Desertification is the degradation of land in arid, semi-arid, and dry sub-humid areas. It is caused primarily by human activities and climatic variations. It occurs because dryland ecosystems, which cover over one-third of the world‘s land area, are extremely vulnerable to over-exploitation and inappropriate land use. Poverty, political instability, deforestation, overgrazing, and bad irrigation practices can all undermine the productivity of the land.
Over 250 million people are directly affected by desertification, and about one billion people in over one hundred countries are at risk. These people include many of the world‘s poorest, most marginalized, and politically weak citizens. The World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought is observed every year to promote public awareness of international efforts to combat desertification. The day is a unique moment to remind everyone of land degradation neutrality is achievable through problem-solving, strong community involvement, and cooperation at all levels.
“Land Degradation and Migration”
The World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought examines the important link between land degradation and migration. Among others, environmental degradation, food insecurity, and poverty are causes of migration and development challenges.
In just 15 years, the number of international migrants worldwide has risen from 173 million in 2000 to 244 million in 2015.
Nearly three-quarters of the Earth’s ice-free land has been altered by humans to meet an ever-growing demand for food, raw materials, highways, and homes. Avoiding, slowing, and reversing the loss of productive land and natural ecosystems now is both urgent and important for guaranteeing the long-term survival of people and the planet.
What do we envisage in a world where land degradation neutrality provides a solid basis for poverty reduction, food, water security as well as climate change mitigation and adaptation?
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development declares that “we are determined to protect the planet from degradation, including through sustainable consumption and production, sustainably managing its natural resources and taking urgent action on climate change, so that it can support the needs of the present and future generations”. Specifically, Goal 15 states our resolve to halt and reverse land degradation.