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The deterioration of Africa's natural resources is now widespread,
being  seen most dramatically in the arid and semi-arid zones of the
Sahel, but also in densely-populated and/or mountainous areas such as
Rwanda, Burundi, the Guinea highlands, Kenya, Ethiopia, the common
lands of Zimbabwe or the Kabylie mountains.  Its symptoms are loss of
natural soil fertility, erosion and laterization of topsoil, and
thinning and loss of plant cover, etc.  This process culminates in
desertification. The loss of fields by degradation to desterical
conditions continue at a speed of 6 million hectares a year or, in
other terms 60 000 km2 or two times the area of Belgium.
Recognizing this problem, the European Council (Milan, June 1985)
asked the Commission to draw up a European plan to combat
desertification, to which "all European aid, Community and bilateral",
will give "priority ... and long-term commitments", and in which which
donors will "organize their contribution coherently by setting up an
appropriate coordination structure".
The plan of action recently proposed by the Commission to the Council
is the result of this request by  the European Council.  It represents
the Community's response to the fundamental long-term problem
confronting Africa and forms part of the overall approach which the
Community has adopted, taking into account all aspects of Africa's
i)   The urgent short-term problems of famine produced an initial
response in the form of the Dublin Plan, followed more recently
by the recovery and rehabilitation plan, which is designed to
allow the worst-hit countries to tackle more effectively any
recurring drought and to restore their agricultural base.
ii)  To deal with the structural economic problems, the Community is
endeavouring to provide support in an appropriate form for the
reform of its African partners' domestic policies and for their
economic and social development.  For this purpose Lome III is a
vital instrument and the aid programming which is at present
under way reflects the high priority attached by the ACP
countries to rural development and, in particular, to food
(1) COM(86)16                                               ./.
                                  - 2 -
  iii)  However, development in Africa is taking place against a
background of growing deterioration of its natural resources,
the most extreme form of which is desertification, and this
makes it urgently necessary to adopt a systematic policy for
environmental conservancy and restoration.  This matter is
urgent because the starting-point for the long-term is today,
and the pace deterioration is steadily accelerating.
  The root cause is the radical imbalance created by development;
with the transition from subsistence farming to a money economy,
growing pressure is exerted on agricultural land, accentuated by
rapid population growth and aggravated by the general fragility of
natural resources in tropical zones, together with climatic
fluctuations - i.e. drought.  These factors operate in various ways
in the different countries and regions of Africa.
  There has been a failure to adjust farming techniques and patterns
to these changes, leading everywhere to soil deterioration and loss
of plant cover which, if they continue, will probaly become
   The response includes both direct and indirect measures.
   i)  Indirect measures will include improved farming techniques to
preserve the ecological balance of the productive system;
guidelines are set our for crop farming, animal production and
   ii) Also needed are population policies throughout the demographic
growth in projects and programmes.  In this field, every
action aimed at social development and specially to the access
of information and sanitary education,is to be considered as a
privileged mean to allow the necessary evolution of behaviour
facing reproduction.
       By these indirect means it should gradually become possible to
relieve the pressure on natural resources.
  iii) Direct action to protect the natural heritage (e.g.
afforestation and erosion control) is also urgently necessary
not only in conjunction with productive projects by in the
form of special projects conceived for that purpose.
  All measures must be backed up by the development of applied
research along suitable new lines.
  A comprehensive approach is necessary.  Desertification cannot be
halted by isolated measures.  The various aspects of the problem
must be tackled by carefully coordinated packages of measures - the
"cluster approach".  The content of each "culster" will of course
be tailored to the specific conditions obtaining in each zone or
                             - 3 -
Implementation of these measures will necessitate domestic policy
reforms in the countries concerned, particularly in the direction of
decentralization.  The aim primarily is to give greater
responsibility to those directly involved in development - grassroots
organizations, local NGOs - as regards the preparation of measures
which concern them.  This should go hand-in-hand with a
decentralization of administrative and financial powers away from
central government to allow such development from the grassroots.
The whole relationship between the population and administration at
local level needs to be reorganized and backed up by new forms of
financing, with particular reference to securing the income of
peasant farmers and the more efficient operation of technical and
administrative services.
To date the measures taken against desertification have by and large
failed to halt the process because they have been scattered,
inadequate and sporadic.  An effective approach capable of reversing
the trend must be on a sufficiently large scale ("critical mass") to
reach a certain minimum threshold in order to set in motion a process
towards the desired permanent change.  Hence the need for an overall
approach or strategy, the concentration and coordination of resources
in order to ensure that operations are also implemented consistently
at regional level, and continuity of commitments over a long period.
Sequences of measures will have to be organized on a realistic basis,
however, reconciling the need for "critical mass" with the inadequate
funds available and the number of bodies involved.  It will not be
possible to tackle everything at once, but it is important to ensure
that the limited sub-groups of measures are coordinated in time and
space.  We envisage, in this connection, giving priority to the
"tree" theme.
Because of the importance of its cooperation with Africa, Europe has
a special responsibility for implementation of the strategy and the
European Council has decided to give it priority ; it wants the
Community contribution proper to be combined with those of the Member
States in a European Plan which will in turn be coordinated with aid
from other donors.  On a more general level, if it is to provide
practical support for guidelines and priority measures to halt
deterioration of natural resources it must :
(i)   increase the proportion of its aid devoted to rural
     development, with particular emphasis on more intensive
     farming, while maintaining the long-term ecological
     balance of peasant agricultural systems ;
(ii)  give priority consideration to specific, direct action on
     natural resources ;
(iii) give priority where necessary to support for population
     policies drawn up by recipient countries ;
(iv)  make appropriate administrative arrangements to ensure
that it has the human and technical resources necessary
     for effective implementation of environmental operations.
The Commission's task will be to coordinate all the resources
available at Community level : Lome III, food aid, NGO cofinancing
operations, financial protocols for the southern MediterraneanCette brochure sera completee par des informations      live animals               286        96        177       13
   2. Beverages and tobacco      582     1.096        451      107
   3. Fuel and lubricants      1.441       668        104      449
   4. Oils and fats               65        16         20        7
   5. Chemicals                  772     1.514        276      525
   6. Manufactures             2.991     1.866      1.128      702
   7. Machinery and transport
      equipment                4.992     5.497        788    1.253
   8. Various manufactured
      items                    1.224       869        954      218
   9. Other                      164       844         24      254
   Source : Eurostat            9,4      20,2       8,1
PIB (au prix du marche) (mrd. ECU)           2.777,1    207,7      25,4
PIB par habitant (ECU)                      10.197    5.370     2.647
Indice des prix a la consommationprésentent à eux seuls plus
  d'un tiers du commerce mondial : 20 % pour la Communauté, 15 %
  pour les Etats-Unis.  Ils comptent pour 50 % du PNB mondial, leur
  commerce réciproque s'est élevé à 107 milliards de $ en 1984.avant la prochaine reunion du conseil europeen en tenant
   compte des conditions particulieres de chaque region.
   dans le cadre d'un effort ulterieur visant a ameliorer la structure des dix.

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