The evaluation of the state of grass species composition in some degraded tribal areas in the Zeerust district
Mkhosi, Ntombi Elizabeth
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The evaluation of the state of grass species composition was conducted as an attempt to confirm the survey conducted by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), where the Zeerust District was identified as an area with serious degradation problems. Quantitative data was obtained through botanical surveys (April 2001-February 2002) and verified by household surveys (March 2001-April 2002). Study sites included Braklaagte, Dinokana, Doomlaagte, Serake and Supingstad, with benchmark sites in Madikwe Grune Reserve. Between 6-12 survey points per site were selected after consultation with local Agricultural Extension Officers and communities. Survey points included the range of veld condition between bush encroached and severely denuded and eroded areas. The results indicate 12.3 % to 45.1 % loss of vegetal cover. Resistance above 2 000 ohms, base saturation exceeding 100 % and pH values below 5.5 are evidence of soil degradation. The general profile of the fanning household is that of an aging adult community, with however, a relatively good knowledge of fanning practices. 52 % of the respondents depend on the government pension fund as a source of income. 60 % of the respondents use crop fanning products strictly for household purposes. Poor economic return from fanning activities has resulted in overutilization of the herbaceous layer with consequent changes of grass species composition towards retrogression and the establishment of woody species. This environmental degradation is a serious risk to long-term sustainable development. It is therefore, recommended that environmental education programmes and ecological restoration projects be started in degraded areas. The government should set up and enforce land-use policies. Community participation should be encouraged in all land care activities. Land degradation is a real social problem that must be tackled before many people's aspirations of a better life are met.