Participative mapping is key to land degradation neutrality.
Photo: Klaus Ackermann

27.03.2018

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Bush encroachment is a matter of growing concern in the semi-arid regions of Namibia. Locally adapted, long-term solutions for land restoration must be elaborated. It is crucial that local scientists are empowered to map and monitor the degradation process themselves, our authors maintain.

The Herero people of Namibia are resilient. After migrating from the Great Lakes of East Africa as herdsmen, they faced invasion by armed migrants and survived bitter warfare throughout the 19th century. But today, in the remote, semi-arid Otjozondjupa Region, where they have their communal home, the Herero people face another threat – felt this time under their feet. The grassland their animals rely on is being replaced with dense, thorny bushes, a process called “bush encroachment”.

Commercial livestock farmers in the country face the same threat. The beef industry is a major economic sector in Namibia accounting for 68.4 million US dollars of the country’s export revenue annually. But bush encroachment is causing revenues to drop. This form of land degradation is now recognised as the fourth sub-national indicator in Namibia under the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) process of Land Degradation Neutrality, which is setting a process in motion to map, restore and monitor degraded land on a global scale.

A fast spreading problem

Our research shows rapid encroachment of high and low density bushes creeping into grassland areas (see Figure below).

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