Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Desertification of Regions of Guatemala Causes Worry

Concern is increasing over the growth of semiarid regions of Guatemala. These regions now extend to Huehuetenango, San Marcos, Quetzaltenango and Totonicapán. In addition, there is a strip of drought prone land in the south, in the departments of Escuintla and Suchitepéquez, said Jose Miguel Leiva, coordinator of the unit of Drought and Desertification in the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources

Leiva said that 49 percent of the country now has a high susceptibility to drought. This equates to approximately 53,000 square kilometers.

Deforestation, poor soil management, and indiscriminate use of agrochemicals are some of the factors affecting the deterioration of the soil.

The semi-arid corridor includes the departments of Jutiapa, Jalapa, Chiquimula, Zacapa, El Progreso, Baja Verapaz and Quiche. These are the departments that are most affected by severe drought.

In areas threatened by desertification are home to approximately 1,113,000 people or 13 percent of the population. Of this total, 35 percent or 387,000 of the persons affected are indigenous.

Poverty and extreme poverty affects approximately 921,000 people living in areas threatened by desertification, which represents 14.8 percent of the population.

According to the Guatemalan National Financial Strategy, the sustainable management of land is a fundamental instrument to prevent, halt and reverse land degradation and to promote the implementation of good agricultural practices, forestry, and water resource management. These practices help to prevent deterioration of soils and prevent losses before disasters, such as when Hurricane Stan struck the country in 2005 resulting in the loss of 9 million tons of fertile soil with an economic value of Q300 million, and affecting and area of 800,000 hectares.

Desertification is a term originated and established by the General Assembly of the United Nations during the annual meeting held in the city of Nairobi, Kenya, in 1977. This term is related to the diminution or destruction of the soil biological potential that can lead ultimately to desert-type conditions.

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