18 June 2017

Tanzania: Tackle Desertification to Avert Catastrophe

Official reports on desertification are apocalyptic and are, therefore, likely to make millions of Tanzania cringe: economic lives of 80 per cent of farmers and livestock keepers are under threat as 61 per cent of landmass is increasingly becoming dry, losing vegetation and wildlife.

The Ministry of State in the Vice President's Office (Union and Environmental Affairs) has been forthright that the situation is worsening in Singida, Dodoma, Shinyanga, Manyara, Simiyu, Geita and Arusha regions.

In its report ahead of this year's World Day to Combat Desertification, the government yet warned again the growing danger. The day reminds everybody that desertification can be effectively tackled, that solutions are possible, and that key tools to this aim at community participation and cooperation at all levels.

In 1994, the United Nations General Assembly declared June 17 the "World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought" to promote public awareness in countries experiencing serious drought and/or desertification, particularly in Africa. The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification is the only legally binding international agreement on land issues. Its 195 parties aim, through partnerships, at implementing the convention and achieve the sustainable development goal of protecting land from overuse and drought, so that it can continue providing food, water and energy.

In Tanzania, human activities, associated with energy source needs and irresponsible farming and livestock keeping, lead to a loss of an average of one million acres of forests annually.

Reversing the cataclysmic cycle of such environmental degradation of a monstrous magnitude will not be a child's play.

Freak weather torments parts of Tanzania

Already, some parts of Tanzania are feeling the ferocity of freak weather: flash floods or drought. Some water catchment areas are drying up. Livestock and wild animals are dying due to water scarcity. Rain is becoming increasingly unreliable. Conflicts pitting farmers against livestock keepers are on the rise, the scramble for resources is growing as the desertification is taking its toll in parts of the country. Desertification has direct and indirect consequences for the economy and for the country's prosperity.

It is understood that Tanzania has been implementing a four-year programme since 2014 to combat desertification.

It involves planting trees and carrying out projects on proper land use. The government says 264 million trees have been planted since 2014 and 211 million of the have survived.

By sustainably managing land and striving to achieve land degradation neutrality, now and in the future, we will reduce the impact of climate change, avoid conflict over natural resources and help communities thrive.

Desertification is caused primarily by human activities and climatic variations. It does not refer to the expansion of existing deserts. It occurs because dry land ecosystems, which cover over one third of the world's land area, are extremely vulnerable to over-exploitation and inappropriate land use. Poverty, political instability, deforestation, overgrazing and bad irrigation practices can undermine land productivity. Let's act fast and correctly.


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