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Activity 2:

To study the effects of droughts on people and areas

[lo 2.3]

1.3 Why are some people at a greater risk than others?

It is important to remember that the relationship between humans and their environment determines whether a drought will deteriorate into a disaster.

If we take another look at figure 1 (world map showing where most droughts occur), we see that droughts most often occur in the poorer, developing countries of the world. Why?

  • Because of their disadvantaged status they still believe that power lies in numbers, and that parents should have many children who can take care of the parents in the future. This leads to a great number of births and an increasing population.
  • Food is only cultivated for personal domestic use. No fertilisation takes place. Over the years the soil becomes impoverished and harvests decrease in size. Less food is produced.
  • Soil is misused over a long period and no fertiliser is added.
  • Irrigation, if available, is applied incorrectly and this exacerbates erosion.
  • Owning a herd of cattle is of great importance to these people, because to them this represents great wealth. Too many cattle are placed on a piece of land with the result that overgrazing destroys the vegetation. This leads to erosion.
  • Erosion removes the fertile topsoil, the soil becomes impoverished and production is further reduced.
  • In addition, poor people do not have access to electricity, and they have to rely on wood fires for heat. Thus many trees are destroyed for firewood. This in turn reduces the soil’s water retention capacity, which causes water to evaporate faster.

Disastrous droughts also occur in developed areas, such as the current drought in the Western Cape of South Africa. Yet the fact remains that rich people seldom die as a result of droughts. They can survive because they have other assets which can carry them through the difficult times. However, the large, rich farmers and/or companies are also sometimes destroying the environment with their enormous developments.

1.4 Preventative measures: risk management and risk reduction

When you read the newspaper, or watch or listen to the news, you will undoubtedly become aware of a drought somewhere in South Africa. Look at figure 2 again, which shows the dry areas in South Africa. It is not surprising that South Africa experiences many droughts.

Are there possible solutions to the drought problem? Although it is not always possible to carry out all the steps needed to solve the problem, we can take a look at some of the things that can be done:

  • building dams to accumulate water
  • sinking boreholes and erecting windmills
  • desalinating sea water
  • establishing water installations through the use of pipelines
  • melting icebergs
  • cloud seeding and rain making
  • population management
  • careful management of soil and water resources
  • controlling soil erosion
  • planting trees
  • attempting to reclaim soil through the use of drought-resistant seed

Activity 3:

To do a case study on a serious drought in the country

[lo 2.3]

Do a case study on a serious drought in South Africa. Compare it with the information you have gained so far, and then write an essay about:

Questions & Answers

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Source:  OpenStax, Geography grade 7. OpenStax CNX. Sep 09, 2009 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11021/1.1
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