According to the UN Environment Program (UNEP) the global rate of desertification is speeding up. It remains a significant issue, particularly in sensitive sub-Saharan countries where over 80% of the economy is based on subsistence farming. Africa is the worst affected continent; with two-thirds of its desert and agricultural drylands seriously or moderately degraded. This requires a call for action.
When land becomes desert, its ability to support the local people and their livelihoods declines dramatically. Food can’t be grown, water can’t be collected, and habitats shift. In Kenya, the soils are shallow, highly variable and aren’t particularly fertile. This combined with the continuous cultivation, overgrazing, and lack of soil and water conservation structures are aggravating this process.
The persistent degradation of dry land ecosystems is having a far-reaching impact on human health, food security and economic activity. Most notably, the 2005-2006 drought caused the pastoralists' herds of cattle, goats and sheep to fall 30% in just one year, leaving 80% of all Kenyan pastoralists dependent on international food aid. As droughts occur more frequently and intensely, this continuous burden on the grazing landscape makes herding cattle extremely difficult, thereby impeding economic independence and destroying the local environment. As a result, most households are extremely poor and lag behind in all spheres of social and economic development.
On the ground we are helping the local indigenous communities by developing community grazing plans, structuring rainwater catchments, and encouraging sustainable seed planting and harvesting techniques. This not only ensures food security, but also helps improve soil conservation. These best practices are developed in a participatory and inclusive way, enabling the local community members to become actively involved and committed, ensuring they own the process which ultimately leads to a substantial impact. They can also be scaled up and implemented in local communities elsewhere.