Published in June 2018

With World Day to Combat Desertification (June 17) in mind, Excellent Development's Chairman, David Jordan OBE, reflects on recent news surrounding shifting weather patterns, the impact, and what part sand dams can play in tackling desertification...

We like to talk about the weather. We all have views on whether it’s been hotter or wetter than usual and what the weather will be like in the days ahead. More recently it’s not just the weather at home that we talk about. News from all over the world reports more and more extreme weather events often with terrible consequences for people and the environment. 

There has been worrying news this month about the rate at which polar ice is melting. The most recent scientific study reports that Antarctica is losing ice at three times the rate recorded in 2007. This is bad news for those communities living close to the sea. As ice caps melt, sea levels rise and the risk of flooding increases.

The effects of shifts in global weather patterns elsewhere are equally worrying. A changing climate is one of the factors contributing to an increase in desertification. Lack of rainfall means low moisture content in the soil and land degradation leading to desert-like conditions. 

"The good news is that land rehabilitation practices promoted by Excellent, such as mixed cropping and reforesting, increase carbon stocks in the soil. Clearly, it’s important that we don’t give up on drylands but invest in them so they can play their part in the fight against climate change."

Dryland soils contain a huge amount of stored carbon but as they dry out they release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere accelerating climatic change. However, soil improvement is essentially the reverse process. It draws atmospheric carbon into the soil. So we can't afford to see further deterioration of these lands. The good news is that land rehabilitation practices promoted by Excellent, such as mixed cropping and reforesting, increase carbon stocks in the soil. Clearly, it’s important that we don’t give up on drylands but invest in them so they can play their part in the fight against climate change.

Of course, there are lots of other good reasons why Excellent invests in getting a dependable water supply close to communities living in some the driest places in the world. A small investment in a sand dam can help a community feed itself, become healthier and economically successful. All these good things happen because a sand dam increases the water flowing into the land close to where people live, revitalising the soil and the landscape. And although you can’t see it, a sand dam also helps trap carbon in the soil and plays its part in the global effort against climate change.