Desert Agriculture, Zagora, Morocco (Source)

What are the opportunities and challenges for agriculture in hot, arid areas? 



Define the following key words:

  • aridity
  • infertility
  • irrigation
  • salinization
  • leach (v)


  1. Read "Problems for Farming" - p 88 of the study guide
  2. What is negative water balance and how can this be overcome?
  3. Explain why desert soils are arid and infertile.
  4. What causes salinisation and what are its effects on plant growth?

case study: date production in the draa valley, morocco



  1. Watch and read the resources above.
  2. Create a case study document about date production in Morocco
  3. Include:
    • Map showing the location of named places of production
    • Data and facts about the date industry



Desertification is the degradation of land and vegetation, soil erosion and the loss of top soil and fertile land in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas, caused primarily by human activities and climatic variations


  1. Watch the video individually with headphones
  2. Pause to note key information, facts and data
  3. Read and make notes on the BBC article
  4. Make a copy of the flow chart below on A4 paper
  5. Add colour and illustrations

causes and development of desertification


CASE STUDY: desertification IN SENEGAL


acacia project, senegal


case study: DESERTIFICATION IN niger





greening the desert: ted talk


exam practice

"Agriculture in hot, arid areas inevitably results in desertification". Discuss this statement. (10 marks)


mark scheme

Candidates are expected to consider points on both sides of this question. The strongest responses may choose to challenge the statement, and may well conclude that while agriculture in such areas may result in desertification, such an impact is by no means inevitable but depends, in part, on the nature of the agriculture involved. Careful choice of crops, cultivation techniques and continuous monitoring may enable successful small-scale or commercial agriculture in hot arid areas. It is likely to be easier to avoid desertification in areas where irrigation is possible than in areas where, for financial, technological, or other reasons, irrigation is not possible.

Desertification is often the result of unsustainable farming, in which more minerals and nutrients are taken out of the soil than are replenished, or where the density of grazing animals exceeds the normal carrying capacity. Some experts also attribute desertification in some areas to on-going climatic change.

Answers that consider only one side of the question should not be credited above band D. It is expected that answers reaching bands E and F will offer supporting evidence and/or exemplification before arriving at a clear conclusion to the question.