Japan's Official Development Assistance White Paper 2006
Column I-2 Transmitting Activities Contributing to the Prevention of Desertification from Person to Person: The Example of Efforts for the Prevention of Desertification in the Southern Part of Ségou Region, Republic of Mali
Desertification is a global environmental issue. In addition to climate change with effects like decreasing rainfall, desertification is caused by human activity arising from the increasing population and poverty: excess cultivation, overgrazing of livestock, and excess deforestation. To prevent desertification, therefore, it is necessary to address the issues of poverty which induce these kinds of activities.
Sahel in Africa suffered a major drought which began in the 1970s. Following this, Japan conducted a survey in that region from 1985 to 2000 aimed at technical development for the prevention of desertification. The results of this survey pointed to the necessity of self-help efforts to prevent desertification, involving ownership on the part of the local people. In other words, local people need to take initiative in revising their production activities themselves and in drafting and implementing a sustainable development plan which does not aggravate desertification.
Based on the results of the survey in the Sahel, a development study on desertification has been conducted in the southern part of the Ségou region in the Republic of Mali since 2000, primarily by JICA, which takes a resident-participatory approach. This region is located between the Niger River and Bani River and used to be relatively suitable for agriculture with its rich soil and plentiful rainfall. However, desertification has advanced in this region in recent years, threatening the livelihoods of the local people. Hence, effective countermeasures to prevent desertification have become necessary.
This development study in Mali takes a new approach to the issue of desertification. It promotes comprehensive rural development to bring out residents' latent abilities through the active participation of local residents. At the current stage, The Program for Comprehensive Small-scale Projects,1 which adopts the set of techniques developed as a result of the survey in the Sahel, is being implemented in 60 villages (total population of approximately 40,000).
When implementing this program, particular effort is put into cultivating multi-function agricultural advisors and resident leaders. Village leaders are indispensable for resident-led rural development, through whom it becomes possible to incorporate viewpoints of residents more accurately into various projects. Also, a leader chosen from residents stimulates the desire of residents to participate. Literacy education is provided concurrently so that they can record action plans and results of discussions among residents. As a result of these capacity-development programs for residents, various small-scale projects are currently being implemented under residents' initiative.
This Program for Comprehensive Small-scale Projects is currently in progress and its efforts to date have been highly evaluated. It was introduced as an excellent example of a desertification prevention program in the Seventh Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in 2005. In the future this program is expected to be introduced in the remaining 440 villages (population of approximately 430,000) in the southern part of the Ségou region, after the results of the small-scale projects currently being implemented are confirmed. The desertification countermeasures implemented under residents' initiative are expected to produce results contributing to the broader objective of desertification prevention intended to be achieved through this project.
Residents receiving literacy training (Photo: Japan Green Resource Agency [J-Green])