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Programmes for improved arid lands management

Relevance of the UN plan to combat desertification to the Khartoum workshop on arid lands management
The Central arid zone research institute and its relevance to the united nations university network in Africa
Proposed training programmes in arid lands management at the university of new south Wales
Geographical research in francophone countries of the western and central Sahel
Management strategies for drylands: available options and unanswered questions


Relevance of the UN plan to combat desertification to the Khartoum workshop on arid lands management

G. Karrar United Nations Environment Programme

I participate in this workshop with the permission of the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), but the Views I express in this meeting are not necessarily those of UNEP. The participants in this workshop are well aware of UNEP's history, role, and activities. They are also informed about the United Nations Conference on Desertification, and some of them were involved in the preparations for that conference. The concern of the international community with the problems of desertification started prior to 1974, the year in which world attention was drawn to sharp focus on the problems of human sufferings of those living in the arid lands on the fringes of the deserts.

The United Nations Conference on Desertification

In December 1974 the UN General Assembly decided to (a) initiate concerted international action to combat the spread of desert conditions and (b) convene a United Nations Conference on Desertification which would produce an effective, comprehensive, and co-ordinated Plan of Action to Combat Desertification. The preparations for this conference took more than two years.

The outcome of the United Nations Conference on Desertification was a technical overview summing up the present state of scientific knowledge, a Desertification Map of the World and a comprehensive Plan of Action to Combat Desertification (UNCOD, 1978). In addition, there were several supplementary and background documents, e.g. scientific reviews, case studies, feasibility studies of cooperative transnational actions, etc. (UNCOD, 1977 a, pp. 133-37) which provided information, recorded and analysed experience, and presented the scientific evidence on which the recommendations of the Plan of Action were based.

The immediate achievements realized from holding the conference include:

la) the realization that desertification is an enemy of developing countries in that it is an obstacle to development and also a threat to the needs of growing populations;
(b) increased public awareness of the problems of desertification during the preparations for the conference;
(c) the realization that combative action is possible using existing knowledge;
(d) recognition of the vital importance of organizing and supporting national efforts against desertification;
(e) the realization that regional or transnational co-operation is essential in the fight against desertification (types for such co-operation have been developed); (f) the commendable acceptance and use by politicians and decision-makers, before, during, and after the conference, of scientific thinking and approach; and (9) the realization of, and agreement on, the vital role of public participation in planning and executing antidesertification programmes and projects.

The Plan of Action to Combat Desertification

The Plan of Action to Combat Desertification which was produced by the conference contained a set of 28 recommendations. Recommendations 1-22 dealt with actions at national and regional levels, and recommendations 23-28 were directed to actions at the international level. In almost every recommendation, the Plan of Action refers to the need to develop scientific capabilities and to apply scientific knowledge in development and management of resources. The principal pivot of the Plan of Action is the integrated approach of science in a broad sense and of technology in ecologically and socially appropriate forms, to activities related to halting desertification, reclaiming decertified lands, and utilizing resources in arid and semi-arid lands. Education and training are included in more than half of the recommendations. The interdisciplinary nature of the problems of desertification requires innovative approaches in education and training. This is illustrated in the proposed programme for research and training in the Institute of Environmental Studies in the University of Khartoum (el-Rasheed, 1978). Another important objective of education is to inform citizens and secure their participation in antidesertification activities.

The Plan of Action cannot be implemented without assigning priority to national action. This depends on a national plan that is comprehensive and stresses two basic elements, namely monitoring and assessment and land-use policy and planning. Success in combating desertification, a serious environmental problem, can be achieved through the coordinated and integrated action of
(a) application of science and technology,
(b) reform of socio-economic institutions including land tenure systems,
(c) mobilization of popular participation, and
(d) sound and efficient management systems.

The Plan of Action in Relation to This Workshop

Several recommendations in the Plan of Action are related to this workshop. Some of them, particularly recommendations 1, 2, 4, 12, 18, 20, and 23, are worthy of special mention.

