Desertificaion and ecological measures to combat it

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Ever since mankind came into being it has of course made use of the natural environment. Initially, subject to the laws of nature controlling population size, man must have lived in balance with the various factors of his ecosystem, in which itinerary constituted an obvious way to cope with shortages irrespective of their cause. As long as there were relatively few people, abandoned local biotopes had ample opportunity to recuperate. Development,that many-sided product of human inventiveness, however created possibilities for human expansion. In the Neolithicum, about 8 000 to 5 000 years ago, sedentarization of importance took, place in ecologically rich regions. Where the constraints of nature or the deficiency of the methods of resource exploitation excluded sedentarization, systems of more or less nomadic life developed that made higher demands on the environment than the previous hunting and gathering industry had done. Neither the sedentary nor the later itinerant systems of resource exploitation known as cattle nomadism and shifting cultivation have remained in balance with all environmental factors. Reckless exploitation of in particular wood resources and overgrazing practices have set into motion a process of soil erosion. In relatively dry regions the ensuing climax ecosystem is a desert, so that the biospheric degradation process is then termed desertification. In this connection it is of interest to realize that in the present Sahara overgrazing started more than 5 000 years ago. At that time the region’s desiccation began. There is consequently no justification for the allegation sometimes encountered that it was the advent of European science and techno¬logy in regions to which their application was alien that brought about the desertification problem in Africa and Asia. Nevertheless it must be recognized that the appearance of this civilization and the powers representing it has led to an increase in human population that is closely connected with the present acceleration of the denounced erosive processes. A related additional cause of the recrudescence of the present environmental crisis in the tropics can be sought in an increase in land use serving export purposes, sometimes in marginal regions previously only exploited by cattle-herders. But also in this case, like in all cases of land degradation, the first and foremost causative vice is not cultivation in itself but its destructive methods, in other words: untoward biosphere management.
Available in print form, East Africana collection, Dr Wilbert Chagula Library (FOS W44.N3)
Desertification, combat, Environmental management, Fire bioshere, Fire as desertifying factor, Transnational approach
Weille de, G. A. (1987). Desertificaion and ecological measures to combat it