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The comments that follow this BBC article about the southward expansion of the Sahara Desert are especially revealing.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/6288445.stm

Here's one comment:

What is happening in North-eastern Nigeria is happening all over Africa. While visiting my families in Northern Uganda recently, I witness the same thing. Forests that I remember as a kid are gone. Huge trees I use to play under as child have all been cut for charcoal. In Uganda at least the call it the Southern Sudan effect because most of the charcoals are being transported to Southern Sudan where they can fetch three times what they sell for in Uganda. In the case of people of Northern Uganda, one can at least attribute the problem to lack of mean to support once self given people have been in internment camps for the last 15year. Fire wood and charcoals have become the sold mean of earning income. Once can say that these people don't see the nexus between cutting tree and desertification and I too once though the same thing. But I conversation I had with some one on bus while travelling to Kitgum Town in northern Uganda shaded a new light on the reason why people do what they do. When I raised the issue of environmental impact of all the try cutting on the future, my friend quickly reminded me that once worries about environment if they think there is a future. And indeed in the case of Northern Uganda people, it is not hard to believe that such is the prevailing attitude of the day. Life in camps give any one very little hope of the future. Perhaps, that is the driving forces behind desertification throughout Africa. The only solution to this problem is to provide people with alternative means of survival and to offer them basic enviromental classes. Without quick change of attitude, Africa will burn and soon the rest of the world will follow. And none of the environment conservation going on in the western world will mean a damn thing without saving Africa or any other thirdworld continents like South America.
Otika, Portland, Oregon USA

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