Soil and water conservation
In this short film, we show how communities work together to conserve soil and water to create true self-help development.
Each year an estimated 75 billion tonnes of fertile soil is lost due to erosion. Drought and desertification cause a further 12 million hectares of land to transform into desert. These are serious and imminent threats facing dryland environments and the livelihoods of dryland people and the preservation of biodiversity.
The most immediate problems are local, but the long-term impacts are a major threat to life on earth: poverty, food and water insecurity, conflict and loss of bio-diversity. With 44% of global food production and 50% of the world’s livestock existing in the world’s drylands, it is critical to act now to achieve the UNCCD’s goal of zero net land degradation.
Sand dams: a solution for land degradation
Sand dams are an affordable tool for restoring Earth’s degraded lands. By conserving soil and water and creating the time and opportunity for people to further invest in climate smart agriculture, they are a key enabler for people to address poverty, hunger, climate change, conflict and economic stagnation.
Sand dams are applicable to all dryland regions that have seasonal rivers with a sandy sediment. In fact, they are both dependent on, and a solution to, the conditions that exist in drylands under the threat of desertification.
By permanently raising the water table, sand dams increase the capacity of soils to absorb water and enable the growth of trees and plants; improving the quality and stability of soil. This enables further investment in terracing land and planting trees, creating a virtuous cycle of soil and water conservation enabled by both the water stored in sand dams and the time taken to collect it.
Soil and water conservation restores dryland environments, mitigates climate change, reduces erosion and nurtures the environmental services needed for the development of human well-being. In this way, sand dams not only address the effects of land degradation, but also the causes. By retaining water that would otherwise be lost to the ocean and slowing the flow of seasonal rivers, they reduce flooding as well as mitigate the impacts of floods that are highly damaging to drylands.
Conventional thinking is that development needs to be inhibited in order to protect the environment in the long term. In the world's drylands the situation is completely different - it is only through conserving soil and water that communities can survive and develop.
Simon Maddrell, Executive Director, Excellent Development