Although the route towards finding solutions is seemingly complicated, Ms. Hana suggested we start with awareness & information gathering, noting “from my own perspective I believe we need to start raising awareness, disseminating information and embedding a mechanism to involve the community and hear how everyone is affected by this issue”.
Lessons from Around the World
In Niger, farmers and policymakers are not sitting idly and waiting for desertification to ruin their lives and destroy the country’s economic power. Farmers in the Niger have been adapting to desertification effects by re-growing trees whose stumps lay dormant in the soil. Previously these trees had been cleared for farmland, but they found that by leaving trees in their fields, farmers reap the benefits of more firewood, fewer pests and diseases, less soil erosion, rising water tables and higher crop yields.
This process is known as Farmer-Managed Natural Regeneration or FMNR. The process has spread throughout the whole country over the last three decades. Studies estimated that with the help of this technique farmers have managed to grow 200 million trees and rehabilitated five million hectares of degraded land.
In Nyando, Kenya, farmers have been experimenting with agroforestry which is a land use management system in which trees are grown around or among crops or pastureland. It combines shrubs and trees in agricultural and forestry technologies to create more diverse, productive, profitable, healthy, ecologically sound, and sustainable land-use systems. The farmers in Kenya have been using this system as a method of reducing erosion and slowing land degradation. Integrating trees in farms allows the farmers to protect their lands and also reduce their dependence on a single staple crop.
China is also one of the worst countries affected by desertification, as the Gobi D esert expands further south forcing entire communities to relocate and therefore increasing the number of climate refugees. Even though the impacts of desertification on China have been getting worse every year, the country is still setting up a great example for stepping up the fight against desertification. The country has been taking a major geo-engineering approach to fight back against the ever-encroaching desert by planting trees to create the Great Green Wall.
As crazy as this may sound, China is actually planning to plant 88 million acres of woodland in an area that stretches 3,000 miles long and up to 900 miles wide by 2050. If China’s project – the nation of nearly 1.5 billion people – succeeds at combating desertification, it could serve as a guide for the countries of the 250 million people worldwide threatened by desertification.
Desertification will not stop, pressure on land resources is expected to increase as populations grow and a growing population will demand more food, which means that unsuitable or especially bio-diverse land will be claimed for farming and be more vulnerable to degradation, so as you can see it is an endless cycle that needs to be broken down or earth could become a desert by 2050 due to desertification.
Interview with the UNCCD spokesperson about desertification in Sudan and sustainable development land management as a means to combat desertification.