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How Drought and Desertification in South Africa Is Causing a Crisis

How Drought and Desertification in South Africa Is Causing a Crisis

What is Desertification?

Desertification is the natural process by which a desert becomes a savanna, or a forest becomes a grassland. A desert is an area with deficient rainfall (less than 50 millimeters per annum) and a hot climate. Environment experts say that a desert becomes a savanna if it is expanded and deepened. This process is called desertification. Different factors cause desertification. One of them is climate change. Climate change has contributed to soil degradation and further accelerated the expansion of deserts. So as a result, vast tracts of agricultural land in Africa and Asia have been transformed into arid and lifeless land.

Causes of Desertification in South Africa

– Overgrazing – Lack of Rotation – Unfavourable Soil Climate – Low Available Water – Declining Forest Cover – Erosion – Plant Invasions – Overgrazing – Overgrazing is the result of high stocking rate and too much use of forage crops.

When cattle are overstocked, they become inefficient in utilizing the feed. They consume large amounts of feed and produce less meat. As a result, the farmers need to provide meals to their cattle more often, which consumes more land and resources.

– Lack of Rotation – Rotation is a system of crop production by which crops are rotated to prevent soil degradation and to have healthy soil with available nutrients for the next crop.

– Unfavourable Soil Climate – Soil is the foundation of every agricultural system. If it is not healthy, then no agricultural system is possible. Unfavorable soil climate includes low levels of soil nutrients, high salinity, high pH, high water content, high organic matter, low oxygen, and high levels of micronutrients. So, farmers must follow good agricultural practices and use appropriate fertilizers and pesticides to have a favorable soil climate.

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– Low Available Water – Decreasing water levels in rivers and lakes, increasing water demand, and decreasing water resources are the leading causes of low available water. Farmers must take water from rivers and lakes for irrigation or boreholes for domestic purposes. They must also have a good water management system to use available water properly.

– Declining Forest Cover – As humans expand their activities, they change the natural environment by cutting down forests. This depletes the water resources and changes the climate, with rains jet-streamed with less water.

– Erosion – When a river carries a lot of silt and sand and deposits it on the downstream side, it is called erosion. When the eroded soil is carried to the sea, it leads to coastal erosion. Excessive use of fertilizers, increased demand for irrigation water, high salinity, high pH, low levels of oxygen, and high levels of salts are the leading causes of erosion.

– Plant Invasions – When wild and exotic species such as plants, herbs, and trees are imported, they occupy the ecological niches of native species. They are especially harmful in drought-prone areas, depleting water resources and altering the natural ecosystem.

How to Prevent Drought in South Africa?

  • – Reduce carbon emissions – Reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants, automobiles, and other fossil-fuel-burning activities, by using less electricity in your home and workplace.
  • – Improve agricultural practices – Improve agricultural practices such as reducing overgrazing, not overusing organic fertilizers, rotations, and using climate-friendly seeds.
  • – Build water reservoirs – Build large water storage reservoirs to store water during dry seasons so that farmers can use water for irrigation.
  • – Build water control structures – Build water control structures such as weirs and barrages to divert water from rivers and lakes.
  • – Build water pipes – Build an extensive network of underground pipes to tap and store water.
  • – Secure water rights – Register your water rights and obtain a valid water license.
  • – Develop drought-resistant crops – Develop drought-resistant crop varieties such as sorghum, cowpeas, and sunflowers.
  • – Manage water resources wisely – Manage water resources such as irrigation, drainage, and water supply wisely.
  • – Build rainwater harvesting structures – Build rainwater harvesting structures such as roof-to-ground gutters and downspouts to store rainwater.
  • – Manage urban water use – Manage the use of urban water, such as by regulating domestic and flushing flow, using water-efficient appliances, and using water wisely for flushing toilets.
  • – Prevent flood damage – Prevent flood damage by building higher and broader houses, reducing flood channels, using water wisely, and managing flood damage.
  • – Improve air quality – Improve air quality by using cleaner energy sources and reducing air pollution.
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Mitigating Strategies for Drought in South Africa

  • – Rehabilitate degraded lands – Rehabilitate degraded lands by adding manure and compost, planting trees, and growing legumes.
  • – Control overgrazing – Control overgrazing by fencing and monitoring cattle.
  • – Reduce salinity levels – Reduce salinity levels by managing irrigation water, planting trees, and reducing greenhouse gases.
  • – Prevent coastal erosion – Prevent coastal erosion by building dunes and revegetating eroded areas.
  • – Develop flood defenses – Develop flood defenses such as levees, berms, and dams.
  • – Develop water resources – Such as new irrigation projects, dams, and reservoirs.
  • – Build rainwater harvesting structures – Build rainwater harvesting structures such as roof-to-ground gutters and downspouts to store rainwater.
  • – Build water pipes – Build an extensive network of underground pipes to tap and store water.
  • – Improve urban water use – Improve urban water use by regulating domestic and flushing flow, using water-efficient appliances, and using water wisely for flushing toilets.
  • – Prevent flood damage – Prevent flood damage by building higher and broader houses, reducing flood channels, using water wisely, and managing flood damage.
  • – Improve air quality – Improve air quality by using cleaner energy sources and reducing air pollution.
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Conclusion

Drought is a natural phenomenon that occurs when there is less rainwater than usual in a particular area. There are several types of drought in South Africa, but soil erosion is the most common type. Drought can be prevented by using water wisely, planting drought-resistant crops, building flood defenses, and managing urban water use. The good news is that it is possible to mitigate the effects of drought with a bit of planning and effort.

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