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                     Office of the Press Secretary
                         (Gabarone, Botswana)
For Immediate Release                                     March 31, 1998


Environment Roundtable

President Clinton announced several new efforts designed to underscore the importance of environmental protection to our overall Africa policy. Included in today's announcement are efforts to stop the spread of deserts, empower communities to manage natural resources and jointly study climate change.

Fighting Desertification

More than 40% of Africa is dryland -- marginally useful for cultivation and grazing -- and another 27% is desert. The degradation of drylands and spread of deserts is one of Africa's most challenging environmental problems. The international Desertification Convention is an innovative agreement designed to improve global efforts to protect fragile drylands through empowerment of local communities. President Clinton sent the treaty to the Senate for its advice and consent in August 1996, but it has not been acted on. More than 120 countries have ratified the Convention. Today, President Clinton announced that senator Jim Jeffords (R-VT) and Senator Russell Feingold (D-WI) will lead efforts to obtain Senate approval of the Convention.

Promoting Community-Based Resource Management

To protect the environment, many African countries are adopting a new approach, based on community-based natural resource management. This approach emphasizes the knowledge and experience of local communities in protecting the environment.

The United States is the largest bilateral donor for environmental programs in Africa, many of which emphasize this community-based approach. This year, the United States plans to spend more than $81 million to help African nations protect their natural resources.

President Clinton highlighted an example of these efforts, a Green Communities for Africa program. Modeled after programs in the United States, this effort supports communities in incorporating environmental concerns into their local decision-making.

Climate Change

Erratic weather patterns and land use changes are having major effects on the environment in southern Africa. Droughts exacerbate tensions over land water use.

President Clinton announced today that NASA will initiate the first-ever scientific assessment of the environment in southern Africa. Working with universities and other partners in the region, NASA is committing $200,000 to use satellite and ground based surveillance to study land use changes. This effort will provide an assessment from which to measure changes in the environment, improve seasonal drought predictions, and help assess the impact of climate change.

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