Combating desertification is important for smallholders, who are often guilty of poor veld and soil management.

Desertification is a process by which fertile land in a country’s dry regions steadily loses its productive capacity and becomes unproductive, desert land.

Desertification does not mean that deserts are getting bigger, but rather that the fertile layers of soil are being lost.

This is usually as a result of drought, deforestation, or inappropriate agriculture.

We are told that nearly one fifth of the world’s land is threatened with desertification.

Smallholders need to examine their veld and livestock management for practices which might lead to land degradation, such as:

  • Overstocking and overgrazing;
  • Inappropriate farming techniques such as deep ploughing land 2 or 3 times a year to produce annual crops;
  • Lack of crop rotation;
  • Planting crops down the contour instead of along it.

Mitigation of Desertification

Land users should consider reduced tillage and no-till methods of cultivation. These methods protect the soil surface and reduce runoff.

Once we have planted we should apply mulch. Mulching means spreading material such as decaying leaves, grass clippings, bark, wood chips or compost around the plants, to form a protective cover over the soil surface.

Smallholders need to eradicate alien invasive plants as part of their efforts in combating desertification.

Cover crops are crops, usually grasses or legumes, which are planted between, or sometimes with, regular crops, primarily to protect and improve the soil. That protection helps to reduce erosion.

One can leave unploughed grass strips between ploughed lands (strip cropping). Smallholders can also make sure that there are always plants growing on the soil, and that the soil is rich in humus.

If you have livestock on your land, reduce them considerably to give the veld a chance to recover. Find out more about appropriate stocking rates and grazing intensities. Allowing different species to graze one pasture also helps to prevent the loss of plant species and dominance of others.

Extreme weather events due to climate change leave our land more vulnerable ~ our veld management is crucial in order to combat desertification.

June 17 is World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought.

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