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Halting The Sands

If you were to visit rural southern Africa you would likely experience the beauty of a primordial country life.

The cows would be grazing, farmers would be in the fields, their irrigation sprinklers would be at work, and maidens would be collecting firewood from the nearby forest.

At face value there is nothing wrong with the picture, however if you would multiply the activity described, and look forward by 10 years or so, the picture would change to a cover on a document entitled “The Leading Cause of Desertification”.

The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification focuses particularly on those African countries experiencing serious drought or desertification. Desertification is defined as land degradation in arid, semi-arid, and dry sub-humid areas resulting from various factors, including climatic variations and human activities.

The definition highlights two very important factors that can wreak havoc to the environment, that is human activity and the climate. However it must be noted that these activities are not dangerous per se, it is the uncontrolled practise that occasions a threat to the environment.

Policy around the control of human activity should then be centred on contextual factors linked to the immediate environment and climate type. Control must also be implemented in such a way that the lifestyle of the communities is not altered more than is necessary, this would make the people of such communities willing participants in the fight against desertification.

Overgrazing for instance, is detrimental to land, however overgrazing can only happen if livestock is made to graze on the same fields throughout the year. So the community may come up with different ways of avoiding overgrazing, perhaps by supplementing with livestock feed or rotating between different grazing spots, allowing other spots to recoup.

Like most environmental protection endeavours, the government must partner with rural communities.

Desertification can result in environmentally disastrous consequences such as soil erosion, the progression of which is hard to contain.


Image source: www.unmultimedia.org

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