Rangeland productivity, utilisation and degradation

New Era Newspaper

2021-05-03  Staff Reporter

Erastus Ngaruka

Rangeland is defined as an area of land with natural forage materials that are utilised by livestock and wild animals. Its productivity depends on rainfall and utilisation. Rangeland plants require favourable environmental conditions and protection for their establishment, distribution and resilience in agro-ecosystems or on livestock farming lands. 

In particular, the most important attributes to consider about rangeland productivity in grazing areas are grass vigour, density, species composition and abundance or richness. These attributes indicate how strong and active is the grass growth after dormancy and grazing, the amount of grass yield per unit area, the different grass species, and their dominance. 

These are indicators of grazing values in the different rangelands, and are influenced by climatic conditions and utilisation, varying in spatial and temporal scales.

The rangeland is the main and cheapest source of food for livestock. Moreover, humans derive very useful resources from it. These include medicinal plants, edible plant products, household materials such as timber, poles, droppers, and thatching grass. 

Therefore, rangeland resources support all forms of life. On that, there is competition for rangeland resources and space between animals and humans. This has put many rangelands under pressure to the extent that their productive potential is compromised, thus degrading them. In Namibia, rangeland degradation is conspicuous at different scales in different landscapes, and takes the form of deforestation, desertification, soil erosion and bush encroachment.

The increasing human population, developmental activities as well as the demand for livestock and their products continue to put pressure on rangelands. 

Deforestation activities are rampant, especially in rural or farming areas, as a result of construction, mining activities (minerals, sand), timber harvesting and land clearing for cropping purposes. These activities result in the removal of valuable plants, the local extinction of native plants and loss of biodiversity.

Furthermore, deforestation, together with overgrazing, leads to desertification, where soils become bare and exposed to extreme desert-like conditions such as high temperatures, where only a few or no plant species can withstand such conditions.

Bare or exposed soils lose their stability, as there is no plant to protect them against erosion activities and trampling. Wind and water erosion remove the top soil, seeds and organic matter. In addition, erosion results in surface capping, water run-off, soil moisture loss and desiccation.

Livestock production in many parts of Namibia has become expensive, and this is due to degraded rangelands. Rangeland degradation has compromised farm productivity and income as farmers tend to spend a significant amount of their earnings and efforts in rangeland rehabilitation and livestock feeding. This in turn depletes their financial resources.


‘How Can We Survive When the Land Is Gone?’ In Dagestan, a Proud People Fights the Desert

Desertification, driven by climate change, is destroying the Nogai people’s grasslands and livelihoods.

By Felix Light – April 29, 2021 – https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2021/04/29/how-can-we-survive-when-the-land-is-gone-in-dagestan-a-proud-people-fights-the-desert-a73776

TEREKLI-MEKTEB, Dagestan – In the remote north of Russia’s Caucasian Dagestan region, rich grasslands once sustained hordes of humans and animals alike. Now, herds of stray cows roam towering sand dunes in a huge new desert that grows bigger every year.

For 30 years now, climate change has been driving the sands further into the Nogai steppe, gradually transforming the traditional homeland of a people that once dominated much of southern Russia from green and pleasant pasture to barren desert. 

“Welcome to our little Sahara,” said Rashid Bakiyev, the 61-year-old deputy head of the local forestry commission.

				Throughout the Nogai lands, stray cows roam the expanding sand dunes.				 				Felix Light / MT
Throughout the Nogai lands, stray cows roam the expanding sand dunes.Felix Light / MT

Until recently rich and fertile, the steppes northwest of the Caspian Sea have always attracted eager settlers.

The Nogai — a Turkic-speaking nation descended from the Mongol Golden Horde — are only the latest people to claim this slice of steppe as their own, with their ancestors having settled in the region after leaving Central Asia over a thousand years ago.

Nomads until the 1930s, the Nogai gained a reputation as fierce warriors, ruling the lands between the Caspian and Black seas and fighting Russian expansion southwards.

