Stop drying out the Earth (Google Alert /

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Google Alert for : desertification



Ing. Michal Kravčík, CSc.,

Civic Association, People and Water, from Košice, Slovakia, Europe (Ľudia a voda, občianske združenie, Košice, Slovakia, Europe)The topic of this paper is very serious. It is about blooming or dying of a series of civilizations in our contemporary world. In the past, humanity feared the threats of various foretold catastrophes that, luckily, did not come true at all. However, the threat I am going to speak about, unfortunately, materialized itself many times in the history of mankind. From the history, we know civilizations like Mesopotamia, Persia, the cultures in the Middle East, Egypt or the Indian cultures in both North and South America and many other ones that would develop on fertile lands, covered with rich vegetation and abundant water supplies. Yet, many of them caused their own decay or even extinction as a result of the degradation of their own water resources. Nowadays, when archaeologists dig out artefacts and proofs of their prosperity from the sand of deserts, the idea that they fell and died because of a process that is in full swing in our societies never occurs to us. Therefore, this paper shall deal with the endangerment of current civilizations by desertification, but also with the causes of extreme rainwaters, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, draughts, and indirectly, with hunger and poverty too. In my paper, I would like to explain the causes of these phenomena resulting from the changes in water cycle due to human activities; I shall also give you examples from the country I am coming from, i.e. Central Europe, and I shall try to quantify the deficit of water cycle that manifests itself as a result of human activities. Finally, I would like to present you our solution: it is the retention of rainwater within the country or commonly known as rainwater harvesting. The intention of this paper is to convince you that the comprehensive program of rainwater harvesting is an efficient remedy for most of the mentioned problems and to challenge you to take practical actions in this field.


The importance of water (dgAlert / Movie)

 Strongly recommended

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Development Gateway

Youth for Development

The importance of water 

Told by Leonardo DiCaprio

A short movie by Leonardo DiCaprio that states the importance of water in our lives and states the threatens to it.

Contributed by Olivia Barata Cavalcanti on 23 Apr , 2007

Small dams and mulching against desertification in Burkina Faso (Technorati – Sociolingo)

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Technorati : desertification

Sociolingo’s Africa

Burkina Faso: Pilot project against desertification

Posted by sociolingo on April 17th, 2007

A Pilot Project That Defies Desertification
Michée Boko

COTONOU, Apr 11 (IPS) – The village of Guié in central Burkina Faso may not have much name recognition in the grand scheme of things. But for more than a decade, this community has been the site of an initiative that provides hope in the fight against desertification.

Continue reading “Small dams and mulching against desertification in Burkina Faso (Technorati – Sociolingo)”

Land Degradation – Desertification (ruralpovertyportal / FAO)

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Properties and Management of Drylands

Land Degradation – Desertification

The CCD defines desertification as land degradation in the drylands (” ‘Desertification’ means land degradation in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas.”), yet the two terms are often used as if they are distinct (e.g., “Land degradation and desertification in desert margins” by Reich et al. 2000). The CCD also defines “land” by its primary productivity service (” ‘land’ means the terrestrial bioproductive system.”) and “land degradation” as an implicit loss of provision of this service (” ‘land degradation’ means reduction or loss . of the biological or economic productivity .’). The definition of biological productivity and economic benefit depends on users’ priorities – transforming woodland to cropland may decrease biological productivity, degrade the economic benefit of firewood production but increase the economic benefit of food production. With respect to the mechanisms of land degradation – changes in the properties of the land (soil, water, vegetation) do not correspond linearly to changes in productivity. Loss of productivity can also be attributed to non human-induced factors such as rainfall variability and human factors such as low labor input. Thus, a range of interacting variables that affect productivity should be addressed in order to assess objectively and unambiguously land degradation. Commonly considered degradation processes are vegetation degradation, water and wind erosion, salinization, soil compaction and crusting, and soil nutrient depletion. Pollution, acidification, alkalization, and water logging are often important locally (Oldeman, 1994; Lal, 2001; Dregne, 2002). Field experiments, field measurements, field observations, remote sensing, and computer modeling are carried out to study these processes. The higher the aggregation level in each of these study approaches, the more problematic each of the methods becomes, either because of upscaling issues or because of questionable extrapolations and generalizations.