Also relevant to this workshop are a series of transnational cooperative programmes and projects to combat desertification (UNCOD, 1977 b). The Sudan is participating in three such transnational projects. Activities in all three projects centre on arid and semi-arid lands, which are a common concern of this workshop and of the UNU Arid Lands Sub-programme. Their specific relevance will be referred to again in proposals for possible action.

The United Nations Environment Programme has been entrusted by the UN General Assembly with the responsibility for follow-up and co-ordination of the implementation of the Plan of Action. Among others, two main actions taken by UNEP in its world-wide endeavours to follow up the work of the Desertification Conference should be mentioned. These are:
(a) the establishment of a desertification unit in the UNEP secretariat; and
(b) the organization of the first meeting of the Consultative Group for Desertification Control authorized by the General Assembly to mobilize funds for the implementation of the Plan of Action. Project proposals based on the three transnational projects involving the Sudan and referred to in earlier paragraphs were considered and received favourable support during the first meeting of the Consultative Group.

Suggestions for Possible Action

Following consideration of the paper on the establishment of an Institute of Environmental Studies in the University of Khartoum and the assessment papers presented in this workshop on topics for research and training, and bearing in mind the severity of desertification problems in the Sudan and the commendable efforts it made in developing various programmes and projects to combat desertification, including participation in the three transnational projects, the following proposals are presented for consideration:
(a) There should be strong involvement of government officials in the Board and Academic Committee of the Institute of Environmental Studies at the University of Khartoum, as full or co-opted members, as appropriate.
(b) Arrangements should be made to link training and research programmes at the Institute of Environmental Studies with the transnational projects and with some selected development projects.
(c) Maximum use should be made of the vast field manpower in the ministries and government agencies in the Sudan. These field officers have been for several deccades the sole active extension-service personnel in the country. The important issue in this connection is to strengthen the link between the field services and the research institutes in the ministries and in the universities. Solution of several problems of management in arid lands should start by allocating problems to the research institutions for them to explore likely solutions, either by application of existing scientific knowledge and technology or by research for new solutions. Field staff should be co-authors of the reports and publications which result from this activity. This is an important prestige incentive to the field officers.
(d) Recommendation 4 of the Plan of Action calls for study and publicizing of positive and negative local and world-wide experiences of the role which industrialization and urbanization play under different social and economic conditions in changing the ecological status of the environment and in intensifying, preventing, or eliminating the processes of desertification in arid areas. It also calls for discussion of national experience of combining industrial development and urbanization in arid areas with crop and animal husbandry, irrigated farming, and forestry. The Sudan provides an opportunity for conducting these studies, for example, the development of Babanusa Milk Factory, Khashm el-Girba Irrigation Scheme, and several others.
(e) A study of the possibility of combating desertification by promoting complementarily between a predominantly grazing area and a rain-fed cropping area so that further deterioration in the first zone could be halted by preventing the extension of rain-fed cropping into marginal lands. The scheme provides for the supply of all cereal requirements of the inhabitants in the first zone, at subsidized prices, from the second zone for a period of, say, three years. The area southwest of Khartoum together with an area west of Kosti or in southern Blue Nile are suggested for this scheme.


Rasheed, M.A. el-. 1978. "Proposed M.Sc. Programme in Environmental Studies." Paper presented to the United Nations University Workshop on Arid Lands Management, Khartoum,

United Nations Conference on Desertification (UNCOD), 1977a. "Report of the United Nations Conference on Desertification." (A/CON F.74/36)

-. 1977b. "Transnational Projects: Description and Status of Feasibility Studies." (A/CONF.7413/Add.1)
-. 1978. United Nations Conference on Desertification, 29 August9 September 1977: Round-up, Plan of Action and Resolutions. United Nations, New York.


The Central arid zone research institute and its relevance to the united nations university network In Africa

H.S. Mann
Director, Central Arid Zone Research Institute, Jodhpur, India

The Arid Region of India and the Central Arid Zone Research Institute

The arid zone in India forms a part of the Thar Desert and covers about 12 per cent of the area of the country. It occupies about 3.2 million km of the hot desert located in the states of Rajasthan (62 per cent), Gujarat (20 per cent), and Punjab and Haryana (9 per cent), besides small pockets (9 per cent) in the states of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. The semi-arid area occupies about 9.6 million km in peninsular India. In addition to these, the cold desert of Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir occupies an area of 0.7 million km and presents an entirely different set of agro-climatic conditions.

