Desertification a Top Concern for South Africa's Environment Affairs Department

A resource management program in Free State Province, which has been severely affected by land degradation, desertification, and drought, is part of the government's Working for Water Programme.

Barbara Thompson, the Republic of South Africa's deputy minister of Environmental Affairs, led the commemoration of World Day to Combat Desertification in Ladybrand, Free State Province, on June 27, 2014, calling attention to the South Africa government's programs to combat the problem, which is particularly severe in the province. Thompson noted that her Department of Environmental Affairs and the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries are funding a project through the Working for Water Programme and Expanded Public Works Programme called "Ladybrand Resource Management Project." Encompassing 400 hectares of land in Thabo Mofutsanyane District Municipality, the community-based project aims to empower the residents to sustainably use and conserve their natural resources.

World Day to Combat Desertification is a United Nations initiative to promote public awareness on the issues and the implementation of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification in countries experiencing serious drought and/or desertification, particularly in Africa. The 2014 commemoration followed the theme "ecosystem-based adaptation" and used the slogan "Land belongs to the future, let's climate proof it."

"It is critical to develop approaches that help the resilience of natural habitat and communities to climate change impacts, thereby reducing their vulnerability whilst providing multiple benefits and such approaches pertaining to ecosystem-based adaptation. Ecosystem-based adaptation is gaining attention as a cost-effective means of protecting human and ecological communities against the impacts of climate change. Ecosystem-based-adaptation is described as building nature’s resilience to the impacts of climate change while also helping to meet people's basic needs. Invasive species can threaten those basic needs and compromise ecosystem functions by taking advantage of habitat disturbance, species under stress, and other chinks in the armor of otherwise healthy systems," Thompson said.

According to the department, Free State is one of the provinces in the country that is severely affected by land degradation, desertification, and drought.

The Working for Water Programme considers the development of people an essential element of environmental conservation. It creates short-term contract jobs and provides skills training, and it also implements HIV and AIDS projects and other socio-development initiatives to relieve poverty.