The importance of trees and forest cover in dryland areas

 

Photo credit: Down to Earth

Life in drylands is precarious and to make things worse water availability in these areas is expected to decline due to changes in climate and land use Credit: Paul Shaffner/Flickr

Increasing tree cover in drylands can ensure food security, solve water crisis

by Deepanwita Niyogi

The world’s drylands must be restored as they provide habitat for biodiversity, protect against erosion, help combat desertification and contribute to soil fertility

A Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) preliminary study speaks about the importance of trees and forest cover in dryland areas as these ensure food security for millions of people threatened by climate change.

Drylands cover about 41 per cent of the Earth’s surface and face the problem of water scarcity. People living in drylands, especially in the developing countries, depend on forests, wooded lands, grasslands and trees to meet their basic requirements.

The world’s drylands must be restored as they provide habitat for biodiversity, protect against erosion, help combat desertification and contribute to soil fertility.

According to Nora Berrahmouni, drylands forestry officer at FAO, “Trees contribute to food security. So, increasing their density in forests is very important. It is important to increase their density in drier areas, keeping in mind the local conditions. However, this does not mean that we should convert natural grasslands into forests. Grasslands are equally important as forests.”

Water shortage in drylands

Life in drylands is precarious and to make things worse water availability in these areas is expected to decline due to changes in climate and land use, the report says.

“People in drylands face many challenges. They live in extreme environmental conditions: scarcity of water, periods of drought, heat waves, land degradation and desertification. Poverty, lack of socio-economic opportunities, food insecurity, conflicts, weak governance and inadequate policies are other problems they face,” Berrahmouni added.

Increasing forest cover in drylands will improve water infiltration in soils and reduce erosion. To solve water scarcity, there is a need to manage existing water resources and develop water harvesting techniques, support restoration of forest cover to reduce siltation and water erosion and recharge aquifers.

Diminished status

Dryland forests and other associated ecosystems have not attracted the same level of interest and investment. Tree cover and land use in drylands are not well known. However, drylands cover 6.1 billion hectares, an area more than twice the size of Africa.

Read the full article: Down to Earth

The conventional wisdom on the causes of widespread desertification is false.

 

Photo credit: ILRI

Goats graze drylands in the dry season in Zimbabwe (photo credit: ICRISAT/Swathi Sridharan).

The picture of the Sahara as marching inexorably south year after year is incorrect and was, moreover, an illusion created not by livestock over-use but rather by a recent string of dry years. Indeed, decades of satellite data are now confirming that the southern edge of the Sahara periodically moves south and north in response to changes in rainfall rather than changes in livestock populations. It thus appears that the conventional wisdom on the causes of widespread desertification is false.
—ILRI article, 1995

‘Desertification’—A timely synthesis of three decades of evidence that this topic has (long) passed its sell-by date

by

Ian Scoones reviews a new book on the long history of myths about dryland desertification. Scoones, co-director of the STEPS Centre at Sussex and joint convenor of the Future Agricultures Consortium hosted by the Institute for Development Studies, is an agricultural ecologist by training and an ‘interdisciplinarian’ by practice. ‘Over the past twenty-five years, he has worked on pastoralism and rangeland management, soil and water conservation, biodiversity and conservation, as well as dryland agricultural systems, largely in eastern and southern Africa. A central theme has been a focus on citizen engagement in pro-poor research and innovation systems.’ 

Excerpts from Scoones’ excellent review, with its important messages, follows.

‘A great new book has just been published called The End of Desertification? Disputing Environmental Change in the Drylands . . . . It is edited by two people who know a thing or two about these issues—Roy Behnke and Mike Mortimore—and it has 20 top quality chapters from all over the world, documenting why the term desertification has passed its sell-by date, if it ever had one at all. It is an impressive and timely synthesis . . . .

The myths of desertification have a long history. Ideas of desiccation and desert advance framed colonial science, informed by the narratives of the ‘dust bowl’ in the US. Yet whether from long-term environmental monitoring, areal and satellite photography, ecological modelling or local knowledge and field observation, the standard narratives have been found severely wanting.

‘Unfortunately this accumulated evidence has been ignored, and the narratives of desertification persist. . . .

‘In the 1970s, influenced by the new mathematics of complexity, ecologists such as Bob May argued that stability not an expected feature of ecosystems, even under deterministic conditions. In the context of African rangelands, Jim Ellis and team in Turkana—notably through the classic 1988 paper—contributed to an understanding of ecosystems not at equilibrium where density-independent factors (rainfall/drought/flood/snow) meant that animal populations were not at equilibrium, and different management regimes needed to apply.

‘Challenges to desertification myths, and simplistic equilibrium approaches to rangeland dynamics based on Clementsian succession ecology, have long been made. . . . A new paradigm for African rangeland management was born. . . .

Why is it that, even when scientific evidence is incontrovertible, then shifts in policy discourse and practice doesn’t happen?

