The Regional Learning and Advocacy Programme for vulnerable dry land communities showed that dry land areas commonly known as ASALS– Arid and semi-arid lands makes up more than 83% of Kenya.
Northern Kenya constitutes most of these areas. Other regions include the Rift Valley, Eastern and Coast provinces. These areas are home to approximately 4 million pastoralists who constitute more than 10% of Kenya‘s population plus other range land users.
However should the country embark on desert control initiatives the implications will be improved livestock production as well as excess land for crop production and hence reduction in fights over pastures. This is likely to also see the country become food secure.
The former Cabinet Secretary for Environment and now the Kenyan ambassador to France once said that making land productive can play a significant role in turning the growing tide of migrants abandoning their unproductive land. That these people can become communities and nations that are stable, secure and sustainable. She was speaking ahead of the World Day to Combat Desertification in 2017.
During the 2018 world day of combating desertification the UN Global compact urged the world to embrace combating desertification saying the benefits of using land sustainably ultimately reduces poverty, feeds the hungry, promotes peace and creates green, healthy living spaces.
The World Day to Combat Desertification (WDCD) is observed every year since 1995 on 17th June to promote public awareness on the dangers of desertification. The agenda was to provide a platform for the local and international community about the implementation of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in those countries experiencing serious drought and desertification, particularly in Africa.
Lying on the vast and magnificent Ordos plateau in Inner Mongolia is the Kubuqi desert the seventh largest desert in China. It covers 18,600 square kilometers. Apart from being a hotbed of poverty, Kubuqi outputs nearly 160 million tones of sand into the Yellow river yearly.
However things have changed where land reclamation has been done on 6,000 square kilometers of this desert which has reversed the degrading ecological environment. This has seen the forest cover going up from 0.8 percent in 2002 to 15 percent in 2016.The vegetation coverage rose from 16.2% in 2002 to 53 percent in 2016.
Kubuqi desert once a barren land is now covered with forest. The communities living in this desert have worked tirelessly to turn around this desert into an oasis.
This has been facilitated through policy guidelines of the Chinese Government which have opened up private sector investment, market based participation of locals as well as scientific and technological innovation. The adoption of ecological conservation has seen the desert become green and affected the economic and social status of the communities here.
The desert control programme has seen over a million people employed with benefits directly to 100,000 local farmers and herdsmen. These locals have become key players of desertification control. With the technology as the key driver it takes less than 10 seconds to plant a tree saving huge amounts of money used in labour.
The Chinese Government has built a highway in the middle of the desert and in 2014 the Kubuqi desert was designated as the first economy pilot zone in the world by the United Nations.
Kenya’s agenda four
With Kenyan Government having originated a four development pillars among them Food Security and manufacturing, there are great lessons to learn from land reclamation programme in Ordos city Inner Mongolia China which will go a long way in helping to supplement the Kenyan development agenda.
Kenya‘s livestock production accounts for 24% of total agricultural output by 2012 and over 70% of the country‘s livestock and 75% of the wildlife located in Arid and Semi Arid Areas, land reclamation will enhance livestock and crop production hence accruing benefits in the processing and food industry.
According to the United Nations Environmental Programme desertification is the degradation of land in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas. It is caused primarily by human activities and climatic variations.
It occurs because dry land ecosystems, which cover over one third of the world‘s land area, are extremely vulnerable to over exploitation and inappropriate land use. Poverty, political instability, deforestation, overgrazing and bad irrigation practices can all undermine the productivity of the land.