Combating desertification through training

"The desertification process taking place in East Africa could be fought with simple measures right away," says Professor Olavi Luukkanen from the Viikki Tropical Resources Institute (VITRI).

Combating desertification through training

Desertification is often considered a phenomenon attributable to climate change, but Luukkanen names the poor policy of land use as the worst cause for it.

– In Somalia, for instance, too much wood is cut down for firewood, and the large amounts of cattle prevent the regeneration of the forest. Only trees can guarantee the fertility of the ground, Luukkanen says.

– Climate change is not yet as great a threat to the people in the area, as they have learnt to adjust to changes in the environment.

VITRI and the Finnish Somalia Network organised a seminar last tuesday April 12, where means to support the Horn of Africa region, comprising Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Djibouti, were discussed. The larger Horn of Africa region also includes Sudan and Kenya, countries with which Finland has cooperated to develop land use.

Luukkanen emphasises that training is the best form of development aid.

– We need to train trainers. The Finnish Somali community includes many experts in the field. VITRI and other Finnish organisations have anchored themselves in Kenya, and operating from there, we can produce more experts. This is a quite concrete proposal to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

Even though Somalia suffers from violence and disorders, Luukkanen says that there is no need to wait for the situation to cool down. The country already includes peaceful areas where the work could be started right away.

In the shadow of the upcoming parliamentary election, the wisdom of development aid in whole has been questioned. Luukkanen points out that after receiving training, people are able to maintain good living conditions and no longer end up as refugees.

– There is compelling evidence that it is possible to increase food production in areas like East Africa through affordable solutions. Today, international organisations once again appreciate the fact that investing in agriculture is one of the main goals of development aid.

Environment and human livelihoods in the Horn of Africa » » » »

Viikki Tropical Resources Institute (VITRI) » » » »

Text: Saku Schildt
Photo: Olavi Luukkanen
18.4.2011
Translation: AAC Global
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