Reducing Land Degradation
What Else Can Be Done (Page 2)

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By Professor Nils Nykvist

Improving the management of livestock (continued)

This land degradation could be significantly reduced if the animals were not grazing down the vegetation so hard near the water supply during the rainy season, when there is water enough in other places with better grazing capacity than near the settlements.

Fences or hedges of thorny bushes to prevent the cattle from grazing near the water supply can allow the plants to build up a larger biomass during the rainy seasons, which can be utilized during the dry seasons.
Experiments with fenced areas to protect the plants from grazing have been made at several places in the world with good results.

Problems arise when the system is practiced on a larger scale. The main questions are the ownership of land and opportunities to coordinate activities when there are multiple owners.

People living near the borderline and seeing that there is green grass on the other side of a fence must have a very strong reason not to destroy the fence and let the animals in. Education at all levels, from political decision makers to the poorest people, is therefore a prerequisite for successful results.

Tree planting for better access to firewood

With better access to firewood, more crop residues and animal waste could be reserved for replenishing the depleted lands, instead of being used as a fuel alternative to firewood. And tree-planting is one way of increasing the supply of firewood.

Indeed, many trees have been planted, primarily around cities and towns, to reduce the shortage of firewood. However, the planted trees are often foreign tree species for which good knowledge of different tree species and planting techniques is required. Lack of this knowledge in combination with poor fire protection may be the main cause of the many failed tree planting projects in rural areas of developing countries.

Although properly managed plantations of foreign tree species can provide a higher yield than many of the indigenous trees, the management of them is more difficult and expensive compared to growing common indigenous tree species, which are very simple and mostly well known to most farmers.

When it comes to growing the domestic tree species, a few simple points should be adhered to. The trees should not be cut down too early, but be allowed to grow to their full capacity to produce firewood.

In areas where too much burning has transformed the original forests into low-productivity, fire-tolerant plant communities such as grasslands or bush lands, it may be necessary to introduce tree seedlings to the land because there are no seeds of trees left in the soil.

The consumption of firewood could be significantly reduced if simple stoves were built, instead of the open fireplaces that are common in the tropics and which often consist only of three stones. The stoves can be made by mixing clay, straw, and cow manure.
Charcoal can also be produced in ways much more efficient than in the open kilns that are common in many poor countries. Drying of the firewood is very important, especially in more humid areas, where burning of damp wood is one of the biggest wastes of energy.

Several attempts have been made to introduce solar energy and biogas production in areas with livestock, but attempts have hitherto not led to any greater use in the poor countries, due to high costs.

See the references for this article.

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