7. Can the causes of drought and desertification be influenced by human behaviour?

Despite human awareness of these risks, the means made available to halt, manage or limit desertification have so far not been proportional to the scale of these risks. Whilst the notion of sustainable development has only recently emerged as a profitable model, there are other models of development that have long been adopted by traditional societies and which were always sustainable: consider the example of oases discussed above.

It is clear that the extent of people’s willingness to adapt their practices influences the causes of drought and desertification. Good practices include the conservation of biodiversity; the protection of land which is already arid; appropriate use of land likely to maintain high levels of fertility so as to spare more fragile areas; rational and economic usage of surface and subterranean water supplies; mastery of better irrigation and drainage systems.

Steps can also be taken to protect forests from fires and deforestation and to protect pasture zones. This can have a positive influence on the regeneration of the undergrowth and can protect these zones from wind erosion (winds storms and dune movements) and hydric erosion (loss of fertile ground cover).

In steppe regions, the conservation of pasture lands against over-grazing or any kind of degradation is one of the key actions taken by the populations which live there. This action must also be respected at policy level and by governments and administrations.