Desertification is the process by which land becomes drier, or more “desert-like.” Desertification is a problem in many countries around the world, particularly because it makes it difficult to grow crops.
This article will explore a unique solution to desertification known as magic stones. Keep reading to learn how they work, how effective they are, and where magic stones have been implemented successfully.
Background information: What Is Desertification?
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What Are Magic Stones?
In countries where rainfall is insufficient and extreme heat promotes drought and desertification, it is extremely difficult to grow food. This difficulty is amplified by the lack of resources on these barren lands. Farmers must innovate their agricultural practices to maximize the available resources and ensure an ample food supply.
Magic stones, also known as stone lines or stone bunds, are one of the adaptation technologies used to rejuvenate soil moisture and soil fertility in desertified soil. Magic stones are rocks placed around degraded land to trap water. Increased moisture combats desertification to make land more arable and protected from further degradation through soil erosion. The process is simple and inexpensive to implement, as it only requires natural resources such as stones and rainwater.
How Do Magic Stones Work?
To set up magic stones, stones of around 25 to 30 cm in height are arranged in lines or circles on top of degraded soil.
Once in place, magic stones act as barriers to water, trapping and slowing the flow of rainwater on top of the degraded land, rather than allowing it to run off. This allows the deteriorated soil to soak in water for a longer period of time. This helps provide sufficient nutrients to the soil, making it moist and fertile, and also provides additional water to the crops within the barriers.
Effectiveness of Magic Stones
Magic stones are prominent in many African countries, particularly in the Sahel region, due to their effectiveness, low cost, and widespread availability. Magic stones not only help prevent desertification and land degradation, but they also help communities reduce food security by increasing crop yields. This in turn enables farmers to generate more revenue, enhancing their climate resiliency. Here are some examples of magic stones’ effectiveness in several African communities.
Farmers in Burkina Faso have been using magic stones for years to prevent desertification in order to grow food. A 1992 magic stones project showed that in just a few years, the use of magic stones increased agricultural productivity by up to 50%. Magic stones’ effects provide an essential boost to communities of Burkina Faso, since food insecurity is one of the biggest problems in the country as a result of its increasing population.
Between 1987 and 2006, Burkina Faso implemented magic stones across the country, reaching more than 100,000 hectares of desertified area in just several years. In just around 20 years, the country built over 30,000 km (18,641 miles) of stone lines. That’s equivalent to the miles it would take to traverse the length of the United States nearly seven times.
Farmers in Kenya who used magic stones were able to produce fruit trees that require moist soil, such as papaya trees. They have also enhanced agricultural yields in comparison to other farmers in the country who did not apply magic stones on their land. Farmers that use magic stones also argue that they’re more climate-resilient since they are able to harvest all year-round, rather than their counterparts who may only be able to harvest in rainy seasons or years. Additionally, the increased revenue as a result of magic stones allows them to provide more for their families.