20 Years Later – Results of Land Restoration

Between 1992 and 1995, under the former SEE program, and with funding from Norwegian People’s Aid, an innovative land restoration trial was carried out in three Eritrean villages. The project aimed to expand local people’s livelihood options in degraded East African highlands.

In 2014-15, with significant funding from the Drylands Coordination Group, Mind the Gap Research and Training undertook an evaluation that examined the impact of this initiative 20 years later.

Evaluation results were overwhelmingly positive. They proved that it is possible to restore heavily degraded land with highly prized native trees while simultaneously improving local livelihoods through improved grazing, soil erosion control, fast growing trees, and increased wood supply.

Seminar Discussion Points:

  • Reforestation and silvicultural approaches that enable people to harvest exotic eucalyptus sustainably while native trees, herbs and grasses successfully establish among the eucalyptus
  • Micro-watershed and landscape-scale watershed protection, and soil erosion control
  • Climate change mitigation, Protected Areas management, and biodiversity conservation
  • The factors which facilitated continued local conservation efforts throughout the 20 years since the project’s completion; and
  • Scaling up ecological restoration throughout East Africa, through a growing network of African Mountain Woodland specialists who met for the first time at a DCG-sponsored international conference in Oslo in November 2014.

Please find attached Evaluation Report for Drylands Coordination Group and Results Sheet. An updated Evaluation Report through DCG is now in preparation. For more information please contact Erlend Draget at Department for Civil Society.

Why you should ignore age-based fashion rules

This Web-based Mining Waste Technology Selection site assists project managers in selecting an applicable technology, or suite of technologies, which can be used to remediate mine waste–contaminated sites. The site consists of decision trees, overviews of applicable technologies, case studies where these technologies have been implemented, and regulatory challenges. The decision trees, through a series of questions, guide users to a set of treatment technologies that may be applicable to that particular site situation. Each technology is described, along with a summary of the applicability, advantages, limitations, performance, stakeholder and regulatory considerations, and lessons learned. The technology overviews include information to help project managers decide how well the technology may fit their particular site and remedial/reclamation goals. These technology overviews are not meant to be technical design manuals – this information can be found in other resources (ADTI, GARD Guide). Each technology overview links to case studies where the technology has been implemented.

The first question which must be answered in the decision tree is if a technology is needed which can be implemented immediately. Immediately, in this case, means within a year or two. The implementation time criterion is loosely based on a Superfund removal project. Those situations where a technology must be implemented immediately generally involve mitigating an existing human health or ecological exposure. In some cases, the technology implemented may be a permanent solution to the problem. In other cases, the technology may be an intermediate step, taken to protect public health or the environment, in a longer-term process. In this situation, it is understood that additional, more permanent technologies must be implemented to protect public health and the environment.

Regardless of whether a technology must be implemented immediately or not, the next question presented in the decision tree is whether a technology is needed to address solid mining waste or mining-influenced water. Solid mining waste may present a risk from direct contact with human or ecological receptors. In historic mining areas, there is often little separation between the mining areas and residential areas; thus, people living in these areas are exposed to mining waste on a regular basis. Additionally, solid mine wastes have been used as a product in a variety of ways, including as a building material, for road construction, for driveway construction, as a landscaping material, as soil or agricultural amendments and in numerous other ways. These uses increase the potential for exposure to waste materials. Children or adults may be exposed through their daily activities to mine wastes that have been used for driveway fill, as a landscaping material, or for other uses in residential areas. Additionally, mine wastes that have been brought into residential areas or other areas frequented by people can be carried indoors through tracking. Once mine wastes have been brought indoors, the potential for children to be exposed increases. Removal of the waste material is the preferred technology, generally through removal of carpeting and other soft surfaces and vacuuming hard-surface flooring with HEPA vacuums. For this type of removal to be effective, there should be a strong health education component for residents.

Summary Key Issues & Actions

Key Issues

Gully erosion is likely the dominant accelerated erosion process across the whole of northern Australia and the GBR catchments contributing to elevated river sediment loads.

To date there have been few effective management strategies employed that are targeting and addressing this problem.

Current models of delivering NRM funding are not effectively dealing with major concentrated areas of gully erosion, nor effectively reducing sediment yields. By default the management of gully erosion issues has been left almost entirely up to cattle graziers – with minimal effective assistance from government programs.

Given the poor economic state of Cape York Peninsula cattle industry at present, cattle graziers have little capacity to properly address this problem. As such the problem persists unchecked or accelerated under current paradigms.

With the predicted expansion of grazing intensity, mining and agriculture in northern Australia, the gully erosion problem will continue to increase if left unchecked (if nothing else through the expansion of the road network and growth of existing gullies).

