriculture;
only Asia and Europe are truly land-starved.” (UN Documents, Our Common Future
Source: UNEP “The end to cheap oil: a threat to food security and an incentive to reduce fossil fuels in agriculture”, articleidscript.php?article_id=81;
Land uses in drylands
The drylands account for up to 44% of the
world’s cultivated systems. Used
traditionally for livestock, they are being
converted more and more into cropland (land
used for cultivating crops). Supporting 50% of
the world’s livestock, rangelands – vast
natural landscapes - are habitats for wildlife.
A composite term, land degradation
describes the sustained loss in the quality
and the productive capacity of the land
Land depletion and
Approximately 6 million square
kilometres (about 10%) of drylands
are now degraded due to
unsustainable land and water use and
the impacts of climate. Dryland
degradation subtracts an estimated
4–8% of developing countries’ national
gross domestic product (GDP) each
“Short-sighted policies are leading to
degradation of the agricultural resource
base on almost every continent: soil erosion
in North America: soil acidification in Europe;
deforestation and desertification in Asia. Africa,
and Latin America; and waste and pollution of
water almost everywhere. Within 40-70 years,
global warming may cause the flooding of
important coastal production areas. Some of
these effects arise from trends in energy use
and industrial production. Some arise from the
pressure of population on limited resources.
But agricultural policies emphasizing increased
production at the expense of environmental
considerations have also contributed greatly to
this deterioration.” (UN Documents, Our Common Future
Causes of dryland
Direct drivers of land degradation are mostly climatic, especially low soil moisture, rainfall patterns and
Indirect drivers are mostly human: the debt crisis, growing poverty, poor people’s lack of access to
resources / technology used, global and local market trends, socio-political dynamics and food insecurity.
These drive drylands’ loss of productive capacity and increase destruction. As the land on which rural
communities depend becomes increasingly scarce, competition increases. More pressure on existing land
to grow food can lead to growing desertification
Source: Stocking and Murnhanagan (2000) found on;; Source: UN Food Security -; Reviewing the link between desertification
and food insecurity -; Edexcel 6GE04 Unit 3 Life on the Margins: the food supply problem
Drought risk
Action for students: Explain
the interrelationship between
drought, land degradation and
desertification and climate
change and note or sketch this
in your folder. Give examples
of extreme weather affecting
major food basket regions
events and their likely link to
climate change.
Source: Map; Source: UN Food Security -; Reviewing the link between desertification and food insecurity -; Edexcel 6GE04 Unit 3 Life on the Margins: the food supply problem specification;
Droughts in the Sahel
Droughts, natural phenomena, and subsequent famines in 1970s
and 1980s.
Land degradation ensued and lead to further reduce rainfall.
More recently, another contributing factor to the droughts, it is
thought, has been the warming of the Indian Ocean.
In a vicious cycle of physical and human factors, droughts lead to
lower productivity and lower vegetation cover, reduced water
recycling and monsoon circulation, decreased precipitation, soil
erosion and further loss of productivity. The droughts, increasing
population density and reduced vegetation cover can also drive
human unsustainable land use practices that exasperate soil
degradation, dust and wind erosion.
Vicious cycle of land
Action for students: With reference to
the diagram to the left and the quote
below, explain how government
intervention can fuel the cycle of
“Defect in government intervention lies
in incentive structures. In industrialized
countries, overprotection of farmers and
overproduction represent the
accumulated result of tax reliefs, direct
subsidies, and price controls. Such
policies are now studded with
contradictions that encourage the
degradation of the agricultural resource
base and, in the long run, do more harm
than good to the agricultural industry.”
(UN Documents, Our Common Future -
Impacts of land degradation
The process of “Desertification is
caused by a complex mix of climatic
and human effects. The human
effects, over which we have more
control, include the rapid growth of
both human and animal populations,
detrimental land use practices
(especially deforestation), adverse
terms of trade, and civil strife. The
cultivation of cash crops on
unsuitable rangelands has forced
herders and their cattle onto
marginal lands. The unfavourable
international terms of trade for
primary products and the policies of
aid donors have reinforced
pressures to encourage increasing
cash-crop production at any cost.”
(UN Documents, Our Common Future -
Dire Kiltu, Arsi, Ethiopia. Kids playing are
struck by a burst of wind – symptom of
desertification and consequential drought.
Action for students: Affecting almost every
region of the globe, desertification is most
destructive to the drylands of South America,
Asia, and Africa. Quantify desertification
around the globe by region.
Map showing risk of
human induced desertification
“Desertification refers to
the land degradation in
arid, semi-arid and subhumid areas resulting
from various factors,
including climatic
variations and human
activities. When land
degradation happens in
the world's drylands, it
often creates desert-like
conditions. Globally,
24% of the land is
degrading. About 1.5
billion people directly
depend on these
degrading areas. Nearly
20% of the degrading
land is cropland, and
20-25%, rangeland.”
