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Hwange's Rapid Desertification An Environmental Concern

Hwange communities urge mining companies to put mitigation strategies into action to safeguard their ecosystem and desist from land degradation activities. Image by Newsday

Hwange dry lands are fast expanding—a form of desertification attributed to two main factors, climatic fluctuations and human activity.

BY CALVIN MANIKA | @The_CBNews |This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. | MAR 1, 2023

HWANGE (The Citizen Bulletin) — Dumisani Moyo, 37, remembers the lush foliage and charming surroundings that were a part of the rich heritage of the Hwange community.

Over time, most of this greenery has been destroyed by humans.

“In addition to the loss of vegetation, little remains to indicate the region's past splendour. If we ignore it, it might turn into a desert in the coming decades,” warns Moyo.

Desertification, also known as land degradation in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid zones, is becoming more prevalent in places like Hwange due to drought, human activity and environmental changes.

Hotspots for desertification in Hwange have been expanding recently, threatening hundreds of livelihoods as indicated by a drop in vegetation production.

In some dryland areas, desertification has already decreased biodiversity and agricultural output and income.

“With climate change, but mostly human activities like cutting down vegetation for exploration, mining activities without proper regulation, Hwange suffers desertification,” says Antony Mwale, a villager in Diki.

Daniel Sithole, the Director of the Hwange-based Green Shango Trust says extractive mining without reclamation of mined pits was causing desertification, jeopardizing the livelihoods of local farmers.

“Pollution of air and heavy metals in the Deka River is a serious cause for concern and remedies are needed to promote livelihoods for rural people downstream,” adds Sithole.

Around forty-six years ago, the world community acknowledged that desertification was a significant economic, social, and environmental challenge for many countries in all regions.

As a result, the United Nations Conference on Desertification (PACD) was called in 1977 to develop plans for stopping desertification.

Residents say pollution of the Deka river is a serious cause for concern and remedies are needed to promote livelihoods for rural people downstream. Image by The Citizen Bulletin

According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), dry lands today house 3 billion people and account for around 46.2% of the world's land area.

“Unsustainable land management, particularly when coupled with droughts, has contributed to higher dust-storm activity, reducing human well-being in dry lands and beyond.”
James Mtisi, an environmental researcher specialising in land sustainable land management

The current wave of droughts is making environmental issues in Hwange worse.

Due to Zimbabwe's agro-based economy, agricultural practices and other land use systems account for a larger share of the nation's environmental issues.

Desertification has been attributed to two main factors - climatic fluctuations and human activity.

“Climate variability and anthropogenic climate change are likely to have played a role, in interaction with human activities, in causing desertification in some dryland areas particularly through increases in both land surface air temperature and evapotranspiration, as well as decreases in precipitation,” Mtisi adds.

It is predicted that desertification and climate change will lower agriculture and livestock productivity, alter the species makeup of plants, and decrease biological diversity throughout dry lands.

ALSO READ: Cattle Farmers Bemoan Climate Change Induced Losses

Through a number of factors, including changes in plant cover, sand and dust aerosols, and greenhouse gas fluxes, desertification exacerbates climate change.

Environmentalists say desertification encompasses all types and degrees of land degradation that take place in dry environments.

Sithole says they are urging businesses, particularly mining companies to put mitigation strategies into action to safeguard the ecosystem.

“We are very ready to partner with mining companies in planting trees in all mine dumps for remedy and sustainable development,” says Sithole.

Sithole says they have planted more than 3000 fruit trees in a space of 4 years.

“We have places where we planted mango and paw-paws which are now being consumed,” he says.

“We have worked so well with community leaders in amplifying the gospel of tree planting. All this was done with no funding but using available resources for sustainable impact.”

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