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Desertification action

The World Day to Combat Desertification (WDCD) to be marked worldwide on 17 June 2018 will focus on how consumers can regenerate economies, create jobs and revitalize livelihoods and communities by influencing the market to invest in sustainable land management through what we buy. Unveiling the theme of the 2018 World Day to Combat Desertification, Monique Barbut, Under-Secretary General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of the UNCCD, said “the campaign slogan, ‘Land has true value. 

Green dam gets updated

Invest in it’, reminds us that land is a tangible asset with measurable value beyond just cash. That value is lost through degradation.” Algeria is one of the African countries most threatened by desertification. In a study initiated in the 2000s by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and Fisheries and entitled "National map of land susceptible to desertification", the scourge of desertification is said to be receding over at least 6% of the area that had been previously classified.

Satellite photos were used to produce the map, covering 27 million hectares. For several decades, no effort has been spared in this field by our country, with the purpose to reduce the devastating effects of desert spread and land degradation, especially in agriculture, not to mention the other devastating consequences, such as the uncontrolled population migration. Under these circumstances, 30 departments are threatened, including 8 in steppe areas, 13 in farming regions and 9 Saharan departments, or 965 communes and 1870 localities. Worse, the southwest regions of the country are experiencing more advanced degradation compared to other regions.


Inquires about desertification's long process

It is necessary to review several scientific and technical publications related to the issue of desertification in Algeria and throughout the world, to better understand the long process of desertification. These publications have conducted research and field surveys over several years to better understand the causes and consequences of this ecological disaster.


What causes desertification?

Two types of causes are causing or may lead to desertification: direct causes that are climate variations and human activities, and indirect causes that can create situations that may lead to desertification (displacement of refugees during periods of conflict, inappropriate land use or environmental protection, specific socio-economic and political factors, etc.). 


Direct causes: Climate variations

Aridity: The persistence of high temperatures favours drought’s appearance which blocks vegetation cycles and development. Above all, it is necessary to exclude from our field certain regions of the world called deserts which are characterized by aridity and "natural" hyper aridity, as in Sahara. The total area of the world's arid and hyper arid regions is about 25 million km². However, aridity also characterizes other regions of the planet cyclically and to various degrees.

The aridity is the consequence of many factors:

Low or non-existent rainfall: 0.5 mm to 250 or 300 mm per year, depending on the case. The strong heat: from 30 to 40°C during summer days.

Wind frequency: usually in the middle of the day. 

This leads to high evaporation: potentially several m³ of water per year.


Human activities

Arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid regions are characterized by extremely fragile ecosystems with poor soils and low productivity. Unsustainable use of dry lands leads to degradation of vegetation cover and exposure of soils to wind and water erosion. Human activities in land-use systems can therefore aggravate the effects of climate and lead to desertification.

Four categories of causes exist: deforestation, cropping systems, overgrazing and inadequate use of irrigation technologies can lead to salinity, which is a form of land degradation.


Indirect causes:

Deforestation, excessive cultivation, overgrazing and poor management of irrigation systems are direct causes of desertification, but they most often occur in constrained societies that are deliberately damaging their environment. These social, economic and political factors encourage or force people to adopt destructive land use practices. If this pressure is not neutralized, efforts to address the direct causes will produce only short-term results and the consequences of desertification will only intensify. These pressures can be divided into 5 groups: demographic pressure, poverty pressure, land legal pressure, new world economic order pressure, and inequitable resource distribution pressure. 


Algerian control strategy

Algeria has always recommended an urgent action against desertification. On 17 October 2011, Dr Rachid Benaissa, former Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, said during the opening of the 10th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP10) to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in Chang Won, South Korea, that the international community must lead an "urgent campaign" against desertification and land degradation". Dr Benaissa added that: “Following a long 15-year process led by Convention member countries and the UNCCD Executive Secretariat, the issue of desertification, land degradation and drought mitigation is a universal challenge, along with climate change mitigation and adaptation and biodiversity preservation. As a result, the international responsibility is fully engaged in this struggle. This global challenge demands urgent attention from all of us. We believe that this is the first message that our meeting today in South Korea should reinforce.”

