June 17 is a day set by the UN to combat desertification and drought world wide. However, as we celebrate the day, a number of issues related to environmental degradation remain unanswered and much of the world is indeed in trouble.
Arid, semiarid, dry sub-humid areas cover a significant portion of the earth’s landscape. Desertification is becoming a common scenario today and all this is attributable to the effects of human activities on the natural environment.
Desertification and droughts affect many around the world. These are mostly the poor people in the least developed countries around the world. Africa which harbours the world’s largest desert is the most affected continent.
The Sahara desert in Northern Africa covers a third of the continent’s landscape. The desert, which has been evolving for thousands of years, is still expanding and moving southwards towards the Sahel (a dry band that separates the Sahara from the Savannah).
In Africa constant deforestation and burning of the trees is “inevitable” as people are always seeking land to plant and grow more crops. The survival of most of Africa’s population is dependent on growing food crops.
With the hardships associated with dry and arid lands, populations have kept on migrating to greener lands and this has in turn eradicated the green areas in these new settlements.
Desertification is not only a result of deforestation. Current unexpected climate changes are largely blamed on the activities of the industrialized and developed countries as more and more waste gases are emitted from industries and factories, the kinetics of their transfer are left to the earth’s natural mechanism and cycle.
The accumulating concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and global warming have resulted in a rise in extreme weather patterns. This has greatly contributed to the increased droughts and heavy rains that have tremendously affected the already weakened soils.
The irony of this is that the least developed countries in Africa are affected the most. The unpredictable heavy rains and droughts are a result of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere by the developed countries.
Currently Ethiopia is suffering and being weighed down as a result of this. The short rains left farmers devastated and unable to plant food and the hunger pangs are now part of their lives. Though the country looks green in some areas there is no food to harvest.
The pastoral and farming communities in the south and southeast regions have been engulfed by a ‘Green Drought’. This has left millions of Ethiopians in need of emergency food relief and the figure is likely to keep rising.
This green drought has resulted in the heavy loss of livestock and limited food supply as a result of the soaring food, fuel and fertilizer prices which are linked to the global food crisis. This inevitably leaves desperation and helplessness among Ethiopians.
Whether the industrialized countries fully understand the impact they have on other vulnerable nations or not, the future of these countries is doomed.
On the other hand, it would be a moral failure if developed countries do not quickly step forward and provide funds to underdeveloped countries that are suffering as a result of the climate changes caused by their industries.
These trends of events have continued to smooth the progress of desertification in Africa. As anyone knows the livelihood of people living in dry and arid places is not easy due to the prevalence of poverty.
In Africa, the majority of the economies are agro-based and depend on the productivity of the land and that is why economic development and desertification remain interdependent.
To combat desertification and droughts, national governments will have to play a major role because their positive involvement is what matters in Africa.
The reclamation and rehabilitation of degraded land, combating soil loss, water management and restoring green vegetation will help curb the effects of greenhouse gas emissions and strengthen the resilience of affected countries.
In addition to these, scientific research and technological innovation will be required to address challenges of drought and desertification. There is a lot of information regarding environmental protection and what is needed is simply their implementation.
Women are a powerful tool when it comes to overcoming desertification and drought and their role, especially in rural areas, should be recognized so as to encourage the rest of the community to get involved.
Unfortunately whenever there is progress, setbacks always manifest themselves. The efforts put in place to combat desertification and droughts do not always meet the proposed expectations.
This is because of the mismanagement of funds, high illiteracy levels of the people and poor infrastructure in the affected areas is a major setback.
However, all is not lost if the countries affected can put in place tangible mechanisms to combat desertification and drought.