Source: Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, Current State and Trends, Chapter 22: Dryland Systems (details…)

Desertification and sand storms in China (Google News Alert / China Daily)

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Google News Alert for : desertification

China Daily :

Operation blitzkrieg against desert storm

By Wang Ying (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-04-03 06:58

“It was huge, 3,100 square km till the late 1920s. A lifeline of the ancient Silk Road, it was first mapped by ancient Chinese geographers. But the salt lake in the southeastern part of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region has largely dried up today, with marshes and small, shifting lakes receiving the channels of the Tarim River. It’s true, Lop Nur is still there, but at best it can be described as a marshy depression.

Nature’s fury is about to make history repeat itself; this time in Northwest China’s Gansu Province as another tragedy. The Minqin Oasis is still about 1,000 square km, but is shrinking fast. Scarily, its surrounding geographical features are similar to that of Lop Nur. It’s surrounded by the Tengger and Badain Jaran deserts and is vanishing at an alarming the rate of 3 to 4 meters a year, says Gansu Vice-Governor Shi Jun.

Reclaiming of forests and grasslands for agriculture and the unprecedented dry weather of recent years have been blamed for the ecological and economic threat. But the National Conference on Desertification Prevention held in Beijing late last month was determined to not let it disappear. “No stone should be left unturned to stop Minqin from vanishing,” Shi told the conference, the fifth of its kind.

Continue reading “Desertification and sand storms in China (Google News Alert / China Daily)”

Slowing soil erosion with vegetation restoration (SciDev.Net)

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SciDev.Net – Mise à jour hebdomadaire de SciDev.Net: 27 mars – 02 avril 2007

Restore vegetation to slow soil erosion, say scientists

Eva Aguilar
3 April 2007
Source: SciDev.Net

“Revegetation programmes can slow the rapid erosion rates occurring in tropical mountain areas to near-natural levels, say researchers. A study published in the April issue of the journal Geology measured soil degradation due to human activity in the southern Ecuadorian Andes. It provides a basis for strategies to restore damaged land.

“The results indicate that erosion and land degradation are not necessarily irreversible processes,” says lead researcher Veerle Vanacker, of the Université catholique de Louvain in Belgium. The team selected Andean Ecuador as their study area because “land use in this area is very dynamic, and its degradation is an important issue that is limiting socio-economic development in the region”.

Continue reading “Slowing soil erosion with vegetation restoration (SciDev.Net)”

Modernize traditional agriculture in Ghana (African Agriculture)

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African Agriculture

Modernize Ghanaian traditional agriculture : report

“Agriculture was the most important source of growth in the Ghanaian economy between 2000 and 2005, with an average of about 5.1%, while services and industry averaged 5.0% and 4.5% respectively. Agriculture remained a dominant sector up to 2005, contributing 42% to GDP, while services and industry contributed 31% and 27% respectively. From 1995 to 2005 the contribution of agriculture to the country’s GDP declined marginally from 42.7% to 41.9%, while the services sector’s contribution to GDP increased by 0.6%, and that of industry by 0.2 of a percentage point.

Problems in agriculture include the sector being predominantly rain-fed, with undeveloped irrigation systems. Average fertilizer use of about 34,000 tonnes/annum in the last decade, as well as agriculture being mostly smallholder activity, has prompted the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC) to propose agriculture modernization in order to attain national goals. The NDPC noted that the average use of fertilizer in the agriculture sector was one of the lowest in Africa and probably the world.

Continue reading “Modernize traditional agriculture in Ghana (African Agriculture)”

Pastoralism, traditional knowledge and management in desertification (IUCN / CRIC 5-UNCCD)

22 March 2007

“Indigenous, local people and pastoralists are best positioned to overcome degradation of the world’s drylands. This was one of the key messages that pastoralists, the World Initiative for Sustainable Pastoralism, the World Conservation Union (IUCN) and UNCCD focal points from several Southern African countries communicated to policy makers at a recent conference of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) in Buenos Aires.