Arid areas are characterized by acute ecological imbalances. The problems imposed by a low annual rainfall are accentuated by its erratic distribution from season to season. Average annual rainfall in the Indian arid zone varies between 1 50 and 500 mm, with a coefficient of variation as high as 6070 per cent.

The climate is characterized by high temperatures, with a mean diurnal variation of 14C, the mean maximum being 32.7C and the mean minimum 18.8C. The mean relative humidity is 41 per cent. The region has a high solar radiation of 450-550 cal/cm /day, and a mean wind velocity of between 10 and 20 kph, resulting in a high evapotranspiration of 6 mm/day and consequently a high mean aridity index ranging from 76 to 78 per cent.

The soils are mostly sandy, low in organic matter (0.1-0.45 per cent), with poor moisture-holding capacity (25-28 per cent) and a high infiltration rate. The pH values vary from 7.0 to 9.0, and the moisture deficiency is the chief limiting factor on agriculture. Ground water is very deep, generally brackish and saline, and there are no perennial rivers. Soil salinity and alkalinity further complicate the situation.

To worsen the situation further, the Indian arid zone is one of the most thickly populated deserts of the world. It has an average population density of 46 persons/km as against 3 persons/km in most other deserts. The arid region of India sustains a human population of over 19 million and a livestock population of 23 million. The daily human needs (food, feed, fuel etc.) of such a large human and livestock population are the main causes of desertification.

Nevertheless, these arid and semi-arid areas assume a strategic position in the overall Indian context, as seen from the fact that 60.5 per cent of the total area under cotton, 74 per cent of the area under groundnuts and 36.5 per cent of the area under other oilseeds in the country are located in these dry tracts. Even for food crops, these areas account for 64 per cent of the area under sorghum, 51.4 per cent of the area under millet, 46 per cent of the area under ragi, 30.5 per cent of the area under wheat, and 47 per cent of the area under pulses. Despite this large acreage under different major crops, the dryland tracts barely account for a fifth of the total food grain production of the country. This is an indication of their technological backwardness.

Thus the region has its own economic and social importance and has a direct and indirect influence on the economy of the country. Agricultural production and living standards in rural areas located in more favourable parts of the country are rising, and this has caused regional disparities and imbalances. Immediately after India attained independence, the importance of the arid regions in the national economy and development programmes was recognized and a Desert Afforestation Research Station was established at Jodhpur in 1952. The main objective of the station was to conduct research on afforestation. While emphasis on afforestation and silviculture continued, the station was re-organized and designated as the Desert Afforestation and Soil Conservation Station in 1957. The station was again re-organized and its name changed to the Central Arid Zone Research Institute (CAZRI ) in October 1959.

The institute is at present organized into seven scientific divisions, namely: Basic Resources Studies, Plant Studies, Animal Studies, Wind Power and Solar Energy Unilization Studies, Soil-WaterPlant Relationship Studies, Economics and Socioloy, and Extension and Training (Fig. 1). In addition, centres of the All-lndia Co-ordinated Research Project on Dryland Agriculture, the Coordinated Project for Improvement of Millets, the All-lndia Coordinated Research Project on Rodent Management, the Project for Research on Water Management and Soil Salinity, as well as two operational Research projects-one on Arid Land Management and the other on Drip and Sprinkler Irrigation- are also operating at the institute.

FIG. 1. Organization Chart of the Central Arid Zone Research Institute, Jodhpur

CAZRI is now considered a leading research institute in southwest Asia, engaged in multidisciplinary scientific research for the reclamation, improvement and amelioration of desert conditions. The staff strength is over 600 scientific and supporting staff. It has excellent laboratories (Figs. 2 and 3), a library, and 15 field research stations in Western Rajasthan. The knowledge and technology evolved by CAZRI is influencing the planning of development programmes of various states in India. Besides, it supplies improved seeds of crops and germ plasm of improved and adapted trees and shrubs and organizes training for personnel of development departments.

