Aba Hawi shows off one of the dams built by communal labour
Turning Ethiopia’s desert green
A generation ago Ethiopia’s Tigray province was stricken by a famine that shocked the world. Today, as Chris Haslam reports, local people are using ancient techniques to turn part of the desert green.
By 10 in the morning, some 3,000 people have turned up. Using picks, shovels, iron bars and their bare hands, they will turn these treacherous slopes into neat staircases of rock-walled terraces that will trap the annual rains, forcing the water to percolate into the soil rather than running off in devastating, ground-ripping flash floods.
“Sisters are doing it for themselves,” says Kidane, a pick-wielding Amazon whose arched eyebrow suggests I might want to put down my camera and do some actual work. Brothers, too: from strapping, sweat-shiny youths to Ephraim, a legless old man who clearly ignored the bit about being able-bodied and sits on his stumps, rolling rocks downhill to the terrace builders.
Overseeing this extraordinary effort is 58-year-old Aba Hawi, Abr’ha Weatsbaha’s community leader. Short, pot-bellied and bearded, he darts from one side of the valley to the other, barking orders into his mobile phone, slapping backs and showing the youngsters the proper way to split half-ton boulders. Rumour has it that Aba Hawi once took up arms to fight for Tigrayan independence, but these days he prefers to describe himself as “just a farmer”.
The Moringa is a fast-growing evergreen or deciduous, multipurpose tree species comprised of 13 species. They are thought to be native to India from where they have been introduced in many different tropical and subtropical countries and are now growing throughout the world including Saudi Arabia (Moringa peregrina – a native species).
Moringa tree is regarded as an excellent source of nutrition for human food and as treatment of many different ailments in the indigenous system of medicine for human diseases. Leaves, green pods, flowers and roasted seedsare used as vegetable; roots are used as spice; seeds are used for cooking and cosmetic oil.
Plants contain important preventive and curative compounds, which are being used as antimicrobial agent. Moringa plants are also used for many other purposes like water purifier, green manure, mycotrophic plants, reforestation, alley crop, gum, ornamental, pest control, animal feed etc. Because of its numerous economic importances, easy propagation and sustainability for cultivation under a wide range of climatic and soil conditions; the plant is suitable for cultivation in Saudi Arabia.
The plant is highly drought-tolerant and is widely cultivated in arid and semiarid regions. It can be cultivated in a wide range of soil types, but prefers a well-drained sandy loam or loam soil. It tolerates a soil pH 5.0– 9.0 with an optimum of 6.3-7.0.
Moringa is resistant to most pests and diseases. All these environmental factors and soil conditions are highly favorable for cultivation of Moringa in Saudi Arabia.
M. oleifera,another widely cultivated species, may be introduced along with the native species as a future crop in arid and semiarid conditions in Saudi Arabia for economic importance as well as for reducing the desertification. Further studies on population ecology and genetic variation are very important to help protect this valuable tree in Saudi Arabia.
In keeping with current climate change trends, Iran can expect a hotter and drier future that could dramatically affect hundreds of thousands of people, if action isn’t taken immediately.
According to national statistics, Iran’s land area is 165 million hectares, 32 million of which is desert. No reliable statistics are available on how much Iran has become desertified in the past half century. But the effects are apparent: water shortages, encroachment by deserts on rangelands and urban settlements, and dust storms.
If no remedial action is taken, Iran’s deserts will expand significantly in the future and threaten sustainable livelihoods for citizens everywhere, especially people living on rangelands.
Once famed for their natural beauty, rangeland plains across Iran have now become severely degraded through unsustainable use and drought. The causes include: cattle farming that has led to over-grazing, harvesting of trees for fuelwood, and the erosion of vulnerable shrubbery. Many rangelands have actually been transformed into hostile environments, where local people face an unpromising future, where they cannot easily make a living, and are therefore forced to leave.
Already, many rangeland dwellers have left, migrating across the country in search of jobs. If desertification is not stopped, more migration and displacement – with its inherent problems – will happen.
Yet, there is hope and evidence that if we act now and work with local communities, we can reverse the tide of desertification and restore the beauty of Iran’s rangelands, as well as the livelihoods of its inhabitants.
