Australian Actions to Combat Desertification and Land Degradation

National Report by Australia on Measures Taken to Support Implementation of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification
Commonwealth Intergovernmental Working Group for the UNCCD, April 2002

Initiatives to Combat Desertification funded through Australia's Overseas Aid Program

Australia's overseas aid program assists developing countries in reducing poverty and achieving sustainable development. Many aid activities address the environmental causes of poverty, including desertification. The Australian Government, through the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), is currently supporting a range of bilateral programs to combat desertification in developing countries with a total funding commitment of approximately $58.5 million. AusAID also administers contributions to a range of multilateral organisations and Australian NGOs with a mandate for addressing desertification.

Australia's experience in tackling land degradation has been important in helping other countries to address their resource management problems. The Australian Government, through the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), funds agricultural research projects executed collaboratively by research institutions in Australia and developing countries on subject areas that are of high mutual priority. Land degradation and desertification are important focal points for this research. The Australian Government also funds international agricultural research centres, many of which operate within the framework of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural research (CGIAR). Several of these centres are active in desertification research, and are supported by Australia both through core funding and funding for specific desertification related projects.

At present ACIAR has 16 projects related to desertification, involving a total funding commitment of over $11 million. These project activities are concentrated in China, India, southern Africa and Southeast Asia. In 2001/02, ACIAR distributed core contributions of $1.55 million to four international agricultural research centres active in desertification research.

Case Study - Assisting India

Title: Integrative technologies for assessing the extent and cause of degradation in arid community rangelands, Rajasthan, India

Principal investigator: Dr Margaret Friedel & Gary Bastin (CSIRO), Dr Suresh Kumar (Central Arid Zone Research Institute, Jodhpur, India)
(Funded by: ACIAR, CSIRO)

1. Problem

Increasing human and animal (sheep, goat, cattle and buffalo) populations are placing extreme pressure on the soils and vegetation of arid northwest India. However, as in arid Australia, rainfall variability from year to year makes it very difficult to determine the extent and precise causes of land degradation. Remote sensing technology developed by CSIRO for monitoring land degradation is being modified and evaluated for its effectiveness in assessing land degradation in this environment.

2. Location/landscapes/landuses

Jodhpur region (central Rajasthan), India. Main landuses are subsistence dryland cropping based on monsoonal rainfall and grazing of communal lands.

3. Social information

Socio-economists and livestock experts are establishing relationships with village people (village entrée) and collecting economic, social and livestock data that will assist in interpreting trends derived from remote sensing analyses. These scientists are the conduits to explain our (scientific) assessments of degradation to village people and obtain information from them to help explain spatial and temporal patterns detected through our analyses.

4. What was done

The project is midway through its fourth year. The main work areas are:

  • apply and adapt Australian-developed techniques, using remotely-sensed data, for assessing land degradation, to Indian desert environments;
  • gather ground-based survey data on socio-economic factors, the natural resource base and animal production for interpreting the results of remotely sensed analyses;
  • develop means of information exchange with village communities in order to explain land degradation; and
  • develop capacity with Indian colleagues for their independent use of all methodologies.

5. Who was involved

CSIRO scientists at the Alice Springs Centre for Arid Zone Research (Margaret Friedel, Gary Bastin, Vanessa Chewings, Janine Kinloch) and a multi-disciplinary team of scientists at the Central Arid Zone Research Institute, Jodhpur (Rajasthan, India).

6. Value of outcomes for ecologically sustainable natural resource management

For India: Ability to separate human-induced degradation of vegetation due to grazing and timber collection from that due to natural causes (climatic variation). It is possible to do this over large areas in a repeatable manner.

For Australia: Knowledge that Australian developed technology is applicable/useful in the arid regions of other countries, and extension of the conceptual models on which the methodology is based to encompass additional environments that may contribute to future uses in Australia.