Similarities and Common Problems of Arid Lands in India and the Sudan India and the Sudan have similarities and common problems in climate-in addition to sharing similar economic and social conditions as developing countries. Both are located in summer-rainfall tropical regions. The natural vegetation and a number of the crops cultivated in the arid areas are common to the two countries. A major percentage of the population in both countries is rural, and the main occupation of the people is agriculture and animal husbandry. The research experience of CAZRI over the last 25 years could be useful to both countries as well as to others in organizing and implementing the UNU Arid Lands Sub-programme.

Involvement of CAZRI in International Scientific Activities and Collaboration Programmes

Since its establishment, CAZRI has been associated with many international organizations and foreign governments. CAZRI was established with the active support and collaboration of Unesco under its Major Project on Arid Lands. Australia, through CSIRO, has provided an exchange of scientists, besides laboratory equipment and library assistance. A number of international conferences and symposia have been held at Jodhpur, some of which are listed below. In addition, CAZRI prepared a case study on Desertification in the Luni Block, Rajasthan, for the United Nations Conference on Desertification held in 1977. A collaborative project with the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (Geneva! on Social Aspects of Desertification is in progress. India, through CAZRI, is executing a transnational project on Monitoring Desertification Processes and Related Natural Resources in Arid and Semi-Arid Areas of southwest Asia.

International conferences and symposia held at Jodhpur, include:

(a) a symposium on Problems of the Indian Arid Zone, 23 November to 2 December 1964, organized jointly by CAZRI, India's Ministry of Education, and Unesco;
(b) a symposium on the Arid Zone under the auspices of the 21st International Geographical Congress, 22-29 November 1968;
(c) a seminar on Integrated Surveys and Range Ecology and Management, 9-27 November 1970;
(d) a training course on Integrated Natural Resources Surveys, 21 January-20 February 1978; and
(e) a symposium on Arid Zone Research and Development,14-18 February 1978.

The office of the Arid Zone Research Association of India is located at CAZRI. An important activity of the association is the publication of a quarterly interdisciplinary research journal Annals of the Arid Zone, which is in its eighteenth year of publication. A selected list of CAZRI publications is included in Appendix E.

Efforts by CAZRI in the Dissemination of Knowledge, Technology Transfer, and Training

As a result of over two decades of research activity by CAZRI, adequate knowledge and technology has been made available for transfer and adoption in rural areas. It has, however, been observed that little use is being made by the rural population of the knowledge and the recommended technology. The technologies recommended include dryfarming practices; seeds; fertilizers; pasture and range management; sand-dune stabilization and the establishment of shelter-belts; watershed management for stabilized crop production; optimum use of available water resources using improved techniques such as drip and sprinkler irrigation; control of diseases and pests, including rodents; horticulture; improved methods of animal husbandry, including sheep and goats; the use of solar energy for water-heating, cooking, and drying; and the use of big-gas for cooking (Fig. 4).

In view of this situation it was decided to establish a fullfledged Division of Extension and Training at CAZRI in 1973. The major functions of this division are:

(a) preparing and disseminating relevant literature in popular language;
(b) organizing training of developmental officers and progressive farmers; and
(c) implementing the Operational Research Project on Arid Lands Management.

In the project on Arid Lands Management, a cluster of five villages near Jodhpur has been selected to work in collaboration with CAZRI scientists and staff of Extension Agencies and farmers. While demonstrating special technology in the farmers'fields and in their homes, the scientists study constraints in the transfer of technology. The usual constraints are operational, social, ecological, economic, and technological. This programme has been in progress since 1975, and it is hoped that with the feedback the scientists will be able to identify the specific constraints in the transfer of technology in this area. This understanding should help narrow the gap between the level of knowledge and its application. Thus, the philosophy and objectives of the Operational Research Project in progress at CAZRI are quite similar to those of the UNU Arid Lands Sub-programme. Consequently, collaboration between CAZRI and the UN University through its network programme would be of mutual advantage.