Land degradation and poverty are common phenomena in the world’s drylands. However, inappropriate development has exacerbated the degradation of drylands and in consequence increased poverty. Pastoralists – nomadic herders of sheep, goats and camels – have for centuries used the drylands sustainably. By moving on to new grazing places when resources got scarce, they prevented overgrazing or soil erosion.

Continue reading “Pastoralism, traditional knowledge and management in desertification (IUCN / CRIC 5-UNCCD)”

Nature conservation in Algerian Sahara

Having read this contribution on the Africa Environment blog,

I could not resist recommending the takers of this new initiative to get in contact with UNICEF ALGERIA, currently carrying out the project “Family gardens in the refugee camps of the Sahraouis people” (Sahara desert, S.W. Algeria). Let us first have a look at the text :

Algerian conservationists block advance of Sahara Desert

“In May, Algeria will inaugurate a reserve around a small oasis in the south-west where plants and animals will be protected in the service of a broader goal. Hopes are that the Taghit National Park will help stop the advance of the Sahara Desert, which already stretches across almost all of this North African country.

The project was initiated by the Friends of the Sahara Association, a founder member of the National Committee of Algerian NGOs against Desertification, and the National Agency for the Conservation of Nature (ANCN).

“The Taghit National Park covers a surface area of 250.000 ha, which could be extended to 500.000 ha with the inclusion of the neighbouring Guir region,” said Amina Fellous, an engineer at ANCN, which is tasked with leading the project. The reserve is to include areas isolated from human activity, as well as perimeter zones where various pursuits, even for light and medium-sized industries, will be permitted on condition that they do not pollute, Fellous explained. “In Taghit, any socio-economic activity having negative effects on water resources will not be allowed,” she said.

The project will seek to protect grasslands and restore palm groves, renew the planting of acacias, and reforest denuded land with indigenous species for the benefit of migratory species. Water points will be established in the park, and efforts made to develop the region’s plant genetic resources.

The list of mammals to be protected makes mention of about 33 species. To date, no less than 107 species of birds have been documented in the area, but an exhaustive list has yet to be compiled during different seasons, in order to include migratory birds. About 20 birds feature on the list of protected species of Algeria.

Furthermore, the Taghit park will aim to protect and promote the archaeological heritage of the area – and to develop tourist facilities that are in harmony with their surroundings. Conservation will also support agricultural activity, says Malik Raheb, an agricultural engineer. “The creation of the Taghit National Park, aside from its role of being a barrier to the desert, will also allow a still greater response to the agricultural needs of people in the region, as is already evidenced by the production of tomatoes and potatoes.”

2007-01 Dahla
2007-01 : Camp of Dahla (Tindouf area) – Mission, with delegation of foresters from the Services de Conservation des Forêts de Tindouf, evaluates successfull vegetable gardens of the UNICEF ALGERIA project.

2007-01 : Camp de Dahla (région de Tindouf) – La missison avec une délégation des forestiers des Services de la Conservation des Forêts de Tindouf évalue les jardins potagers réussis du projet UNICEF ALGERIE.

In particular this last sentence indicates that the Friends of the Sahara Association, a founder member of the National Committee of Algerian NGOs against Desertification, and the National Agency for the Conservation of Nature (ANCN) and UNICEF ALGERIA should better join hands and exchange their knowledge and expertise. Working somewhat in the same domains (conservation, restoration, combat of desertification, sustainable development, agriculture and horticulture), it would inexplicable the organizations working in the same S.W.-region of Algeria would not sit around the table to explore possible cooperation, or at least explore echange of information.

