Dodoma — At least 61 per cent of Tanzania's land mass is on the verge of becoming a desert, threatening the future livelihood of millions of the country's livestock keepers and farmers, a cabinet minister has warned.
The minister of State in the Vice President's Office (Union and Environmental Affairs), Mr January Makamba, said yesterday that the situation was worsening in Singida, Dodoma, Shinyanga, Manyara, Simiyu, Geita and Arusha regions.
"The situation is bad and it is threatening economic lives of about 80 per cent of Tanzanians, who depend on farming and livestock keeping in their daily lives," Mr Makamba told reporters yesterday ahead of the commemoration of World Day to Combat Desertification today.
Human activities, associated with energy source needs and irresponsible farming and livestock keeping, have seen Tanzania losing an average of one million acres of forests per year.
As a result, said Mr Makamba, desertification is taking place in some parts of the country.
"Some water catchment areas have been adversely affected. Livestock and wild animals are dying due to scarcity of water. Rain is becoming increasingly unreliable. An increase in conflict cases between farming and livestock keepers in various parts of the country is one of the indirect outcomes of desertification," said Mr Makamba.
Desertification has direct and indirect consequences for the economy and on the country's prosperity. As such, the government is undertaking several initiatives in the endeavours to contain the situation, including coming up with the national action programme to combat desertification, which runs between 2014 and 2018. The programme highlights various issues that government organs work on to combat desertification.
The issues include tree planting programmes and those pertaining to proper land use among farmers and livestock keepers. So far, 264 million trees have been planted since 2014 and 211 million of then have survived and are thriving.
World Day to Combat Desertification has been observed since 1995 to promote public awareness relating to international cooperation to combat desertification and the effects of drought.
The United Nations General Assembly declared in 1994 that June 17 would be the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought to promote public awareness and implement the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in those countries experiencing drought and/or desertification, particularly in Africa.
It is a unique occasion to remind everybody that desertification can be effectively tackled, that solutions are possible and that key tools to this aim lay in strengthened community participation and cooperation at all levels.
The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification is the only legally binding international agreement on land issues. The Convention promotes good land stewardship. Its 195 Parties aim, through partnerships, to implement the Convention and achieve the Sustainable
Development Goals. The end goal is to protect our land from overuse and drought, so it can continue to provide us all with food, water and energy.
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 to thrive.