A whisper from the woods

Ask me (almost) anything, July 2022

Jul 18, 2022

Last month on June 17, we recognized World Day of Drought and Desertification.
In relation to this day, Mark was asked how we can combat desertification and drought on an individual level.

This is the second part of Mark’s two-part response. If you didn’t read part one, you can find it here!

For this article about deserts, Mark advised that the main focus was not on planting trees, but on highlighting the conventional wisdom to regenerate landscapes. This article was used as a basis for this blog article.

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So, how do we change our mindset about problems in desert environments?

Traditional law and common practice

Mark suggests that firstly, we discard our previous experiences from other locations, and look to the community and culture that supports people locally. Mark also advises us to invest time, dedication, and commitment in the locals; to build on their skills and traditional knowledge gained over decades and centuries, before considering change management from outside. Elders and leaders already know what is possible in their communities.

Secondly, money alone is not the answer. Instead, we must empower local communities through education and training based on traditional law and customary practice. Without consent and support from the locals, projects will fail.

At the same time, it is important to know what systems and practices already work to avoid repeating mistakes made in the past. The local people already understand how to provide food, fuel, and the means to steward their animals without degrading the land.

From experience, Mark tells us that “The imposition of foreign ideas from outsiders who can come and go, will not work. Projects must allow the community to fend for themselves, without outside control.”

Furthermore, it is important to assess the impact of any project and assure that those locally involved will benefit. In the first instance, change brought by a given project must deliver better nutrition, health, and food security, to offset the inevitable extremes that may happen.

A fruit and vegetable garden in the desert.

Water usage and conservation

Deserts mostly expand without water. Where rainfall is limited and erratic, people must rediscover what techniques their ancestors used, and adapt water usage to match local conditions. The starting point must involve water conservation and work with the climate and weather conditions.

Make sure that available water is used wisely, with the following guidelines:
ensure that the water catchments are protected,
– prevent water run-off and evaporation,
– enable soaking and retention in the soil profile.

Underground storage is the most efficient way to manage water, and protection is essential to prevent animals from spoiling precious water supplies.

Men in Mauritania, working on collecting underground water.


To conclude, Mark suggests using regenerating degraded shrubs and trees rather than planting new trees. Another promising idea is to separate animals from young or degraded trees, to allow them to grow undisturbed and to enable recovery.

“Encourage existing trees to regrow, re-sprout, and regenerate from rootstocks with suitable protection.” Mark says.

A conservation ethic is at the core of successful agricultural societies. It already exists, and we must nurture it for new generations. Our One Universal Family can support this change process in desert communities, for their benefit and ours.

Shrubs and trees in the Sahara desert.


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Thank you for once again educating us, Mark! Thank you for making us aware of these very subtle aspects!

Do let us know if you have a question for Mark. Drop your question in the comment section below, or send us an email. We are looking forward to hearing from you!

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