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18.10.2005 Regional News

Land degradation affecting food production in Tolon/Kumbungu

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Tolon (N/R), Oct. 18, GNA - Land degradation has become a major threat to food production and economic livelihoods of farmers in the Tolon/Kumbungu District of the Northern Region.

About 99 per cent of farm households in the district have either experienced or been affected by the problem of soil infertility, soil compaction, deforestation, overgrazing and weed infestations, the University for Development Studies (UDS) research has indicated. The effects of land degradation had led to 17 per cent loss of productive lands, 19 per cent decreased in crop yields and raised production cost to 17 per cent, while vegetables and pastures had been reduced by 12 per cent and 11 per cent respectively.

The research was necessitated by the result of farmers complains about poor crop yields even though they had always worked hard. They therefore came to realize that there was something wrong with their land.

This prompted the World Vision International (WVI) in collaboration with the UDS, the Cornnel University in USA and the Natural Resources Management and Sustainable Agriculture Partnership (NARMSAP) to undertake the research in the district, which was sponsored by the WVI.

The research examined the underlying causes and effects of land degradation as a result of natural and human activities, as the primary objective of the study.

It sought to emphasize on farm households understanding of the problem of land degradation and to suggest some possible prevention and control measures to be adopted Presenting the findings of the study at a farmers forum in Tolon on Monday, Mr Joseph Amikuzuno, a Lecturer at the Department of Agriculture, Economics and Extension said continuous cropping, indiscriminate bush burning, felling of trees for charcoal and fuel use and sand winding were some of the unsustainable farming practices identified among the people.

He said climatic variability and erratic rainfall were the natural factors, while poverty; high population pressures and insufficient knowledge of sustainable soil and water management techniques by majority of households compounded the problem.

The ultimate effect of this phenomenon was increased poverty, resulting from unstable and low crop yields, fallen per capita food production and income, reduced biomass of grazing and browsing plants, as well as diminished sources of domestic fuel.

The long-term socio-economic effects on land users in the district included food insecurity, high school dropout rates, and break down in family structure, rural-urban migration and soil vices.

Mr Amikuzuno called for mixed cropping, agro-forestry, crop rotation, non- bush burning, educational campaigns and the enactment of laws to control land degradation and others practices.

He said farming, as a source of household income and food security in the district was becoming less sustainable due to the degradation of land and soil in most farming communities.

The lack of money for farmers to enrich the soils with fertilizers or manures and reduce pest infestation with pesticides had also become a problem.

The research therefore, recommended that farmers in the district should cultivate more leguminous crops, embark on dynamic kraaling practices and anti-bush burning and deforestation by-laws be enforced. Mr Amikuzuno called for support for sustainable farming practices by international donors and development partners in the district to enhance food production.

The government should also use the HIPC fund and the Social Investment Fund (SIF) to promote off-farm income generation and poverty alleviation, as well as support the establishment of woodlots and agro-forestry schemes to address the insecurity food situation in the area.