A primary factor contributing towards increasing land degradation is overuse. As far as rangeland is concerned, degradation is directly correlated with stocking rates that exceed the ecological carrying capacity of the land. In the fenced freehold farming sector, sustainable ranching with livestock requires access to gazing areas that are large enough to provide a satisfactory income, while providing an opportunity to keep stocking ratios well below carrying capacity. This will not only mitigate the impacts of regular dry periods but also provide farmers with an opportunity to rest parts of their farms.
However, the option to implement such a sustainable range management system continues to be compromised by adverse structural framework. The most significant manifestation is the widening gap between input costs and output prices. Some farmers have resorted to diversifying production systems to include hunting and tourism. Where this was not feasible, farmers stock their farms to the maximum to maintain financial viability in the short term. Under such conditions, calls to reduce stocking rates fall on deaf ears.
Reducing land degradation in the non-freehold or communal areas of the country are compromised, inter alia, by the fact that customary land rights to commonages held by individuals and/or groups of people are not sanctioned by statutory law. Under such conditions, where no legal sanctions to enforce land rights and by implication land management strategies exist, strategies to reduce land degradation are likely to fail, not because they are poorly conceived, but because they cannot be implemented on the ground. Secure rights to communal land and natural resources are a necessary condition to implement sustainable land management strategies.
This situation is compounded by the fact that communal land supports far more people and livestock than it can sustain. Paradoxically, while this is the case, the vast majority of households do not have enough livestock to sustain themselves, let alone market surplus. These structural constraints, in freehold and non-freehold land, make it very difficult for people to take decisions that will lead to a reduction of land degradation.
[5 speakers from institutions including 1 communal farmer]