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Creeping dunes threaten African nation/But There is Hope in Some Areas

by Ronald Rutherford Mon Apr 9th, 2007 at 12:33:52 AM EST

I really like the various news clips that are presented in the European Salon forum.
Well I came across "Creeping dunes threaten African nation", and it has been something that I was interested a little while ago and had this to say at my blog:
In Niger, Trees and Crops Turn Back the Desert

From the diaries - whataboutbob

The above article from the NY Times started a very interesting debate on Thom's Board and brought out a lot of different sources of information in the debate. I at first did not even pay attention to the thread. But then I saw How Property Rights are Helping Green the Sahel in Niger at "The Commons". And so I thought back the original thread title: Trees reverse Deserts and thought maybe it was related and it was.

And a couple of the points I made on the title link:

[I]ncreased populations does not necessarily degrade the environment.

[W]ell defined property rights of individuals created the incentives to protect the environment? This is a common problem of "tragedy of the commons" when it is owned by everyone then no ONE person owns it.

And I ended my simple points with a link to a PDF report: GROWING GREEN: THE CHALLENGE OF SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURAL DEVELOPMENT IN SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA . This is a good report that questions some of the theoretical assumptions that organic farming (or more broadly as non-industrial) is always sustainable and better for the environment.

The blog post Property Rights In Action is a very good presentation of what an economist would take away from the title article. I do think that his fears of communal rights is somewhat unfounded and does not take into account the influences a group has on the individual in positive manners also. The second blog post called Small Changes Can Make a Difference calls the transfer of property rights (as the above post states) from the state to individuals (small groups) as the privatization of trees. This is not exactly correct but is headed in the right direction and of course small changes in behavior is most important. What causes that change is why Economists study incentives as much as they do.

Another economist also noted the lack of property rights in Togo: Almost Club Med and I included it in my blog post Freedom and Environmental Protection.

Instead of this post getting too long I will continue with a more broader analysis of Niger in my next post.

Edit (02-16-07): Just a couple of more points on Niger. Niger has a Environmental Performance Index of 25.7 the lowest number in all 133 countries surveyed.
And was based on: Health, Biodiversity, Energy, Water, Air and  Natural Resources.

As far as ratings of peoples' freedoms from Freedom House, since 1999 they have become Partially Free from Not Free status. And the trend is going in a positive direction with 2005 being rated as 3 and 3 on a 1-7 point scale (lower number better) for "PR" stands for "Political Rights," "CL" stands for "Civil Liberties," and "Status" is the Freedom Status.

PS: I see someone has stopped by to give us a link to Hello learn more about NIGER LATEST NEWS ON.

PSS: Here is an example of what can happen when measures like above are not used in "Creeping dunes threaten African nation"

Original at my blog. Next part two if you are interested.

Thanks, I hope you found that it was interesting. P.S.: Second part is at: Niger Part Two.

I'm really liking that there are more African issue articles on ET lately. Thanks for this!!

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Fri Apr 6th, 2007 at 12:19:02 PM EST
Environment changes so fast now, in different directions as well. For example, Namibia is attacking the "plague" problem of "invader bush" encroaching on the country's southwest African savanna pasturelands.

Government officials hope to harvest the woody biomass as fuel for power generation, potentially restoring the savanna ecosystem and providing for all of Namibia's electricity needs in one masterstroke.

[A] 250-page study of the problem of Namibian "bush encroachment," funded by the Finnish government [contains] an astonishing amount of detail about Namibia's savanna ecosystems and the nasty, thorny, water-hungry bushes and trees that are sucking the lifeblood from the land.

But we people are invader species as well, right? Why else the same bushes were not a problem before?

A double whammy of over-grazing by cattle farmers in conjunction with the suppression of naturally occurring fires gave the invaders their opening. Typically, invasive species like the acacia varieties black thorn, blue thorn and (my favorite) false umbrella thorn make inroads on the savanna during drought years, capitalizing on the superior ability of their root systems to extract water from semi-arid land. But until midway through the last century, periodic high-intensity fires, whether started by lightning or indigenous peoples, cleared out the brush and allowed savanna grasses to reestablish themselves. But shortly after WWII, the government began aggressively engaging in fire suppression. Cattle farmers then responded by overstocking the land with livestock.

The upcoming problem is, of course, that the next "sharp" economic solutions would destabilize the savanna further, if anybody would care. As I vaguely try to respect copyright issues, I will just refer to Salon.com's website (with a short intro add) for some facets of complicated economic-environmental interactions. Here is just a conclusion:

The good news, as one can discern from reading the bush encroachment study, is that we now know an amazing amount about how the savanna works. Scientists are unlocking the secrets of how different plant and animal species interact, their varying thirst for water and nutrients, and the mysteries of how climate, vegetation and humans interact (oh, and guess what, thorny invader bushes love greenhouse gases). In a perfect world, careful scientists working together with responsible government officials might be able to figure out just how much human commercial activity the savanna could bear, and put into effect policy recommendations that kept everything hanging together.

[We] can do it. We have the data. But can we be trusted to act accordingly?

Once you entered Salon.com, you may read quite a few interesting entries in the How the World Works blog. Say, about the season of yellow dust storms that come from Chinese deserts to Korea and Western Japan.

by das monde on Sun Apr 8th, 2007 at 02:59:04 AM EST
das monde, thanks for the post.
Every time I start to write a response post I realize that I need to delve into this further, I doubt that I will read that 260 page or even the 164 page pdf reports but still I need to read more about the issues you brought up.

Rutherfordian ------------------------------ RDRutherford
by Ronald Rutherford (rdrradio1 -at- msn -dot- com) on Tue Apr 10th, 2007 at 02:35:38 AM EST
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