Today, 100,000 remaining Nogai are dispersed across Russia’s southern steppe, their culture mostly forgotten. Only in Dagestan’s distant northern reaches does their language survive and thrive.

More recently, however, nature has turned on the Nogai in their steppe strongholds.

Sometime in the early 1990s — no one can remember exactly when — the soil beneath the lush grasslands around Terekli-Mekteb, a dusty steppe town of around 6,000 that is the capital of Dagestan’s Nogai district, began to crumble into sand.

By the end of the decade, massive dunes had begun to erupt from beneath the plains. Throughout the 2010s, the salty lakes that had kept the soil watered dried up, leaving behind white-bottomed salt flats that still litter the steppe.

				Just outside Terekli-Mekteb, the Nogai plant zhuzgun grass to hold the desert back.				 				Felix Light / MT
Just outside Terekli-Mekteb, the Nogai plant zhuzgun grass to hold the desert back.Felix Light / MT


A New Crisis Awaits Iran: Desertification

By Pejman Amiri -3rd May 2021 –https://irannewsupdate.com/news/general/a-new-crisis-awaits-iran-desertification/

The Iranian government’s water transfer policies, which have caused a drought in the inter-basin situation, have caused the country to fall into the abyss of new water tensions, which, in the current context of the dysfunctional and corrupt economy and financial hardship, are unlikely to emerge.

The intensification of the drought in the country coincided with the consolidation of water transfer policies by the heads of the last four governments, which has led to the desertification of many parts of the country’s soil.

Desertification map, Iran as one of the worst effected regions in the world, with a ‘Very High’ vulnerability.
Desertification map, Iran as one of the worst effected regions in the world, with a ‘Very High’ vulnerability.

Some 60 percent of Iran’s lands are exposed to desert. This is what has been announced by Iran’s Organization for Forests, Rangeland and Watershed by the Ministry of Agriculture. The progress of desertification in Iran’s soil occurs in a situation where the desert per capita in Iran is more than twice the global average.

The intensification of desertification and continuous drought, due to the development of dam construction and wrong plans to transfer water from basin to basin, the unmanaged establishment of industries, the emphasis on unprincipled and high-consumption agriculture has accelerated the process of desertification in Iran.

What has increased Iran’s deserts to an alarming situation is not climate change and geographical location, but inefficient management and neglection of the share of natural water from available resources by the government.

Natural and environmental crises are not the interest of the officials, and none of the statesmen are held accountable for the non-implementation of the intended goals in any development plan which they claim exist.

But the reality shows something else. The fact is that desertification is no longer just the drought of lands and aqueducts, but the decline in soil fertility and increased migration are new consequences of desertification in Iran.

The migration of many rural areas and cities has intensified the desertification and made it even more horrifying, but these are not the only dimensions of desertification in Iran.

Iran’s groundwater resources are running out. Iran consumes more than 85 percent of its freshwater resources annually, while global statistics show that more than 60 percent of water consumption is a sign of crisis and water stress.

On the other hand, air pollution is increasing and biodiversity in Iran has suffered unprecedented destruction, as statistics released by the Global Carbon Project show that Iran is the seventh largest air polluter in the world with an annual emission of 648 million tons of carbon dioxide.

Climate change in Iran, along with unmanaged drought, is exacerbating the trend of territorial inefficiency. This situation can be seen in the destruction of 18 million oaks in the west of the country, which have slowly dried up.

Some 20 percent of the country’s lands are located on the desert strip, which is called by the state-run outlets as a silent earthquake. Currently, 18 provinces and 97 cities of Iran are involved in desertification, and this numbers are increasing annually.

Mehdi Ghomshi, a University Professor and Head of the Research Institute of Water Sciences at Shahid Chamran University, in an interview with Gostaresh News said: “The Iranian nation has long struggled with the demon of drought, and this is due to the special position of the Iranian plateau.”

About the government’s negligence, he said: “However, in Iran, which has been facing drought for thousands of years, there is no proper management of water resources, and our country is always exposed to drought. Due to the low efficiency of Iranian agriculture in terms of how to manage water resources, we will soon have a food supply crisis.”