“The African continent remains the most seriously affected in this context. Representatives of the 10th Conference of the States Parties, meeting in Algiers from 7 to 9 September 2011, recalled not only the continental concerns, but also the need to increase cooperation between the three Rio Conventions.

 The recommendations of the ten-year strategy and the Convention have been followed by African countries thanks to the valuable work of the Executive Secretariat.

They adjusted their vision, and committed to align their national action plans to combat desertification with the UNCCD 10-year strategic plan and framework 2008-2018, which requires urgent financial mobilization and easy access to funding through the Global Environment Facility (GEF). Algeria, designated as a pilot country by the UNCCD for this initiative, adjusted its action plan in July 2O11 and presented it during the Algiers meeting to other regional countries," the former minister explained.”  

Green dam work needs to be restored The Green Dam project is being restored in Algeria, with a plantations rehabilitation program being implemented in the extended intervention area. Regional workshops have already been held during the first quarter of 2018.They were led by the General Directorate of Forestry (GDF) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

The Green Dam rehabilitation and extension is part of the implementation of the forest strategy up to 2035, one of whose major priorities is the integrated land restoration project in arid and semi-arid zones in the context of climate change. This project is also part of Algeria's international commitments, particularly those relating to the implementation of the Convention to Combat Desertification, adaptation to climate change and sustainable development objectives (SDOs). 


Green Climate Fund to Rescue

During the organization of a national consultation workshop on the rehabilitation of the Green Dam in Algiers, the Director General of Forests, Azzedine Sekrane had declared that Algeria had officially requested the leaders of the Green Climate Fund (a UN financial mechanism) to mobilize 50 million dollars to finance an integrated project to restore land in the arid and semi-arid zones of the Green Dam. In this context, the DGF presented a project idea about the Green Dam to be submitted for financing under the Green Climate Fund, he said. The DGF presented its work on a study begun in 2012 and which results were presented in 2017 by the National Rural Development Council (NRDC), concerning the Green Dam rehabilitation and extension on more than 4.7 million hectares.

The study highlighted the 50% degradation of the Dam area while highlighting an action plan focusing on the restoration and development of endemic species in arid and Saharan areas, taking into account resilience and biodiversity protection. The proposed action plan includes forestry, dune and farming areas as well as road strips, also integrating socio-economic aspects.

This 5-year project aims to prevent, minimize and reverse desertification and land degradation, mitigate the effects of drought in affected areas, by improving the resilience of human and natural systems in Green Dam areas through sustainable management and rehabilitation of forests and pastures. 

Of the $50 million requested by the DGF, $20 million will be devoted to the implementation of activities to restore affected ecosystems, focusing on resilient indigenous species, $20 million to improve the management of vulnerable areas in order to prevent desertification and $5 million to set up a system to monitor the effects of climate change and assist in talking decisions.

The other 5 million will be used to strengthen foresight and research, develop the activities of small farmers and support green and blue enterprises, in order to ensure sustainable responses to climate change. The project's area of intervention covers the 10 Green Dam departments, i.e. most of the country's arid and semi-arid zones. As a result, a technical team from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) visited a pilot area of the green dam in M'sila department in March 2018 to assess the actions to be undertaken as soon as possible. The DGF stated that the final decision of the Green Climate Fund is essentially determined by this evaluation's results.

The Green Dam seeks to create a real green barrier linking the Algerian borders from East to West over a length of 1,500 km and a width of more than 20 km, representing an area of more than 3 million hectares. The great achievement belongs to the late President Houari Boumediène who announced in 1970 the establishment of the "Green Dam" project, one of the most ambitious agro-ecological projects implemented in Africa and one of the most ambitious carried out by Algeria after its independence in 1962.


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