Read the full story: ILRI

IN MY DESERTIFICATION LIBRARY: BOOK NR. 12

Poverty alleviation and land degra

Poverty alleviation and land degradation in the drylands 1994

Posted by Prof. Dr. Willem VAN COTTHEM

Ghent University – Belgium

 

Having participated in all the meetings of the INCD (1992-1994) and all the meetings of the UNCCD-COP, the CST and the CRIC in 1994-2006, I had an opportunity to collect a lot of interesting books and publications on drought and desertification published in that period.

 

Book Nr. 12

Please click: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1H1RY2NgUkfw-a3ytTS3ErY7CHhvpocpkMTIRLOX1of8/edit?usp=sharing

or see Poverty alleviation and land degradation in the drylands 1994

The impacts of tropical deforestation will be felt for many years to come.

 

Photo credit: Science Daily

This graph shows modeled annual deforestation rates from 1950 to 2009 in five-year intervals.- Credit: Rosa et al./Current Biology 2016

Effects of past tropical deforestation will be felt for years to come

Source: Cell Press

Summary:

Even if people completely stopped converting tropical forests into farmland, the impacts of tropical deforestation would continue to be felt for many years to come. That’s the conclusion of researchers who have used historical rates and patterns of tropical deforestation around the globe to estimate the resulting carbon emissions and species losses over time.

Read the full story: Science Daily

Evolution is a driving mechanism behind plant migration

 

Photo credit: Science Daily

Evolving plant populations dispersed seeds and migrated 11 percent farther in landscapes with favorable conditions, as shown here.
Credit: Jonathan Levine

Evolution drives how fast plants could migrate with climate change

Source: University of British Columbia

Summary:

New research suggests evolution is a driving mechanism behind plant migration, and that scientists may be underestimating how quickly species can move.

Read the full story: Science Daily

Reforestation in Oxapampa (Peru)

Photo credit: http://www.indepthnews.net/images/images/carbon.jpg

Peru has implemented a National Forest Conservation Programme for the Mitigation of Climate Change, which includes a satellite monitoring system and specific rules for intervention and prosecution of illegal tree felling under the Ministry of Environment Plan.

The programme includes a planning strategy that envisions 11 axes for prevention, control and prosecution of deforestation and illegal logging. The objective is to reduce deforestation and degradation of Oxapampa forest and thereby reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

IDN – The Flagship of International Press Syndicate

 

Reforestation in Oxapampa: Peru’s Challenges and Priorities

By Fernando Torres Morán

………………..

Today, the situation appears to be changing for the good. Peru, as a member of the United Nations and committed to its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), has implemented a National Forest Conservation Programme for the Mitigation of Climate Change, which includes a satellite monitoring system and specific rules for intervention and prosecution of illegal tree felling under a Ministry of Environment Plan.

The programme includes a planning strategy that envisions 11 axes for prevention, control and prosecution of deforestation and illegal logging.

Moreover, today there is a National Strategy for Forests and Climate Change, the objective of which is “to reduce deforestation and degradation of our forests and thereby reduce emissions of greenhouse gases” and which has engaged the participation of both the public and the private sector.

One example is the work of Pronaturaleza which is working with 14 communities in different zones, including Oxapampa, and in which sustainable land management is being established.

Similar efforts are necessary to achieve SDG 15 (Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss).

One of the objectives that the government has set is to achieve reforestation of at least two million hectares by the year 2030 and communities themselves can contribute to this objective through small actions.

Read the full story: http://www.indepthnews.net/index.php/sustainability/decent-work-economic-growth/547-reforestation-in-oxapampa-peru-s-challenges-and-priorities

 

A simple and cost-effective machine that makes it easier to plant sesame seeds.

 

This photo gallery shows how a simple grassroots innovation is aiding Tanzanian sesame farmers improve production.

Simple innovation changing farmers’ fortunes

by Baraka Rateng’

Smallholder farmers in Tanzania are increasingly taking to sesame farming because of its drought resistant qualities. It is more resilient climate change related impacts.

Constantine Martin, a primary school leaver, who hails from Babati District in northern Tanzania has invented a simple and cost-effective machine that makes it easier to plant sesame seeds.

Martin, 42, began developing his invention after receiving training in modern sesame farming by a London-based international development charity, Farm Africa, which helps farmers grow more, sell more and sell for more.

The hand-pushed planting machine dubbed ‘Coasta Planter’ makes the planting sesame seeds easier and upscale production.

Sesame farming in Tanzania has traditionally been by hand, a tough, tedious and time consuming work where farmers dig individual holes a few centimetres deep for each seed, then go back and forth along their plots dropping seeds.  It also causes back pain.

He saw this gap and developed the technology now being adopted by many farmers.

Martin says: “Sesame is a drought-resistant crop and many farmers were encouraged to get into this kind of farming but the challenge was on how to plant the sesame seeds, which are very small.”

“I used to farm sesame using outdated farming practices, which didn’t transform my income and livelihood. Planting was [a] tedious job as my wife and I had to go back and forth in our five acre plot, which meant we had to walk more than 20km,” adds Martin who is a member of one of Farm Africa’s co-operatives that brings members together to negotiate better prices for their crops, and gain access to improved seed varieties, inputs and training.

Read the full story: SciDevNet