About the devastating results of this situation, he added: “There are solutions that can be considered to overcome the current drought and used to get the country out of this crisis. Otherwise, we will face a crisis of increasing migration, unemployment, marginalization, and lack of food security. In fact, we should consider drought as the mother and cause of all social and economic harms.” (State-run website Gostaresh News, May 2, 2021)

Herdsmen/farmers crises: How desertification, climate change trigger bloody clashes

Read more at: https://www.vanguardngr.com/2021/04/herdsmen-farmers-crises-how-desertification-climate-change-trigger-bloody-clashes/


Properly managed livestock – key to climate change, desertification – Allan Savory, Zimbabwean ecologist and land management expert Says: Farmers/herders need one another Farmers/pastoralists conflicts in Nigeria will not end unless•• CR government pioneers unique solution By Ebele Orakpo APART from unrelenting Boko Haram terrorists’ attacks, Nigeria and Nigerians have in recent years continued to witness unconscionable  destruction of lives and property through frequent herdsmen and farmers clashes. Indeed, what initially began as intermittent but innocuous quarrels between farmers and herdsmen over land and grazing routes soon escalated into bloody clashes. The clashes first began in the Middle Belt states of Plateau and Benue before spreading to neighbouring states of Adamawa, Nasarawa and Taraba and later to the Southern part of the country.

With the Federal Government very slow in its response, the crisis quickly assumed dangerous religious and ethnic dimensions, given that most of the herders are from the traditionally nomadic and Muslim Fulani who make up about 90 per cent of Nigeria’s pastoralists, while most of the farmers are Christians of various ethnic groups. By this time, the herdsmen began to be seen armed with very sophisticated assault weapons, especially the dreaded AK-47 guns, with which they reportedly attacked several communities opposed to them using farmlands as grazing routes. Apart from that, thousands of lives have been lost on account of these attacks and hundreds of thousands of individuals displaced, with most of them living in internally displaced persons, IDPs, camps. It is estimated that over 400,000 persons have fled their homes since 2018 when the violence escalated.


‘Make-or-break moment’ for forests

UN News https://news.un.org/en/story/2021/04/1090622

26 April 2021Climate and Environment

Forests are at the core of our efforts to restore our relationship with the natural world, the deputy UN chief said on Monday at the UN Forum on Forests

Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed said we were at a “make-or-break moment”, adding that woodlands provide vital functions, including as guardians of fresh water sources and biodiversity protection. 

“Forests are at the core of the solutions that can help us make peace with nature”, she underscored, stressing that “we need all-hands-on-deck” to support of forests worldwide. 

Moreover, failure to protect them would have a major, negative impact on damaging and rising carbon emissions.  The deputy UN chief said that forests must be adequately financed, including through alleviating debt burdens for those States which are expected to do more for woodland protection and sustainable agriculture overall.  

‘Wide-ranging global crises’ 

Pointing out that the world is facing “wide-ranging global crises” that are “intrinsically linked” to the health and sustainability of our environment, General Assembly President Volkan Bozkir called the discussion “particularly timely”.  

“Clearly our world is telling us that there is a problem in our relationship with nature”, he said, noting the impact of COVID-19, a zoonotic disease that highlights the risks associated with human encroachment; species extinction rates, which range from 100 to 1,000 times above the baseline rate; and rising global warming, with 2016 and 2020 tied as the warmest years on record. 

“Unfortunately, as a society, we tend to focus on the symptoms and not the underlying conditions, and we have ignored the Earth’s messages for far too long”, said the Assembly president. “Hopefully, we can help change that”.   

Building political momentum 

The UN official drew attention to a high-level dialogue on 20 May that will focus on pandemic recovery and highlight how to help tackle desertification, land degradation and drought.  

It will encompass a “strong push around the need to use this momentous recovery effort to create jobs and shovel-ready projects that support land restoration, regenerative agriculture, renewable energy and energy efficiency, as well as investments in sustainable land management”, said Mr. Bozkir.  

