Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

Unsustainable economic conditions and farming practices have reduced 80 per cent of the total surface area of the southern Argentine state of Patagonia -- once prime grazing land for sheep -- to deserts. This has forced thousands of small farmers to migrate to the cities.

The genesis of the problem can be traced to the uncontrolled breeding of sheep by the region's farmers in an effort to produce the largest possible yields of meat and wool, regardless of the depredation of the soil that it engendered. Over-intensive grazing accelerated desertification, reduced the livestock and drastically pruned the employment opportunities.

In 1992, the National Institute of Technical Education, in collaboration with the German agency gtz, invested us $2 million in the first stage of a project to stem the tide of desertification. The next stage envisages erosion control schemes in 4 selected areas and trial projects in small scale agriculture.(ips)

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