A completely new approach and scale are required to address gully erosion if any real progress is to be made towards reducing sediment yields from rangeland grazing country, which is the primary source for sediment pollution to local river systems in northern Australia and the GBR.

U.S. and Turkey agree to mend ties

There are many social, economic, and political challenges to addressing alluvial gully erosion in the Normanby catchment on Cape York Peninsula. Motivational aspirations of graziers can range from strong ‘economic & financial’ to ‘stewardship & lifestyle’ motivations, which can influence conservation ethics and willingness to participate in and successfully complete government programs (e.g., Reef Rescue). Conservation funding programs need to be tailored to match and utilise these intrinsic motivations.

The grazing industry of the Normanby catchment and Cape York Peninsula is struggling economically and is in transition due to the long distance to markets, the extreme wet-dry climate, low soil productivity, land degradation from erosion and weed invasion, increased fixed and variable costs (e.g., rates, labour, fuel, material, feed), stagnant cattle prices, and increased debt levels associated with development and competition pressures. The result is little to no extra income or time to reinvest in long-term property management or soil conservation actions such as gully erosion control.

The total cost (commercial retail) of intensive gully treatments conducted in this study ranged from $3000 to $6000 for 0.2 ha, which included heavy equipment hire and labour, gypsum, hydromulch or compost, and fencing. Using local labour, machinery, and materials from individual properties might be able to reduce this to $2000 for 0.2 ha. This equates to $10,000 to $30,000 per hectare for intensive gully treatment, which is well above the average costs of grazing properties in the Normanby catchment (< $100 per ha). This direct intervention is most applicable where key infrastructure is threatened (e.g., roads, fences, yards, buildings, dams, key waterholes) or where young, incipient gullies can be stopped to prevent major future erosion and land loss. Direct intervention during this project was able to reduce gully erosion for $375 per tonne, which is less than the average sediment erosion abatement cost of $600/tonne paid by the Reef Rescue program. To reduce the estimated 736,400 tonnes per year eroded from alluvial gullies by 10%, it would cost $27,600,000 at $375 per tonne. Or alternatively, if 2000 ha of mapped gully in the catchment was treated with intensive intervention at $2000 per 0.2 ha, it would cost $20,000,000. Investing this level of government or market-based funding in the Normanby catchment might be better spent on purchasing large areas of degraded river frontage on specific cattle properties, and taking them out of cattle production as ‘soil conservation areas’ (Plate 5; Plate 17).

A fundamental paradigm shift in government policy and investment targets is needed to reduce gully erosion and sediment yields. Current cost-share programs are not achieving water quality improvements at the catchment scale in the Normanby catchment. Land management investments for erosion prevention and control should be driven by a holistic, long-term, process-based catchment-wide perspective, rather than relying on small, discrete, short-term projects with questionable benefits that treat symptoms rather than causes or only promote property development.

Targeted investment for gully erosion control at large mapped ‘hot spots’ (i.e., dispersible sodic soils on river terraces and adjacent floodplains) is needed using large-scale land management changes and localised intensive rehabilitation actions. Several priority river frontage areas for large-scale erosion management actions – such as cattle destocking to create soil conservation areas – have been identified in the Normanby catchment (e.g., the Granite Normanby River, Plate 5; Plate 17). Funding for large-scale actions could come from government investment for public benefit, market-based solutions (payment for ecosystem services of carbon, biodiversity, soil retention), and/or land utilization/tenure trading to destock cattle from highly erodible soils and develop more productive, less erosion prone soils for agricultural and economic benefit. However, government or market-based investments for combined carbon sequestration, biodiversity improvement, and soil conservation must pass the ‘integrity’ test by going beyond normal practice, be measurable and rigorously monitored, and be subject to peer review.

In addition to large targeted investments and incentives, a renewed emphasis should be placed on extension of knowledge, training, and certification programs that are founded within locally-based and long-term government funded programs [e.g., a re-instated Soil Conservation Service (SCS), Primary Industries, Landcare, Natural Resource Management (NRM) agencies]. These programs should focus on integrated property planning for erosion reduction and control and monitoring of results. Machine-operator certification programs (e.g., roads and fences) should be prerequisites for government funding for erosion control. The design, implementation, maintenance, and monitoring of more complicated gully erosion control projects might be best conducted by a team of qualified experts and practitioners (e.g., a re-instated Soil Conservation Service  and geomorphologists).

For the Normanby catchment and Cape York Peninsula, a mixture of larger positive incentives and investments, extension and outreach, and long-term soil conservation programs will be needed to cumulatively reduce erosion at the catchment scale.