Saturday, June 17, 2006

World Day to Combat Desertification, Drought

UNCCD - June 17 2006
This year is the International Year of Deserts and Desertification and today's the 10th anniversary of UNCCD - United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification and specifically World Day to Combat Desertification, Drought. The Wilderness Foundation shares the concern for deserfication, especially as its UK office is in the green, yet driest county in the UK.

The theme for the day is “The Beauty of Deserts – The Challenge of Desertification”, so we'll start with an appreciation of existing deserts before we look at some of the work that the Wilderness movement is doing to address challenges in desert areas.

The Sierra Club Desert Reader: A Literary Companion is an excellent collection of writings on the desert lands of the world.

On the magic of deserts, Ernest RĂ©nan observed: "At night in this waterless air the stars come down just out of reach of your fingers".

On the Challenge of Desertification front, our sister organisation, the Wild Foundation is working in Mali to try and save the few remaining Desert Elephants:

Mali is a beautiful, landlocked desert country in North West Africa. Perhaps best known for its rich cultural diversity, Mali is also home to the northernmost herd of African elephants. The only elephants in the arid Sahel, this herd is also unique because of its annual migration – circumscribing an area of over 24,000 square kilometers, the herd has the longest recorded migration route of any elephants.

The The nomadic pastoralists who live in this extended area – primarily the Tuareg and Fulani (Puhl) tribes – have coexisted peacefully and in close proximity with these animals for centuries. They graze and herd their cattle and goats in the same areas, and use the same waterholes. More than just tolerated, the elephants have been integral part of the local culture. But times are changing. Agricultural development policies and subsidies are encouraging nomads to settle permanently near water points, and are generally encouraging the drilling of new wells for crop production. Intensifying land use in an arid system and increasing concentration of previously nomadic human populations around water points is leading to more human/wildlife conflicts. Without careful planning, these conflicts will likely worsen. Now is the time for a successful intervention.- http://www.wild.org/western_africa/mali.html

You can see pictures of some of these elephants and the people who live in their proximity here - and pictures from more of Mali here.

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