Plan to combat desertification

Following recent drought in northern Burundi, which adversely affected the region's vegetation cover, the government has drawn a plan of action to combat desertification.

"Burundi already has a plan of action for the fight against desertification," Hama Arba Diallo, the executive secretary of the United Nations Convention on the Fight Against Desertification, said.

The plan, whose date of implementation was not disclosed, seeks the rehabilitation of agriculture and the sustainable management of degraded land with the aim of reducing drought-linked food insecurity.

It stresses the need to protect the environment through tree planting, efficient use of rainwater and management of marshes, and provides for the use of energy alternatives to prevent intensive logging.

"I came to take stock of the state of desertification in Burundi and to discuss with officials how we can prevent a similar drought related phenomena as has been recorded in Rwanda," Diallo said during celebrations to mark the World Day against Desertification in the northern drought-affected province of Kirundo on Friday. The day was marked worldwide on 5 June but the event was marked in Burundi on 16 June.

Diallo said there was an urgent need to diagnose the problem that had led to drought in areas of the country that were previously the country's bread baskets.

"The situation must be reversed," he said.

Burundi's second vice-president, Alice Nzomukunda, called on residents to plant more trees to avoid a recurrence of the drought, "You should protect the environment to avoid a similar experience."

She said the drought situation had mostly affected the country's northern provinces causing food shortages "with several fatalities and an influx of people fleeing to other provinces and into neighbouring Rwanda and Tanzania".

In a move to protect the environment in the northeast of the country, the government is popularising the use of existing lake water for irrigation, and boosting tree planting in affected areas. Burundi is a signatory of the Convention Against Desertification, since 6 January 1997.

At the same time, Diallo praised efforts by the government to restore peace and security, which are "part of the key conditions to protecting the environment and fighting against poverty in general".

Already, the World Bank has donated US $35 million in addition to the World Environment Fund's donation of $5 million for the modernisation of agriculture and sustainable land management.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information:

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