Transforming deserts into farmland
‘Desert soilization’ technology can tackle desertification and strengthen food security
Spotted: When China’s Han Emperors sat on the throne between 202 BCE and 8 CE, the Ulan Buh Desert was a fertile land. Today, the region in Inner Mongolia is notorious for its sandstorms. This dramatic transformation is just one example of ‘desertification’ – a process whereby land in dry areas is degraded.
Healthy soil matters. Its most obvious role is in agriculture, but it also supports biodiversity and alleviates flooding and drought. And in our climate-stressed times, soil is an important carbon store. For these reasons, loss of soil is a cause for concern, and desertification and soil erosion threaten food supplies, eco-systems, and peoples’ livelihoods. In fact, by 2050, the number of people displaced by issues related to scarce land resources could be as high as 700 million.
How can we prevent the livelihoods of billions from being destroyed? A team of researchers from Chongqing Jiaotong University, led by Professor Yi Zhijian, has developed Desert Agricultural Transformation – a technology solution that turns desert sand into soil. Through the addition of a plant-based bonding agent, sand particles gain the characteristics of soil, including the ability to hold water and support plant growth.
The solution is low-cost and has so far been successfully demonstrated in China, Niger, and the United Arab Emirates.
Other innovations tackling desertification spotted by Springwise include a startup in Morocco cultivating deserts into farmland, and a cardboard planter that improves subsistence food production.
Written By: Matthew Hempstead
14th November 2022