The rift valley is an elongated trough bordered by a steep side called escarpments.
Two theories have been forwarded to explain the formation of the great East African Rift valley.
Tension force theory: Tension forces pull the landmass apart leading to the formation of normal faults. The landmass is then sub-divided into three parts and with continued pulling, the central block subsides / sinks under its own weight to form a rift valley. The side blocks remain standing to form the escarpments.
Compression force theory: Compression forces push the landmass from either side leading to the formation of reverse faults. The landmass is then divided into three parts and with continued pushing, the side blocks rise up leaving the central block in position. The central block then forms the rift valley while the side blocks form the escarpments.
PROBLEMS FACED BY PEOPLE LIVING IN THE RIFT VALLEY AREAS
- Steep escarpments hinder development of transport and communication lines e.g. near Lake Albert.
- Low rainfall is received in the rain shadow areas of the rift valley e.g. in Kasese.
- Rift valley lakes are very deep hence they are poor fishing grounds e.g. Lake Tanganyika.
- Rift valley regions contain soils which are sandy hence not favouring farming.
- Rift valley areas are prone to earthquakes and volcanicity which are destructive to human survival e.g. in Bundibugyo.
- Steep slopes in rift valley areas hinder mechanization on farms.
- The escarpments are associated with soil erosion which leads to loss of soil fertility e.g. in Bundibugyo.
- Landslides are common in rift valley areas which lead to destruction of crops and settlements.
- Rift valley areas are infested with pests e.g. tsetse flies which spread Nagana.
- Some areas of the rift valley have got dangerous wild animals which scare away human settlements e.g. lions and monkeys within the Queen Elizabeth National Park.
SOLUTIONS TO THE ABOVE PROBLEMS
- Resettling people away from the rift valley to reduce effects of landslides and earthquakes.
- Irrigation can be used in the rain shadow areas to provide water.
- Soil erosion can be controlled through terracing and contour ploughing.
- Re-afforestation and afforestation can be used to control landslides.
- Spraying with pesticides to control pests and diseases within the rift valley.
- Fencing National parks to ensure security of people from wild animals in the surrounding areas.