Anti-desertification programs need to be part of a broader program designed to improve rural health, education, communication and welfare.
People need adequate education and resources to utilize appropriate management techniques. They also need a minimum level of quality of life in order not to be forced through economic hardship to abuse their land. Socio-economic issues such as land tenure systems, distribution of wealth and employment opportunities need to be considered. Soil conservation technologies are needed that adapt current technology to local regions through a process of local field testing and research.
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Farming methods which are beneficial to the environment can also be pursued. Intensive methods of farming are often inappropriate for semi-arid soils, and their use only contributes to soil degradation. Traditional farming techniques may pave the way for appropriate farming technology in the future. These practices include fallowing, wide-spacing, introducing water-retaining trees and drought tolerant crops, and retaining crop residue on the soil surface. Prevention and reversal of desertification requires comprehensive planning and long-term commitments by governments.
Immediate project goals can focus on providing individuals and families with alternative food and income sources as well as incentives to prevent desertification. Essential to almost all reclamation projects is an initial reduction in the intensity of land use, but this can not be achieved if the project participants face poverty and limited options. Reforestation and afforestation should be pursued and seedling establishments started. Scientists have now identified many fast-growing and drought-tolerant trees that survive under conditions of desertification. Livestock management practices such as rotational grazing and deferred grazing, which obtain high meat production while maintaining the natural resource base, should be implemented on rangeland. Agricultural extension services should offer farmers more technical advice on conservation, and insure that irrigation systems are utilized correctly. Problems with irrigation can be avoided by teaching proper on-the-farm management of water as opposed to the construction of large dams.
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