Thursday, June 12, 2008

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Jebel Marra Foothills

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The Jebel Marra Massif is a region of high, jagged peaks and fertile valleys in western Sudan. The southern foothills of the Jebel Marra receive an average of 600 to 800 mm of precipitation annually, just above the minimum needed to support rain-fed agriculture. Crops include sorghum, millet, groundnuts, and cowpeas that are raised along watercourses and adjacent areas. Pastoralists seasonally graze their cattle on the natural vegetation in the region; the number of grazing herds has increased in recent decades as droughts have made water and pasture scarce further north.

Population growth , especially in the latter half of the 20th century, coupled with an influx of refugees from drought and conflict in Northern Darfur have put increasing pressure on this fragile ecosystem. Human activities have greatly altered the natural open-savannah woodlands.

The 1972 image shows substantial tree cover across much of the lower left half of the image. The 2006 image shows the degree to which vegetation has been reduced, particularly in the less hilly areas and away from croplands concentrated along the watercourses. The loss of trees and shrubs in this fragile environment is leading to land degradation and reduced capacity to support the area's ever-increasing population.
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