Environmentalists made this call during the third session of a dryland fellowship thematic training organised by Climate Tracker which was held virtually, Thursday.
Amidst a profound surge in the negative impacts of land degradation due to human activities across the continent of Africa, sustainable environmental practices advocates have called for the intensification of proactive and conservative measures to reduce the pace of land ruin.
The environmentalists made this call during the third session of a dryland fellowship thematic training organised by Climate Tracker which was held virtually, Thursday.
The fellowship workshop, which had about 50 journalists across 23 African countries, is a prerequisite training aimed at equipping and empowering reporters to deepen coverage of the forthcoming Global Landscape Forum (GLF) conference, with a major focus on dryland restoration challenges as it affects their respective countries.
During his presentation, Peter Minang, a principal scientist with the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), explained that Africa is among the most vulnerable and most affected continents by land degradation, and that about 500 millions of hectares have already been impacted so far.
“Desertification affects around 45 % of Africa’s land area; 55% of these areas are at high or very high risk of further degradation, while Africa loses at least 56 billion Euros annually,” he said.
He said land degradation is majorly triggered by the intensification of land use, and that in drylands, land degradation, if unabated, mostly leads to desertification.
Other major drivers of land degradation in the continent, he said, include: Agricultural activities; Demographic factors; Infrastructure extension; Economic factors ; Policy and institutional factors; Wood extraction and related activities; Technological factors; as well as Cultural factors among others.
However, he noted that factors such as growing population, poverty and poor governance stand out as significant indirect drivers of land degradation.
At one of the breakout sessions, when asked what Nigeria could do to prevent incessant felling of trees for wood-energy (Charcoal) production, and pastoralists, Mr Minang said there is a need to put in place policies that will drive sustainable use of alternative green energy at affordable rates.
“Efficient cooking stoves put in place would reduce the demand for wood extraction from the forests. Develop a wood programme and help people get out of poverty,” he said.
To curb farmer-herder clashes, the ICRAF official said there is a need to improve grazing land and tree fodder in order to boost livestock nutrition all year round.
“Adopt improved farming methods and install water harvesting technologies that can be managed on a small scale. This will improve land ability to hold water for plant growth,” he said.
According to a report shared with journalists during the training, approximately 340 million hectares of woody vegetation in Africa’s dryland zones have become degraded through overgrazing, agricultural expansion and overexploitation for fuelwood and timber.
The report titled; “Wood Solution: The key to driving large-scale forest restoration,” noted further that “..Despite substantial evidence of its economic potential, restoration in these areas is often considered a cost-intensive intervention that conflicts with unsustainable, but perceivably more lucrative livelihoods and industries.”
Speaking on the impacts of land degradation on the surrounding environment, Salima Mahamoudou, a research associate at World Resources Institute (WRI), stated that some under-reported environmental impact of land degradation is the disappearance of the practice of fallow.
Also, she said the growing development of agricultural fields on pastoral lands and protected areas as well as flooding in surrounding cities among others are the major under-reported impacts.
Jonathan Davies, who doubles as the Global Agriculture Programme Lead at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and coordinator of the Global Drylands Initiative, explained that dryland expansion affects about one-third of the world’s planet.
He said there is a need for dryland restoration because it has caused the decline in biological and economic productivity of land soil biodiversity.
In a similar manner, Birguy Diallo, a senior project officer with the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), stated that the aftermath of food losses is one of the greatest drivers of land degradation in Africa.
She urged all journalists present to use their prolific story telling prowess to amplify further, the impacts of land degradation on livelihoods as well as the need to consistently promote dryland restoration campaigns their respective countries of residence.
Climate Tracker (CT) is an international non-profit organization, aiming to support, train and incentivise better climate journalism globally.