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YOUTHPAPER - FEATURES | 2013-09-17
Combating desertification and drought; The youth’s involvement
Fikameni Mathias
Many refer to this place as ‘the land between two deserts’. Namibia is one of the driest countries in Southern Africa. Known for its vast space and sunny days, the Land of the Brave is characterised by its arid conditions and droughts tend to occur now and then.
Home to approximately 2,1 million people, the country has come a long way, battling its vulnerability of desertification and droughts as a result of climate change.

Desertification is known to be a type of land degradation, in which a relatively dry land region becomes increasingly arid, typically losing its bodies of water as well as vegetation and wildlife. It is caused by a variety of factors, such as climate change and human activities. Human activities such as overgrazing, poorly managed agriculture and the excessive cutting down of trees, which leads to deforestation are at the core of the existence of desertification.

Justine Braby of the IECN feels that it is high time the youth come face to face with the reality of our country, “Namibia is a dry country naturally. Land management issues are great challenges in our country and desertification has major implications on land use and management. Namibia is no stranger to drought – and these issues affect us directly.” Braby further emphasises the fact that communal areas are often at the heart of suffering and the lack of the appropriate land management practices. She recognises that there are various policies in place that deal specifically with these issues but are unfortunately not strictly enforced. She advises the youth to get involved in the process of seeking alternatives through asking critical questions, testing out their new practices (for those who are in rural areas and farms), becoming more knowledgeable on sustainable farming practices, and doing research about good holistic land management practices. “The youth should also be consumer-smart by only buying products, which have been farmed sustainably and interacting with such events such as the COP11 to raise the youth profile onto the international platform, in order for youth voices to be heard and for youth to take the action themselves.”



Getting the youth involved



When droughts occur it affects all aspects of life. They affect both young and old, societies and individual livelihoods, culture, politics and the economy. The core cause of climate change is brought upon by human activities and thus all, including the youth should be at the forefront of the fight to combat desertification and droughts as they have become a great challenge, especially to the rural population in Namibia. The youth are said to be future leaders. So, what environment would they live in, if it is not taken care of right now?

As a starting point, Namibia is hosting the United Nations Convention on Combating Desertification (UNCCD) Conference of Parties 11 (COP11) this week at the Windhoek Country Club and Resort.

It is the first time that a UNCCDCOP is held in Southern Africa. COP11 will be convened under the theme 'A stronger UNCCD for a Land-Degradation Neutral World'. The theme marks the progress the parties to the convention made under the 10-year strategy and encourages further action for its successful implementation during the latter half of the strategy period.

Approximately 3 000 delegates from the 195 parties to the UNCCD, UN organisations, intergovernmental and civil society organisations will come together to debate and arrive to amicable solutions towards improving the living conditions of people in dry lands; maintaining and restoring land and soil productivity; and mitigating the effects of drought.

Namibia ratified the UNCCD in 1997, after launching the National Programme to Combat Desertification (NAPCOD) three years earlier in 1994. NAPCOD served as Namibia’s first National Action Programme(NAP) to the UNCCD, and was replaced in 2007 by the Country Pilot Partnership for Integrated Sustainable Land Management, which ran until 2012. A third generation NAP is currently under development and will be launched during COP11.

Thus it becomes an issue for the Namibian youth at this time, especially this year, when the country is experiencing a drought.

Trying to get the youth involved in the work of the COP 11, the National Youth Council (NYC) in collaboration with the Integrated Environmental Consultants Namibia (IECN), and other youth organisations are working out how the youth in Namibia should organise themselves around the Conference of the Parties on combating desertification.





Total disaster

Martin Handjaba, a Natural Resource Management student at the Polytechnic of Namibia recently visited the Kunene Region. Kunene is the most drought-hit region in Namibia and what looks like a beautiful landscape covered in an array of grass species, is actually an area covered in one species of herb, which is unpalatable and slightly toxic to livestock. The vegetation assessment done by the students in one hectare of land showed that the herb, which flourishes in drought covers 97% of the assessed area. Approaching three herders to comment on the issue, it was evident that they did not care much about the number of livestock they lost as they believe they could get loads of livestock the next year.

Many of the elders are more concerned about preserving their culture than dealing with the current situation. “What is important is to really get involved with the youth in this area, to change mindsets because there could be alternatives hat they could put to practice to prevent the loss of their livestock and water scarcity”, advises Martin.

A pupil from the Okalongo village describes the situation as a total disaster. Joseph Matias takes it as a household issue, “as for many of us who depend on our fields for food, we did not really harvest much to sustain us on to the next rainy season. Also, our goats are dying and I do not think many houses will have livestock next year,” says Joseph. As part of tackling the problem, Joseph believes that young people can play their part by growing more trees, building dams, and also by indulging in harvesting rain water.

The testimonies of the two youngsters bring the issue to light and highlight the fact that drought and desertification do not only affect the individual but society at large. Sustainable land management practices should be put to practice as it is the only way the youth can preserve their environment for future use. The team aiming to get the youth involved towards the COP 11 has established a Facebook page that serves as a platform for the youth to voice their voice towards the conference. Log onto Facebook and have your say on www.facebook.com/namibiayouthcop11.

         


IJG Daily Bulletin

A product of CEIT Development Namibia