Proposed training programmes in arid lands management at the university of new south Wales

J.A. Mabbutt University of New South Wales, Australia

The University of New South Wales proposes that the experience of arid lands research and management that has been gained at its Fowlers Gap Arid Zone Research Station, and the considerable resources that it has built up there and at its W.S. and L.B. Robinson College at Broken Hill nearby, should be mobilized in the provision of training programmes in arid lands management, suited particularly for graduates from developing countries. The appended programmes (Appendix F) indicate the range of training that could be given, and would form the basis of more detailed planning in due course.

The university was granted the lease of Fowlers Gap Station, 100 km north of Broken Hill, in 1966. It is an area of 40,000 ha, mainly of the chenopod steppe rangeland type which characterizes much of the arid zone of southern Australia. The station is situated near the north end of the Barrier Range and contains a variety of land types offering excellent opportunities for field training and research. With its annual rainfall of about 200 mm, the station typifies the conditions under which much of the extensive wool-growing industry of arid Australia operates.

Since the university took over the property in 1966, $A 1,100,000 has been spent in developing and maintaining the station. More than 275 km of boundary and sub-division fences provide over 40 paddocks to enable a wide variety of experimental work to be carried out. A reliable watering point is provided in every paddock from three bores and nine surface waters, with an interconnecting reticulation system of over 80 km of poythene pipe (Fig. 1).

Accommodation for permanent staff and visiting personnel is provided in the homestead complex, which consists of five cottages, a staff quarters building to accommodate 14 visitors, and a self-catering dormitory block for 30 persons. A laboratory and a small library are provided in a separate building within the homestead complex.

A number of schools of the university have carried out research and post-graduate teaching at the station during the past 12 years. Much of this has been related to management problems of the regional pastoral industry, using the station flock of about 6,000 sheep, and for this purpose the station is managed on lines somewhat similar to those followed by other pastoral stations in the area, but in the service of the experimental programmes. Other investigations relate to various aspects of the arid environment and its management, and much of this work is conducted against the background of land systems which have been identified and described on the station (Mabbutt et al., 1973) and in the adjoining region (Mabbutt et al., 1972).

The station is locally administered through the W.S. and L.B. Robinson College at Broken Hill, which forms an important link between the station and the university in Kensington and helps to maintain the necessary link between research work at Fowlers Gap and the problems of the local pastoral community.

Under the programmes, training would be offered in several branches of arid lands and pastoral management, leading to the award of graduate diplomas, masters' degrees by formal studies or by research, and the Ph.D. by research.

The programmes are built around the three centres of the University of New South Wales:

(a) schools of the university at Kensington, a southern suburb of Sydney, offering basic teaching subjects, project and thesis supervision, and training in data handling and analysis;
(b) W.S. and L.B. Robinson College at Broken Hill, offering support teaching and study facilities to trainees carrying out training and field research at Fowlers Gap Arid Zone Research Station: and
(c) Fowlers Gap Arid Zone Research Station, offering facilities for field training and field studies, including integrated research projects.

Schools at Kensington collaborating in these programmes provide courses in applied geology, botany, civil engineering, geography, surveying, wool and pastoral sciences, and zoology.

A feature of the programmes is the inclusion of an integrated project or thesis topic related to the central theme of the productivity of land types at Fawlers Gap Research Station. Such courses will form a basis for the design of extensive grazing systems. The themes will encompass the functioning of eco-systems of characteristic land types, the climate and the dependent water, sediment and soil-nutrient balances at representative sites, the resulting vegetation processes and patterns and the fauna supported, the response of vegetation to grazing by sheep and feral animals, and the options in range management and animal production.

It is anticipated that, where appropriate, trainees will gain practical experience by short-term attachment to government agencies concerned with arid lands management, such as the Soil Conservation Service of New South Wales and the CSIRO Division of Land Resources Management.

