|Yatir Forest in Israel|
Desertification is a burgeoning issue challenging several regions across the world; this is especially true in the global south, where poverty and a lack of economic diversification and adaptability are more prevalent. Consequently, food security is jeopardized for the people most vulnerable to the ramifications of climate change and years of bad agricultural practices. In order to combat the soil aridity and other consequences of desertification, many countries, including Israel, are currently carrying out extensive research in order to reverse the effects of the expanding deserts. Israel is pushing back against their own Negev desert, which comprises about 60% of their landmass, through water reuse systems and afforestation.
Afforestation is an increasingly popular tool that consists of planting and growing of forests where historically there have not been any, or where no forests have grown for a considerable period of time. The Jewish National Fund, an Israeli organization, began the movement for planting a forest in the northern part of the Negev in the 1960’s, and this campaign resulted in what is now known as the Yatir Forest. What began as a small batch of trees has now flourished into a modern forest where there was only desert, and the results have been truly motivating. The arid land where nothing could grow became arable land, and there is agricultural activity around the forest such as vineyards and fruit orchards. This process has the potential for application in many different areas around the world—China already has its own success stories with afforestation in its dry northern region, as has Vietnam and even Egypt. . In the Sahel region of Africa, there are already plans for the creation of a Great Green Wall, which would cross through more than 10 different countries in order to stop the expansion of the Sahara Desert. The project would require a considerable sum of money and international cooperation, but the United Nations has already expressed their support for the campaign.
Afforestation is not necessarily the silver bullet for solving desertification, but when it’s paired with other innovative tactics like water effluent irrigation and strategic cattle grazing rotation (as put forth by researcher Allan Savory in this TED talk), it can be a potent force for greening the earth and restoring food security.