Overview of the Gum Belt

Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) covers approximately 14 million Km2 (46%) of the continent with a population of about 650 million people. Most of the area is classified as either sub-humid or dryland with aridity index values of less than 1 (<1) indicating an annual moisture deficit (Middleton and Thomas 1997). Forests are among the most important natural assets found in the region,  which in the drylands cover about 350 million hectares (13%) of the land area, mostly in the form of wooded savannahs, bush-lands and shrub-lands (Lundgren, 2015).

The biggest challenge facing many countries in SSA is land degradation, which in the sub-humid and drylands is characterized by desertification (Blay et al, 2004). Desertification is said to be occurring at varying levels with an annual rate ranging from 0.1% in the dry sub-humid lands to 10% in the arid lands. There are various underlying causes for this including population growth (average population growth rate for Africa is 2.4%), rural poverty, market and policy failures, poor policies, unsustainable agriculture and over-exploitation of natural resources, among others. Climate change is aggravating the problem of desertification. It said that though Africa's contribution to Green House Gasses (GHGs) is only 3.5% of the world’s total, the region is most vulnerable to climate variability and change. The consequences of desertification and associated challenges aggravated by climate change are great and include: continued decline in land productivity and with it, declining agricultural and rangeland productivity affecting livelihoods of the rural farming and pastoral communities in these areas that are dependent on them thereby exacerbating poverty, food and social insecurity that put a barrier to sustainable development.