Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Land restoration key to curtailing the budding threats of land degradation

Land degradation is increasingly becoming a major problem which could result in ripple effects being felt across various sectors in Botswana. Land degradation – a process in which the value of the biophysical environment is affected by a combination of human-induced processes acting upon the land – is stressing Botswana’s arable lands and pastures which are critical for food production, livelihoods, and the production and provision of other ecosystem goods and services.

Wherever land degradation occurs it often results in the reduction of biological potential or the carrying capacity of land to unsustainable levels. The effects of land degradation in Botswana became clear over the past few years as evidenced by communities experiencing crop failure, hunger, and failure of soil to retain moisture.  Although there is no new data available to assess the extent of land degradation, some studies found out that 91,000 km2 or 15.5% of Botswana is affected by land degradation or desertification. It is also estimated that the annual cost of land degradation in Botswana is between P3billion and P3.5 billion.

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 15, Life on Land, is defined by the United Nations (UN) as halting and reversing land degradation, halting biodiversity loss, combating desertification and sustainably managing forests. SDG 15 has 12 targets and 14 indicators. Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 15.3) states that “by 2030, combat desertification, restore degraded land and soil, including land affected by desertification, drought and floods, and strive to achieve a land degradation-neutral world.” This target is a great prospect for Botswana to curb the budding threats of land degradation and to reap numerous socio-economic benefits.

Speaking to The Telegraph, Environmentalist Tuelo Dibeko explained that land degradation has catastrophic effects on human health. “Apart from causing damage to the ecosystem and affecting food production, land degradation can cause malnutrition from reduced food and water supplies, respiratory diseases caused by atmospheric dust from wind erosion and other air pollutants as well as the spread of infectious diseases as populations migrate,” she says.

In Botswana, land degradation has accelerated over the last few decades and combined pressures of agricultural and livestock production, urbanisation, deforestation and droughts has resulted in land losing its productive capacity – to some degree. Regionally the situation does not look good either because the African continent is the only continent where deforestation and forest conversion to agricultural land is on the rise.

Just recently the Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism, Philda Kereng admitted that land degradation was a problem which was threatening the decline the agricultural and rangeland productivity in Botswana. “If not controlled it will lead to the deterioration of biodiversity and food security in the country,” said minister Kereng.

The Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism (MENT) through the Department of Forestry and Range Resources (DFRR) also launched a project in September to restore degraded land and soil in order to achieve land degradation-neutrality (LDN). The project involves among others land degradation monitoring system establishment, land restoration strategy Development and setting of land degradation neutrality.

Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) is defined by the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as: “A state whereby the amount and quality of land resources, necessary to support ecosystem functions and services and enhance food security, remains stable or increases within specified temporal and spatial scales and ecosystems.”

According to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), over 120 countries have engaged with the land degradation neutrality Target Setting Programme and considerable progress has been made since the 2030 Agenda was adopted in 2015. The Land Degradation Neutrality Target Setting Programme (LDN TSP) assists countries in making the LDN concept a reality by 2030, by providing practical tools and guidance for the establishment of voluntary LDN targets, accelerating the implementation of transformative programmes and projects, with positive changes.

Environmentalist Tuelo Dibeko says land degradation neutrality has immense benefits some of which include soil quality improvement which results in better crop yield. She says although Botswana has not heard any substantial investments in sustainable land management, the recent decision to embark on land degradation neutrality is important on many levels chief of which is the fact that the United Nations reaffirmed that LDN has the potential to act as an accelerator of Sustainable Development Goals.

Botswana has already jumped on the bandwagon. Just two months ago the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism embarked on a land degradation assessment and monitoring project which involves land degradation assessment and mapping, land degradation monitoring system establishment, land restoration strategy development and setting of land degradation neutrality.

“Land degradation neutrality is linked to several other SDGs such as food security which could be a ticket to Botswana being self-sufficient in food production and cut its dependence on imports,” says Dibeko.

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