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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:South Africa's Karoo Region: A Desert in the Making?
Author:Myburgh, D.W.
Periodical:Africa Insight
Geographic term:South Africa
Agriculture, Natural Resources and the Environment
Abstract:The Karoo region is defined here as the area south of the Orange River, South Africa, where rainfall occurs mainly in the summer and annual precipitation is less than the minimum required for dryland agriculture. During the 1980s and early 1990s the region suffered prolonged periods of severe drought and several flood events. This article examines the role played by humans in constituting a drought and flood hazard in the Karoo. Before the occupation of the region by whites, it was peopled by two groups, the San and the Khoi, whose migratory system appears to have been an important factor in the maintenance of a dynamic equilibrium in the ecosystem. The settlement of whites in the Karoo signalled the onset of a period in which the hazards of drought and later floods gradually increased. Several factors were responsible for this: the spread of permanent settlement; the emergence of commercial pastoralism; and social and cultural factors such as inappropriate farming practices and the establishment of towns. The degradation of the natural environment in the region is evident with respect to vegetation and fauna, soil erosion, and water resources. To reduce the level of hazard in the region farmers must increasingly adopt a risk management approach to their farming enterprise. Climatic variability, including possible extremes, will have to be accepted as part of the commercial risk of farming. Ref.