He hoped that the discussion would also help support the UN Convention to Combat Desertificationdegradation neutrality targets and national drought plans – in line with the Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction, the Nationally Determined Contributions of countries’ commitments to increasing climate actions through the 2015 Paris Agreement, and future commitments under the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework

The Assembly president noted that 2021 will be “a milestone year for the three Rio Conventions on Desertification, Biodiversity and Climate Change”, adding that these important issues are linked and actions must be coordinated for maximum impact.  

Forests offer hope to heal people, environment and economy — FAO chief

“As we move from the Decade to Fight Desertification into a new Decade of Ecosystem Restoration, let us take this opportunity to renew our commitment to creating a future that is more equitable, where all people benefit from living in harmony with nature”, he said. 

Moving forward 

Liu Zhenmin, head of the UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs, spoke about new research linking successful forest restoration with rolling back biodiversity loss and species extinction.  

He maintained that well preserved habitats and healthy agriculture are key pathways forward and also underscored the importance of indigenous people in forest protection and preservation, calling their role “paramount”. 

“Investing in forests is investing in our future”, he said. “We must strengthen our global efforts to protect and restore forests and support the livelihoods of forest-dependent communities. Only then can we realize our shared vision for a more just, equitable and sustainable world”. ©FAO/Xiaofen YuanProgress in protecting the world’s forests is at risk due to the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the escalating climate and biodiversity crises, according to the Global Forest Goals Report 2021.

Forests are key

In his video message, QU Dongyu, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), called healthy forests the key to “building back better”.

As they provide energy, food security and income while also storing carbon and housing most of the Earth’s terrestrial biodiversity, he said that “forests offer hope to heal people, environment and economy”. 

“Our generation must be the one that halts deforestation, biodiversity loss and climate change…and achieve better nutrition, better production, a better environment and a better life”, the FAO chief said.

Global Forest Goals Report 

The event also launched the Global Forest Goals Report 2021, which evaluates where the world stands in implementing the UN Strategic Plan for Forests 2030

While the world had been making progress in key areas, such as increasing global forest area through afforestation and restoration, findings reveal that the worsening state of our natural environment is threatening these and other gains.  

“Before the pandemic, many countries were working hard to reverse native forest loss and increase protected areas designated for biodiversity conservation”, wrote Secretary-General António Guterres in the report’s foreword.  

“Some of those gains are now at risk with worrying trends of increased deforestation of primary tropical forests.”

Northern Mongolian province launches anti-desertification campaign

Source: Xinhua| 2021-04-21 –|Editor: huaxiahttp://www.xinhuanet.com/english/asiapacific/2021-04/21/c_139896710.htm

ULAN BATOR, April 21 (Xinhua) — The northern Mongolian province of Khuvsgul has launched a campaign to plant trees to combat desertification, the provincial governor’s office said Wednesday.The campaign called “Let’s Build Green Stupas” will last until 2024, during which at least 1 million trees will be planted and cared for, the office said in a statement.

“Taking care of a tree is more difficult than planting it. Therefore, officials of professional organizations will always provide people with knowledge, information and advice on how to take care of trees,” it said in a statement.

At least 76.8 percent of the Mongolian total territory has been struck by desertification, the country’s ministry of environment and tourism has said.The frequency of natural disasters such as yellow dust storms has been on the rise in the country due to desertification resulting from climate change, according to the ministry.The Khuvsgul province is a region that has been heavily affected by desertification and land degradation.

Projects in Hungary

Hungary’s government has launched a series of projects under the Hungary Helps banner designed to provide sustainable farming technologies to communities living in areas threatened by desertification, the state secretary overseeing the programme told public television on Thursday.

Tristan Azbej said that climate change was badly impacting the biosphere of Africa’s Sub-Saharan region, while the technologies offered through the Hungary Helps programme could help slow down those trends.

The Hungary Helps schemes are part of the Great Green Wall programme aimed at assisting over 250 million people living in the region, he said. This latter programme was launched through a cooperation of 20 countries with a view to setting up drought-tolerant vegetable cultures in Africa, he said.