FIG. 1. Fowlers Gap Arid Zone Research Station


Mabbutt, J.A., et al. 1972. Lands of the Fowlers Gap-Calindary Area, New South Wales. Fowlers Gap Arid Zone Research Station Research Series, No. 3.

-. 1973. Lands of Fowlers Gap Station, New South Wales Fowlers Gap Arid Zone Research Station Research Series No. 2.


Geographical research in francophone countries of the western and central Sahel

J. Gallais
University of Rouen, France

African Research Centres

The Institut Fondamental d'Afrique Noire (IFAN) in Dakar has a long history in research and publication. In the past it concentrated mainly on the natural sciences (botany, zoology, geology) or on geographical, archaeological, and historycal studies, but today Islamic studies and history are of increasing importance.

The Centre Voltaique de Recherche Scientifique (CVRS) in Ouagadougou, the institut Nigerien de Recherche en Sciences Humaines in Niamey, and the Institut de Recherche en Sciences Humaines (IRSH) of Mali in Bamako have good libraries and control national records. They can provide some facilities and accommodation. Moreover, research permits are often issued through them.

The Departments of Geography of the Universities of Dakar, Ouagadougou, and Niamey have conducted research in recent years. At Dakar there is also a post-graduate section for junior researchers.

French Research Centres Active in the Region

The main centre is the Office de la Recherche Scientifique et Technique Outre-Mer (ORSTOM) at 24 rue Bayard, 75007, Paris, which includes the following sections: geophysics, geology, pedology, hydrology, oceanography, soil biology, botany, phytopathology, biology and plant improvement, agronomy, parasitology and entomology, nutrition, sociology, economics and demography, geography, and ethnology. More than 60 senior researchers belong to the geography section, 40 of them working in Africa and about 15 in the SudanoSahelian belt. Local centres of ORSTOM exist in Dakar and Ouagadougou.

Several French universities also have research centres devoted to the geography of tropical Africa. At Bordeaux, the Centre d'Etudes de Geographie Tropicale (CEGET) has a strong team specializing in the humid tropics. At Paris, the Centre de Recherche Africaniste is a multi-disciplinary centre for the social sciences. The main programme of the Laboratoire de Recherches sur les Regions Seches at Rouen is on tropical dry Africa, with other programmes on dry India (Andhra Pradesh) and the Northeast of Brazil. Details of the staff and research projects of the laboratory, the locations of its research, and the main publications are shown in Appendix G.

Characteristics of Francophone Research in the Western Sahal

There has been strong support for research on the following topics following the dramatic drought of 1969-74:

(a) pastoral adaptive strategy and the future of pastoralism in the Sahelian belt, including the problems of nomadism;
(b) traditional strategies of pastoralists and agriculturists and modern economic decisions;
(c) demographic pressures on drylands, and migrations between areas of high and low population density; and
(d) geographical analysis of development schemes in terms of ecological balance, socio economic results, demographic trends, and extra-regional effects.

As far as methodology is concerned, Francophone geographers follow their traditions of a strong emphasis on field research with long periods of fieldwork, to gain progressive knowledge of a cultural or ethnic area. This tradition is maintained by the long period of research required for the doctoral d'etat.

Suggestions for Training for Arid Lands Management

On the basis of the experience of French geographers in the western Sahel, academic training must be linked closely to direct regional experience. For that reason the best training should be organized on the basis of a preliminary analysis of the problems of a sample area, and the staff must have first. hand knowledge of the area before beginning the course. Training should, therefore, be divided into three periods; (a) preliminary investigation by staff in the field; (b) joint field research by staff and post-graduate students; (c) extrapolation from regional problems to the general level of academic training in arid lands management in the university.

Research and training programmes can be oriented towards greater practical efficiency and closer linkages with administrative units in two ways:

(a) Research preliminary to a decision on development: undertaking regional inventory and analysis of environmental problems (man and nature); social and demographic trends; and economic levels and problems.
(b) Research supporting a development scheme conducted in three stages:

- acquiring preliminary knowledge of the human and natural environments;
- Monitoring the progress of the development scheme; and
- investigating the socio-economic and ecological results of the development scheme.


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