Desertification is a type of land degradation in which a relatively dry land region becomes increasingly arid, typically losing its bodies of water as well as vegetation and wildlife. It is caused by a variety of factors, such as climate change and human activities.In East Africa and other parts of Africa, the number of steps has been taken to combat desertification or reverse the trend of desertification.
The following are measures which can be used to combat desertification;
- Legislation against environmental degradation. Laws have been passed against the destruction of the environment such as wetland reclamation. Most of such vulnerable areas have been gazetted as nature reserves or conservation sites.
- Afforestation: this has involved the campaign to plant trees in order to arrest the effects of desertification. Tree planting campaigns have been conducted by the government, NGO’s, environmental/wildlife clubs as well as individuals.
- Reafforestation: i.e. re-planting of trees where trees have been cut or where deforestation has taken place e.g. Mabira forest, Kibaale forest etc.
- Introduction and practice of improved methods of cultivation i.e. methods that do not harm the environment. This has been mainly through protecting agricultural land by adopting practices that conserve soils e.g. mulching, crop rotation, gully prevention measures, application of manure and fertilizers etc.
- Rotational grazing: This has been facilitated by paddocking. Efforts have also been made to ensure that the carrying capacity of land is maintained in order to avoid overstocking. Rotational grazing also helps to check overgrazing.
- Re-settlement of people adjacent to forest reserves as well as eviction of forests encroachers. Re-settlement of the people is to prevent encroachment upon the forests especially when population is increasing and when land shortage problems are cropping up e.g. encroachers in Kibaale forest reserve were evicted and resettled.
- Sensitization of the public about the role of forests or natural vegetation. This has been through the education of the masses on the dangers of deforestation and also how to utilize the environment sustainably. This has created awareness about environmental issues such as desertification-associated problems. This sensitization has been through a variety of mass media e.g. the press, electronic media, seminars/workshops, schools, Local council meetings, public rallies etc.
- Introduction and encouragement of the use of fuel saving stoves or those that use saw dust such that less biomass is used as fuel. This reduces on the tendency of the destruction of forests for fuel.
- Rural electrification and provision of other sources of energy such as solar energy, bio gas etc as an alternative to wood fuel.
- Creation or establishment of environmental organizations to champion or spearhead the fight against desertification through environmental protection and restoration of degraded lands. Some of these organizations are governmental or non-governmental. They may also be international, inter-state, national or local. Some are also voluntary organizations. Examples of these bodies include; NEMA in Uganda (a parastatal body charged with protecting the environment.) Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). In addition, there are wildlife clubs, tree planting clubs and anti-pollution clubs. International organizations include; the Kagera Basin Organisation, Inter Governmental Authority on Drought and Development (IGADD), interstate ones like the East African Wildlife Society and others like Karamoja Development Agency(KDA) to combat desertification and aridity and ensure development of the area.
- Encouragement and use of indigenous methods of protecting the environment and more so natural vegetation and drainage features i.e. through traditional customs and taboos.
- Population control measures through population re-distribution and family planning as well as encouraging late marriages, discouraging polygamy etc to avoid over population, which would lead to land shortage and deforestation