Causes of
• The Millennium Ecosystem
Assessment identifies the
cause as the result of a longterm failure to balance
human demand for
ecosystem services and the
amount the ecosystem can
• Mismanagement and politics
are often root causes
• Climate change is adding
more complexity
Source: Edexcel Student Guide Unit 4, Option 3;
Impacts of desertification
“Desertification and poverty are closely and directly linked to each other. While desertification can lead to
famine, malnutrition, under-nourishment, epidemics, economic and social instability and migrations, these
can, in turn, cause or increase desertification. In addition, poverty contributes to land degradation in
drylands by inducing poor women and men to exploit the natural resource base in an unsustainable
manner. Degradation then lowers productivity and incomes, thereby increasing poverty and further
exacerbating pressure on the natural resource base”(
Sahel desertification
Some definitions
Desertification: “land degradation in arid, semi arid
and dry sub humid areas resulting from various
factors, including climatic variations and human
activities” (UNCCD glossary,
The process of salination is brought on by the
increased concentration of salts in soil that are
soluble. Salination is a problem linked to
Action for students:
Use the four resources here to Research :Why is
the Sahel spreading?
“Desertification of arid lands”:
Extensive education resources on desertification:
Desertification in the Sahel:
FAO “The African Wall”
Land degradation: diminished or lost biological or
economic productivity of drylands.
Drought: an extended period of drier weather than
is usual (in the Sahel this can last for more than 10
Desert: A dry area, hot or cold, where total annual
precipitation is less than 250 mm. Usually treeless
Source: Sahel case study;
Water for Sahel
Over-farming and over-grazing; shift away from
nomadic to sedentary lifestyle and conflict have
contributed to desertification.
• For example, 250000 refugees from Sudan in Eastern
Chad put strain on environment by gathering firewood
Source: Lifland, Amy. Starvation in the Sahel
MSF provides water in the Sahel
Photos: MSF
Demographic and
natural resource links
Action for students:
Refer to the diagram
to the right, consider
how food issues are
affected by:
Problems of low
Natural resource
degradation and
And can lead to
conflict, migration and
negative environmental
impacts and nutrition
Source: UNFPA 1991
Responses needed
to deal with desertification
“United Nations Decade for Deserts and the Fight Against Desertification, which runs from
January 2010 to December 2020 to promote action that will protect the drylands. The Decade is
an opportunity to make critical changes to secure the long-term ability of drylands to provide
value for humanity's well being.” (
Source: UNEP Land
Resilience and capacity
building in the Sahel
Action for students:
With reference to the following two slides, explain how can resilience (ability to
withstand shock) and capacity building*
address the cycles of crises brought on by drought, poor harvests, inadequate irrigation, high
food prices, inadequate grain reserves and chronic regional insecurity. Keep climate
change and sustainability in mind.
SahelNOW definition of resilience in the e-book “Resilience in Simple Terms”:
The Guardian “How to build resilience in the Sahel”:
FAO The Sahel Crisis:
Reliefweb on resilience building in the Sahel:
MSF Dialogue on Resilience in humanitarian and development work:
building “conceptual approach to development that focuses on understanding the
obstacles that inhibit people, governments, international organizations and non-governmental
organizations from realizing their developmental goals while enhancing the abilities that will allow them
to achieve measurable and sustainable results.” (Wikipedia)
* Capacity
Source: The Economist, “The Sahel: Hungry again”, July 7th 2012, p. 53;
UNCCD 2nd Climatic Conference 2013,
Key priorities of
gender-responsive action in the drylands
Further info: FAO
“Gender and Sustainable
Development in
Drylands: an Analysis of
Field Experiences”
Promote Women’s
(Sun Movement Roadmap 2012)
“Women’s traditional roles (e.g. collecting water, growing food, etc.) are particularly
crucial in drylands in terms of natural resource management and food security. Men have
usually been responsible for decision-making and planning of farming activities, but they
increasingly leave the degraded areas to look for jobs in urban areas, leaving women to
assume new roles and responsibilities on the farm. In such a changing context, it is
fundamental to be aware of the obstacles hindering full participation of disadvantaged
groups, including women.”(
Risks associated with
agricultural production systems
Global distribution of risks associated with agricultural production
systems – a systematic overview
Further info:
On the environmental food crisis:
*Source: Thomas F. Homer Dixon Environment, Scarcity, and Violence; Image:
Ecosystems and farming
system responses to water scarcity
Arable land per capita
“Population increases have meant a
decline in the area of cropped land in
most of the world in per capita terms.
And as the availability of arable land
has declined, planners and farmers
have focused on increasing
productivity.” (UN Documents, Our Common Future
Land use systems
in the drylands
Table: FAO “Draylands, People and Land use” ,;
Drought risk
Sub-Saharan Africa
Precipitation anomalies
One and half billion people are dependent on degrading land
(UNCCD 2011). Ten to twenty per cent of drylands are degraded.
ecosystems and populations in semi-arid areas face the highest
Source: Global assessment of human induced soil degradation (Glasod);
Dryland degradation
Global Map
of drylands
Over 40% of
the world’s
land surface,
marked by
variability and
water scarcity
43% of the
land area
(UNEP 2006)
Hotspots are
Africa (the
Sahel, the
horn of Africa
and SouthEast Africa)
and Southern
Source: Map; Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005) ;
Source: UN Food Security -; Reviewing the link between desertification and food insecurity; Edexcel 6GE04 Unit 3 Life on the Margins: the food supply problem
Human population
in drylands
Home to one in three people worldwide – 2.1 billion people (UNESCO).
Ninety per cent of drylands people live in developing countries. Their socioeconomic condition (human well-being and development indicators are far below
the rest of the world on average (UNEP)
Table: FAO “Draylands, People and Land use” ,;; UNEP “Dryland systems”
Data for malnutrition in
the countries of the Sahel
Source: Groundswell International “Escaping the hunger cycle: Pathways to resilience in the Sahel”,

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