One of our most popular summer blooming plants is lantana. It’s such a great, drought-tolerant plant – something that is important because of the summer droughts we normally experience. Even when we get a lot of summer rain, it continues to perform well.
It produces mounds of flowers from early May until November or even sometimes December, with peak bloom in August. It attracts butterflies and hummingbirds and is resistant to deer browsing.
Lantana does best when it is planted a couple of weeks after the danger of frost has passed. This normally means waiting until after Masters Week or a little later because it will not grow well until the air and soil temperatures have warmed.
Though gold was once the only color of lantana, there are shades of red, orange, yellow and blue. Many selections have multicolored clusters of yellow and orange or pink, purple and yellows.
One small plant in a 4-inch pot will grow fast, forming a dense carpet of flowers. Depending on the variety, they vary from the very low spreading (1 to 2 feet) to forming large, bushy mounds that grow as much as 5 to 6 feet tall. Some will spread 12 to 18 inches across, while others will spread as much as 4 feet wide.
Lantana prefers full sun and is excellent for sunny borders and dry, commercial street side planters. You can also get spectacular color displays by planting lantana on sunny embankments, in hanging baskets and along parking lot islands. It’s also a great plant to liven up the entrance of a home, soften a wall or accent a corner.
Lantana looks great in combination with other annuals, especially when grown in front of large plantings of bright red or blue salvia. It looks beautiful with other heat-tolerant annuals and perennials such as red zinnias, pink petunias and verbena. It also works very well with evergreens so when it dies back in the winter, it won’t be sorely missed.
Lantana will perform in shallow, dense, clay soils and doesn’t need special care once established. However, you can enhance its performance by using good flower bed preparation techniques. Adding organic matter to the garden or plants is especially helpful. Even though lantana is drought tolerant, it will look better if it gets some periodic watering during drought periods.
Biological control of introduced lantanas has been attempted, without robust success. In Australia, about 30 insects have been introduced in an attempt to control the spread of lantanas, and this has caused problems of its own.
From Roots to Shoots: Creating Change in a Tough Environment
by Jonah Kessel
In 2007 a bright-eyed bunch of volunteers in a nascent NGO called Shanghai Roots & Shoots had a big dream to help fight desertification in China. Their dream: to plant one million trees on the edge of Mongolia’s Gobi Desert in China.
China’s deserts have been growing for many years, and in response, the government’s Great Green Wall Program planted trees across China. However, it was often done in places where tree planting wasn’t appropriate due to environmental conditions and a lack of available ground water. Many of these trees simply weren’t taken care of because a lack of financial incentives led farmers to simply drop them in the sand and leave.
Shanghai Roots & Shoots had a different plan.
Not only was it to plant more trees but to successfully take care of them, and educating the communities around the desert to their potential benefits. Experts helped the NGO identify areas where ground water was available, giving the trees their best chance of survival.
This was the The Million Tree Project.
The aim was to raise community awareness of the Earth’s precious environment, focusing on steps individuals can take to lessen their negative impact on the natural world.
The project gave individuals and organizations an opportunity for fighting global warming by planting oxygen-producing trees. It also encompassed the local population becoming involved in planting, maintaining, and monitoring the trees.
The Million Tree Project was designed to both improve the ecological and humanitarian conditions of lnner Mongolia. It was a big idea, a big goal, and a tremendous undertaking in the Gobi desert.
To convert the Great Pyramid of Giza into a living machine by melding the Pyramid with a modern skyscraper and a biosphere.
A Group of Designers Want to Turn Egyptian Pyramid into a Desertification-Fighting Skyscraper
By: Nidhi Goyal
One of the major consequences of climate change is desertification. Deserts are growing day by day at an alarming rate. In order to solve this problem, a US-based design team has put forward an ambitious solution: the Bio-Pyramid.
Bio-pyramid: A team of seven designers set their project in Egypt, situated on the edge of the Sahara Desert, with the goal to transform an ancient Egyptian pyramid into a green skyscraper that works to reverse desertification. It is a non-conventional skyscraper that operates as a biosphere.