Nelly Bassily | February 22, 2010
As this story demonstrates, the battle against desertification has not been lost. Efforts such as afforestation are underway to protect arable land and rehabilitate desertified land. But, according to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, desertification continues to be one of the environmental changes which pose the greatest threat to the survival of the poor. This suggests that soil conservation efforts must continue. You may view materials related to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification here: http://www.unccd.int/.
In 2008, the United Nations Environment Programme published an atlas which illustrated environmental change on the African continent (http://na.unep.net/AfricaAtlas/). Satellite photos taken of the province of Tahoua, Niger, in 1975 and again in 2005 show that between 10 and 20 times more trees are growing now than in the 1970s. This improvement is the result of tremendous efforts by local farmers to plant and protect trees. You can visit the Tahoua Province page of the atlas to see the increase in green space yourself: http://na.unep.net/digital_atlas2/webatlas.php?id=356.
Here are some other resources that may interest you:
-The NGO SOS Sahel has many projects to fight desertification, operating in Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, and Sudan. One of the organization’s goals is to assist the people of the Sahel to take charge of all aspects of development. According to Blaise Soyir Some, a director of SOS Sahel International Burkina Faso: “A good project to combat desertification has to take into account the region’s socio-cultural factors. The participation of local actors at every stage of a project, from conception to final evaluation, is indispensable.” SOS Sahel offers a plethora of information on desertification, including practical and proven methods to combat desertification, on its website (in French only): http://www.sossahel.org/la_desertification.
One of SOS Sahel’s ongoing projects in Senegal is the planting of strips of trees called filaos (to learn more about the filao tree, visit this website: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casuarina_equisetifolia). These trees are intended to protect crops from gradual silting, caused by overexploitation of groundwater and destructive horticultural practices by vegetable farmers. To read more about this project (in French only), visit: http://www.sossahel.org/nos_actions/actions_en_cours/filaos_senegal.
-The United Nations Environment Programme has launched the Billion Tree Campaign, with the goal of planting one tree for every person on earth by the end of 2009. The project was launched in 2006, in response to environmental challenges such as global warming, biodiversity loss, and inaccessibility of potable water. To learn more about this project, please visit: http://www.unep.org/BILLIONTREECAMPAIGN/. The company Tree Nation, which was mentioned in this article, and the organization Green Belt Movement (http://www.greenbeltmovement.org/), are both part of this initiative.
Finally, the following Farm Radio International scripts deal with the subject of desertification:
–Stop your land from turning to desert (Package 42, Script 6, December 1996)
-A 13-part radio drama entitled The long dry season: A tale of greed and resourcefulness (Package 77, March 2006)
–Stone lines reduce erosion (Package 43, Script 8, March 1997)
–Make drylands productive with planting pits (Package 41, Script 1, September 1996)