Vanishing Land Fuels ‘Looming Crisis’ Across Africa

Africa’s land pressures may seem overwhelming, maybe even unstoppable. But scientists say there are solutions within reach. For example, the continent has the highest fertility rates in the world, but more African governments are pushing contraceptives, saying the best answer for densely populated countries is smaller families.

For arid regions, there are proven ways to replenish dry or overgrazed land, including spreading new types of grass seeds by airplane. Another approach would be a national plan letting herders graze certain areas at certain times but forbidding them from others, which would allow ruined pastureland to regrow.

But the issue, ecologists say, is that little of this is being done.

“The problem is too many people, too many cattle and too little planning,” said Iain Douglas-Hamilton, a wildlife activist in northern Kenya.

In the Nadungoru village, just about everybody has given up on the Kenyan government, even government employees.

At a new school, two teachers from another part of the country said they had been begging their bosses to transfer them to a safer area.

David Mbatia, one of the teachers, said he was afraid that the herdsmen who had invaded farms might kill him. The nearest police station was five miles away.

“At night, what if they knock at your door and you scream?” he asked. “Who will come?”

He said a big part of the problem was that the government was not enforcing a law requiring parents to send their children to school.

“I saw a 12-year-old herding cows, and he had been turned into a slave,” said the other teacher, Charles Mwangi. “He has been denied the right to go to school, to see the light, and so he is uneducated, manipulated and brainwashed.”

Outside the school, Mr. Lekisio and his comrade were waiting. They slowly led me around the village one last time, pointing out each smashed padlock, each knocked-down fence. The village…

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