Logo Tropentag

Tropentag, October 5 - 7, 2004 in Berlin

"Rural Poverty Reduction
through Research for Development and Transformation"

Desertification – the Environmental and Socio-economic Consequences of Resources Mismanagement in Drylands

Mariam Akhtar-Schuster

University of Hamburg, BIOTA-Southern Africa Project, Germany


Recent changes to land tenure rights and agricultural production systems do not only provide new opportunities for stabilising and increasing agricultural production. They can also hamper the ability of the utilised natural resources to regenerate naturally, to the extent that irreversible ecological damages emerge. Currently, the intensity as well as the expansion of land degradation is continously reducing ecologically intact sites in arid, semi-arid and dry subhumid regions. The inadequate mangement of the biodiversity, of the soil and the of groundwater have led to the deterioration of these resources. Social disruptions, poverty and population displacement are the outcome of these socio-ecological disfunctions.

Field investigations from the eastern Sahel and southern Africa indicate that desertification primarily affects the stability of rural households. Declining or changing biodiversity can have severe impacts on the quality and quantity of locally available livestock feed resources as well as on the availability of fuel and construction material. The deterioration of soils in cultivated areas reduces the productivity of cultivated lands. Farmers react to the increasing production insecurities by intensifying and/or enlargening the areas under cultivation. This maximisation strategy may lead to a short-term stabilisation of the production. On the long-term it however intensifies land deterioration and provides the basis for the spatial expansion of desertification.

In order to create new sustainable land use systems in desertified drylands, aggregate policy-relevant research solutions are required which are based on an increased and optimised interface between different disciplines as pursued in the support programmes of the global change topics of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). Transdisciplinary research will also have to gravitate towards stakeholder participation for the development of user-orientated solutions. Implementable measures for income-generating and sustainable land use systems must meet the socio-economic needs in the target areas, and regulate the increasing human demands for resources.

Keywords: Africa, desertification, drylands

Contact Address: Mariam Akhtar-Schuster, University of Hamburg, BIOTA-Southern Africa Project, Ohnhorststraße 18, 22609 Hamburg, Germany, e-mail: makhtar-schuster@botanik.uni-hamburg.de

Valid HTML 3.2!