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Desertification threatens rural economies

SHARE   |   Monday, 22 June 2015   |   By Shingirai Madondo

Environmental degradation and resource depletion have negative impacts on Botswana’s rural economies, the Tati West Member of Parliament (MP) Biggy Butale said last Thursday.
S[peaking during the World Day to Combat Desertification commemoration at the border village of Mapoka, Butale said conservation measures need to be put in place as soon as possible. “In Botswana, desertification is a great concern,” lamented Butale during the commemoration held under the theme: ‘Attaining food security for all through sustainable food systems.’ 
Butale said desertification has a negative impact on affected communities and may lead to wide spread poverty, hunger and migration of the population. “It has been observed that approximately 91 000 square kilometers or 15.5percent of Botswana is affected by land degradation or desertification,” he said. Therefore, he said implementation of the provisions of the convention to combat desertification is crucial for Botswana.
According to Butale, the impact on grazing lands and forest resources caused by the human population expansion, increase of livestock and wildlife herds exacerbated by the continual occurrence of droughts are significant rural development planning issues. “These are related to both the conservation of the nation’s resource base and rural body,” he said.
Being a renowned beef producer, the country is highly dependent on agriculture and especially livestock farming. Desertification has shown negative impacts in areas like the Kgalagadi region where grazing lands are fast depleting, he said.
During the 2014/15 farming season, most crops were destroyed due to poor rains combined with a heat wave for the better last quarter of the period. And it is believed that poor rainfall patterns are a result of the desertification threats.
In its update for the January to March rainfall season, the country’s Department of Meteorological Services had projected normal to below-normal rainfall for all parts of the country except the western districts.
Butale reminded the gathering that the country’s citizens depend on biodiversity and ecosystem services for their daily needs and the for the nation’s economic and cultural development.
According to Butale, this does not only include food production and wild harvesting but other activities such as industry, tourism and handcrafts, he said. He said land degradation and climate change are having significant and irreversible impacts on biodiversity around the world.
For his part, Mapoka Village Development Committee (VDC) chairperson Rapelang Kealotswe said land degradation is continuing to cause sleepless nights to the leadership of the northeastern part of the country. “We have gullies all over in the northeast district. And deforestation has made it easy for flowing water to cause erosion,” said Kealotswe. He said there is serious need for land rehabilitation in the North East District.
World Day to Combat Desertification is one of the major events in the calendar of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). In 1994, the UN general assembly declared June 17 the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought.  

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