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Why do a national assessment?
To get a better understanding of land degradation and
conservation in South Africa at magisterial district, regional, provincial and
national level, to inform decision making towards the implementation of
sustainable land management practices country-wide. The Land Degradation
Assessment in Drylands (LADA) Project is mainly funded by the Food and
Agricultural Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations with logistical support by
the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. The project is
implemented by the Agricultural Research Council - Institute of Soil, Climate
How was the assessment done?
Participatory Expert Assessment Workshops at district
municipality level formed the basis for data capturing. Inputs from experts in
natural resource management, land users and government officials formed the
basis for data on land degradation and conservation in the different land use
classes of the different local municipalities of South Africa. In developing the
final products for informed decision making, the project also made use of
additional available information on land degradation and conservation to help
towards the better understanding of the status, causes, impacts and responses
towards land degradation in South Africa. The Drivers, Pressures, State, Impact
and Response (DPSIR) Framework and a newly developed Land Degradation and
Conservation Index will be used for data analysis and will form the basis for
decision making products to be developed from the study.
What variables were used to do the
There were five steps in the assessment procedures: Information
on contributing specialists, data on land use, information on land degradation
and conservation and lastly, expert recommendations by contributing specialists.
A complete assessment matrix was completed for each mapping unit of the country.
A mapping unit is a specific land use class within a local municipality
boundary, for example, Grassland in the Mafikeng Local Municipality.
The information on contributing specialists will serve as
database on experts in the field of natural resource management in the different
provinces. This information will be very useful to identify experts to help with
the design, implementation and monitoring of future sustainable land management
projects in the different districts and provinces.
Area and intensity trends are the variables used to describe
the changes in land use during the last ten years for the different land use
classes. Changes in area and intensity trends can be seen as direct drivers
towards land degradation. The reasons for changes in intensity trends will give
an indication on the success or failure of government programmes as well as the
impact of the economy on different land uses.
The assessment of land degradation looks at the three main
types of land degradation for each mapping unit assessed. For each of these
types of land degradation for a specific mapping unit (water erosion on
cultivated land for example), the following additional information is assessed
to complete the degradation assessment for that mapping unit:
• Extent of land degradation• Degree of
degradation• Rate of degradation• Direct causes for
degradation• Indirect causes for degradation• Type and level of impact
of degradation on ecosystem services
On the other hand, for the conservation assessment, the
assessment focuses on the three main conservation groups used in response to
land degradation problems for a specific mapping unit, for example grazing land
management in the savanna areas of Molopo. For each of these conservation groups
per mapping unit, the following additional variables are addressed in the
• Measures used to describe the different conservation
groups• The purpose of conservation measures, e.g. prevention, mitigation or
rehabilitation• The extent of implementation of conservation measures in the
mapping unit• An estimation of the effective implementation and maintenance
of conservation works• The effectiveness trend of conservation measures
during the last 10 years• An indication of the degradation types addressed
by the conservation groups and measures• And lastly, the type and level of
impact of conservation measures on ecosystem services.
The last step in the LADA/WOCAT national assessment procedure
is an opportunity for contributing specialists to make an expert recommendation
on what they think will assist towards the sustainable use of natural resources
and the wider adoption of sustainable land management practices.
What products can be expected from the
In addition to technical reports and scientific articles, the
results will be published on the web (LADA and AGIS website). An information CD
is also envisaged to view and query the assessment data. This will allow
potential users of the assessment data to view, query and map assessment
data for a specific area, land use, degradation problem or conservation group.
Assessment results will also be shared through interactive feedback workshops in
the respective provinces. All of these have the following two objectives in
mind. Firstly, to make people aware of the existence of assessment data for all
the provinces of the country, and secondly, the potential of the assessment data
to inform decision making at different levels.
The assessment data will be presented using the DPSIR Framework
and by doing this, will help towards the better understanding of land
degradation and conservation at different levels, the trends involved and also
how this data should be used to determine where to allocate scarce resources
towards sustainable land management. An important output will be maps indicating
future responses towards land degradation as areas where preventative actions
are needed, where to mitigate and/or where rehabilitation actions are needed to
deal with specific land degradation problems. The prioritization of these areas
will help decision makers to focus their limited resources on those areas where
it will have the biggest potential impact on sustainable land management and
eventually food security.
The land cover change analysis used a practical and
cost-effective approach for monitoring land-cover change at a national scale
over time using Earth Observation data. An analytical report was compiled on the
main land-cover changes that have taken place in the country over the period
1995 to 2005.
In summary, the results indicate that at a national level there
has been a total increase of 1.2% in transformed land, specifically associated
with Urban, Cultivation, Plantation Forestry and Mining. This represents an
increase from 14.5% transformed land in 1994 to 15.7% in 2005 across South
Africa. On a national basis the areas of Urban, Forestry and Mining have all
increased over the 10-year period whereas cultivated areas have decreased. Urban
has increased from 0.8% to 2%, Forestry from 1.2% to 1.6%, and Mining from 0.1%
to 0.2%, while Cultivated has decreased from 12.4% to 11.9%. The spatial
patterns do, however, vary geographically across provinces in South Africa.
The dataset resulting from the project can be considered a
useful resource for further research and analysis. It is recommended that
further research should include investigation into the transformed cover classes
with the objective of identifying the drivers and type of change that has
occurred, as well as the social, environmental and economical impacts of these
changes over time.
All available reports can be accessed from the
Reports link below.
For spatial data on the land cover change study, please
contact Mr. Stuart Martin (GeoterraImage Pty. Ltd.) or Ms. Elna van
den Berg (ARC).