Deputy Minister Mabudafhasi today led World Day to Combat Desertification celebrations in Tzaneen, Limpopo
17 Jun 2011
Rejoice Mabudafhasi, the Deputy Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, today, 17 June 2011 led World Day to Combat Desertification (WDCD) celebrations by launching the Bathlabine Soil Conservation Project in Greater Tzaneen Local Municipality, Limpopo.
The Bathlabine community has experienced a serious soil erosion problem for many years which negatively affected their livelihoods. The stripping of nutrient-rich soil through erosion reduced the quantity of their food harvests and affected small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) projects based on the sale of agricultural produce.
WDCD is a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) initiative and it is commemorated all over the world each year on 17 June. The theme for WDCD 2011 is "Forests keep Drylands working". According to the UNEP, desertification affects 900 million people in 99 countries as 24 million tonnes of topsoil is lost to erosion annually.The resultant land degradation costs Africa about US$9 billion every year.
Delivering the keynote address at the launch Mabudafhasi said, "The arable land in Limpopo enables the province to make substantial contribution to the economy of South Africa through the production oftropical fruits such as bananas, litchis, pineapples, mangoes, pawpaws, nuts, tea and coffee, etc. More than 45% of the more than R2 billion annual turnover of the Johannesburg Fresh Produce Market comes from Limpopo.We need to protect any potential threat posed to the productive land here and all over the country to ensure sustained food security and employment."
The problem of desertification is caused by people putting too much pressure on delicate soils and ecosystems in dryland areas. Other causes are excessive use of the soil, overgrazing and deforestation for development or firewood collection, intensive arable farming and poor irrigation practices. Lack of rain in such areas make the land even more fragile. The UN calls these areas 'arid, semi-arid or sub-arid' which mean hot and dry. 43% of such areas are found in the African continent.
Mabudafhasi made an appeal to the people of Tzaneen and South Africa as a whole to refrain from chopping down trees unnecessarily as they play an important role to hold the soil together and help water the land by channeling rainwater into the soil. She cautioned that when they are chopped down, the soil is again eroded by the elements, and is unable to hold water.
“There is a close relationship between livelihoods and soils that are rich in biodiversity. Healthy soils produce life, and yet soil health depends a lot on how individuals use their land. What we do to our soils determines the quality and quantity of the food we eat and how our ecosystems serve us. Our increasing ecological interdependence on forests mean all South Africans have a valuable role to play in the management of the forest resources. Forests are valued for their biological diversity, for medicinal and local uses, and for their aesthetic and spiritual values,” said Mabudafhasi.
South Africa’s National Botanical Institute is currently drawing up a report for the government to give some indication of the extent of land degradation across the country.
For media enquiries:
Peter Mbelengwa (Spokesperson for the Deputy Minister)
Cell: 082 611 8197
Issued by: Department of Environmental Affairs
17 Jun 2011
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