The Sahel zone lies between the Sahara desert and the fertile savannahs of northern Nigeria and southern Sudan. Unfortunately, over the last century, the Sahara desert has steadily crept southwards into once productive Sahel lands. It is believed that over 70 percent of the dry land in agricultural use in Africa has deteriorated over the last 30 years. One of the major causes of this desert advance is poor agricultural land use, resulting from the pressures of increasing population. Overgrazing – keeping too many farm animals on the land – means that grasses and other plants cannot recover, and scarce water supplies are exhausted. Overcultivation – trying to grow too many crops on poor land – results in the soil becoming even less fertile and drier. Soil erosion follows, and the land turns into desert.

Another cause of desertification is the loss of tree cover. Trees are cut down for use as fuel and to clear land for agricultural use. Tree roots help to bind the soil together, to conserve moisture and to provide a habitat for other plants and animals. When trees are cut down, the soil begins to dry and loosen wind and rain erosion increase, other plant species die and eventually the fertile topsoil may be almost entirely lost.

The effects of loss of topsoil and increased drought are irreversible. However, they are preventable. Careful conservation of tree cover and sustainable agricultural land use have been shown to halt the deterioration of soils and lessen the effects of the shortage of rainfall.

Source: Reading for IELTS (MACMILLAN)

1. Scan the text and complete the sentence. Choose NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS from the passage for each answer. 

  1. Desertification is caused by overgazing, but this in turn is due to the pressure from _______________.
  2. When trees are cut down, the soil is affected, which leads to the death of the surrounding _______________.
  3. The consequences of the loss of topsoil cannot be reserved, but they are _________.
  4. Looking after trees reduces the consequences of a lack of _______________


2. Decide whether the following statements are true/false or Not Given according to the passage.

  1. The Sahara has spread slowly northwards into the Sahel region.
  2. Just over 70 percent of the dry land in agricultural use in Africa has deteriorated over the last 30 years.
  3. The advance of the desert is not the result of poor agricultural land use.
  4. The loss of tree cover is a minör cause of desertification.
  5. If there is a loss of tree cover, the deterioration in the soil is halted.




Click here to Show / Hide Answers.

Exercise 1

a. increasing population

b. plant species

c. preventable

d. rainfall

Exercise 2

a. False.

b. Not given

c. False

d. Not Given

e. False

Add comment

Security code