Grids for straw squares developed for desertification control(1/6)

2021-04-10Ecns.cnEditor :Cheng Zizhuo – http://www.ecns.cn/hd/2021-04-22/detail-ihakpzkw7142905.shtml

Grids for straw squares are placed to stabilize the ground of the desert at the Zhongwei sand fixing forest farm, northwest China’s Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. (China News Service/Yang Zhou)

A new type of grid for straw squares, a net in the shape of brush, were newly developed, a new breakthrough in the desertification control tech, at the Zhongwei sand fixing forest farm. It is able to improve the efficiency of sand control by more than 60 percent and reduce the usual cost by over 10 percent.

Andhra Pradesh’s Natural Farming Model Could Scale Up Sustainable Agriculture in India

Natural farming is a type of organic farming, based on the elimination of chemical inputs and use of locally available resources to reduce farmers’ input costs and make agriculture remunerative.

We need to fix agriculture in India – our current system is exploitative for both our farmers and the environment. Today, nearly all public spending in agriculture goes to support input-intensive practices that have only deepened the crisis. As we are in the process of rewriting agricultural policies, sustainability needs to be key in our thinking about a safety net for farmers.

Farmer distress, suicides, and mass protests are driven by high production costs, unremunerative prices, depleting natural resources and increasingly unpredictable weather. Yet, unsustainable practices have become the norm: over half the aquifers in India have depleting water levels while 90% of groundwater is used for irrigation, 30% of land area is degraded and topsoil that takes centuries to build is being lost in a matter of years. At the same time, India is ranked as the most vulnerable country in the world to extreme weather events induced by climate change.

Evidence shows that moving towards sustainable practices will conserve natural resources, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, potentially reduce cost of production and climate-related risks for farmers. In line with these ideas, the prime minister himself has urged farmers to reduce the use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides, and also remarked on the use of ‘zero budget natural farming’ for soil conservation during an address to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification conference in 2019.

In that year’s budget speech, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman spoke about the need for ‘zero budget farming’ to double farmers’ income but failed to provide any meaningful budgetary allocation to its promotion. In 2019-20, the central government spent a meagre Rs 283 crore through the Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana – its primary programme for the promotion of sustainable agriculture. The allocation for year 2021-22, at Rs 450 crore, is not much improved. However, the NITI Aayog has recently held a consultation on the promotion of zero budget natural farming, indicating some ongoing conversation on the matter.

Natural farming is a type of organic farming. Its basic principles are based on the elimination of chemical inputs and use of locally available resources to reduce farmers’ dependence of market-bought inputs that can put them in a cycle of debt. The impact of natural farming practices is yet to be fully understood, but preliminary evidence shows increasing yield in certain crops and income gains through lower cost of production.


King Abdulaziz Royal Reserve to plant 100,000 seedlings in first phase of afforestation drive


King Abdulaziz Royal Reserve to plant 100,000 seedlings in first phase of afforestation drive

April 15, 2021

King Abdulaziz Royal Reserve to plant 100,000 seedlings in first phase of afforestation drive

Saudi Gazette report

 The King Abdulaziz Royal Reserve in Riyadh launched the first phase of its afforestation campaign, aiming to plant 500,000 seedlings.

The campaign is being carried out, in cooperation with the Special Forces for Environmental Security (SFES) and the National Center for Vegetation Cover Development and Combating Desertification.

The launching ceremony was held in the presence of Prince Miteb Bin Fahd Al-Faisal Al-Farhan, adviser to chairman of the Board of Directors of the King Abdulaziz Reserve and the King Salman Reserve, Dr. Khaled Al-Abdul Qadir, CEO of the Center, Col. Nasser Al-Selis, commander of the Special Force for Environmental Security in the Riyadh region, and a number of environmentalists and activists.

The first phase of the Reserve’s afforestation campaign includes the planting of 100,000 seedlings. The afforestation project in the reserve consists of seven phases, targeting the cultivation of 500,000 seedlings, which will be irrigated by water harvesting method.