Looking forward,


Could it all go down the drain? – 2

I have been reading with interest the text below on

“There are so many environmental concerns in the present. Problems range form erosion and desertification to air pollution, water pollution, solid wastes, hazardous wastes, depletion of the ozone layer, and global warming. All these problems emerged by the way humans lead their life. Maybe we ought to learn how to live like Ishmael once said. This could be done by just observing nature. Nature has been enacting for millions of year, and its method has proven to be flawless. I am not saying to go back to the trees, but to consider solutions and stop thinking about money and civilization, but useful knowledge and technology. In addition, by causing all those problems mentioned above, other questions rise. Close to 50% of the world’s flora and fauna could be on the path to extinction within the next 100 years. All this pollution and wastes are destroying habitats, and along its cataclysm, casualty also takes diversity out of this planet. Consequently, the world is less ready for a catastrophe and change in environment and thus more extinction will occur. Besides, population contributes to resource depletion of energy, raw materials, and manufactured goods though over-consumption and waste while depleting world resources by being forced to cut down forests, clear land, burn scarce wood, and so on. Therefore, homo sapiens sapiens could be saved, but the civilization as we know it today might not. We are manipulating a major ecological regulation, that of carrying capacity. We are increasing its value annually, just to feed populations that will expand their numbers if done so. As the environment is degraded, carrying capacity decreases, leaving the environment no longer able to support even the number of people who could formerly have lived in the area on a sustainable basis. No population can live beyond the environment’s carrying capacity for very long; that’s a law.”


I do not believe in a doom scenario for at least hundreds of generations of human beings. In fact, I believe strongly that people will always adapt to new situations, even to catastrophies created by our societies.

We have enough examples of doom scenarios that never came true. On the contrary, there are enough indications that several of these “inevitable” doom scenarios have been developed for personal, national or international interests.

Let us simply stay vigilant and use all “best practices” known today to improve our world, even against all destructive initiatives taken in the name of …

Actually, we have today a number of technologies to combat the worst situations. Let’s join hands to use them at the largest scale and let’s do this together with our children, so that they will be prepared to defend their future.

Together we can make this world better !

Women bear the brunt of desertification in Cameroon (Africa Environment)

Interesting publication on this blog

The village of Ngouma has a population of 538 people, 406 of whom are women. Most of the men, have left in the face of land degradation and even desertification.

Stock breeders are migrating to grazing new areas and fishermen are going north to Lake Chad, nine kilometres away. Those who do not have fixed employment are going to the cities,” said village chief said Yaya Djouldé.

Since the early 1970s, Ngouma and other villages in the province of Maroua have only received about 200 mm of rain annually, says Martin Ndongmo, an agroforestry engineer who works for the environment ministry. The national rainfall average is 1,500 mm. “This water shortage has led to great degradation of arable land. Deforestation and overgrazing have come to finish off nature’s work,” said Ndongmo, noting that the average temperature in the shade is 45 degrees Celcius.

In the face of long, dry seasons lasting seven to eight months of the year, those who earn a living from agriculture increasingly seek their fortunes elsewhere. “Our husbands and children have left one after the other, leaving us to survive here alone. We walk about eight kilometres every day just in search of water, which is often unclean,” says Chantal Moudeina, a 41-year-old resident of Ngouma.

According to statistics from the ministry of agriculture, 11,421 of Maroua’s 34,263 square kilometres have been affected by desertification. This has resulted in 25,000 people in the region being threatened by famine. “Seasonal migration, problems between cattle breeders and farmers, food insecurity and waterborne diseases in these areas are, for the most part, the consequences of desertification,” says Lucie Aboudi of Save the Earth, an NGO based in Maroua. Continue reading “Women bear the brunt of desertification in Cameroon (Africa Environment)”

Communicating international development research (id21): Land

Natural Resource Highlights” are published annually by id21, which is hosted by the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) of the University of Sussex in Brighton, BN1 9RE (UK). It is supported by the UK Department for International Development (DFID).

id21 publishes these highlights on agriculture, conservation, fisheries, forestry, land, rural livelihoods and water. On the website you will find the full range of over 2000 research highlights.

I read the 2006 issues on all the above fields of interest and found very interesting contributions:


1. Privatising common land in Botswana.
2. Land disputes in Ghana.
3. Women and land rights in India.
4. Why do the Maasai split up group ranches?
5. Evaluating land policies in highland Ethiopia.
6. Agrarian reform and rural poverty in South Africa.

A number of useful websites are mentioned. These offer new possibilities for collecting information:

Continue reading “Communicating international development research (id21): Land”

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