Time to fight desertification is now

Daily Monitor . June 17, 2013

As East African Community (EAC) countries read their national budgets last week (June 13), efforts were put on raising resources for infrastructural development and service provision. One critical issue, however, remains: Are we doing enough to combat desertification?

June 17 is marked internationally as the World Day to Combat Desertification and this year’s theme is “Drought and Water Scarcity”. Considering the geographical location of East Africa and the region’s reliance on rain-fed agriculture for livelihoods of millions as well as pastoralism in drier areas, East Africans should be at the forefront of combating desertification.

Climate change threatens to expand semi-arid areas in the region and urgent measures need to be taken to address this. The EAC Climate Change Master Plan, with a vision to ensure that: “The people, the economies and the ecosystems of the EAC Partner States are climate resilient and adapt accordingly to climate change” can provide a framework for addressing this challenge.

There is, however, need to align the respective National Action Plan to combat desertification in each country to the EAC Climate Change Master Plan to promote a coherent regional response to efforts in combating desertification.

This should go hand-in-hand with review of the master plan to coordinate a regional approach in combating desertification.

The critical issue of financing still remains a challenge; national budgets are not sufficiently addressing the challenges of desertification. This is in spite of the fact that both components of agriculture - crop cultivation and livestock are increasingly at risk of desertification.

There is need to invest in reforestation and other conservation measures in order to secure the livelihoods of farmers as well as promote food security, which is directly affected by climate change.

At the international level, EAC governments should push for a comprehensive agreement to reduce emissions by the world’s leading polluters as well as payment of carbon debt by industrialised economies. This means the region should do more to influence the next United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of Parties scheduled for 11-22 November, 2013 in Warsaw, Poland.

It is important for stakeholders to demand for greater action from governments, not to only rely on external assistance but to be more proactive as well as responsive in addressing the desertification threat for once it happens, it cannot be easily reversed.

The news item can be viewed at: http://www.monitor.co.ug