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ENVIRONMENT: 17th June marks World Day to Combat Desertification

Jun 17, 2016, 10:58 AM | Article By: Abdou Rahman Sallah

According to a press release from the department of Forestry, on 17 June 2016 The Gambia will join the rest of the world in the commemoration of World Day to Combat Desertification.

The Theme is: “Protect Earth. Restore Land. Engage people”.

The message of the UN Secretary-General to mark world Day to combat desertification and drought said desertification, land degradation, drought and climate change are interconnected.

As a result of land degradation and climate change, the severity and frequency of droughts have been increasing, along with floods and extreme temperatures.More than 50 per cent of agricultural land is moderately or severely degraded, with 12 million hectares lost to production each year.

“The livelihoods and well-being of hundreds of millions of people are at stake.Nearly 800 million people are chronically undernourished as a direct consequence of land degradation, declining soil fertility, unsustainable water use, drought and biodiversity loss.

“Over the next 25 years, land degradation could reduce global food productivity by as much as 12 per cent, leading to a 30 per cent increase in world food prices.

“Without a long-term solution, desertification and land degradation will not only affect food supply but lead to increase migration and threaten the stability of many nations and regions.

“This is why world leaders made land degradation neutrality one of the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals.That means rehabilitating at least 12 million hectares of degraded land a year.

“One important approach is sustainable, climate-smart agriculture.These will not only help communities to build resilience to climate change, it will also support mitigation by taking carbon from the atmosphere and putting it back in the soil.

“The transition to sustainable agriculture will also alleviate poverty and generate employment, especially among the world’s poorest.By 2050, it could create some 200 million jobs across the entire food production system.

“Our theme for this year’s World Day to Combat Desertification is: “Protect Earth. Restore land. Engage people.”On this Day, I urge cooperation among all actors to help achieve land degradation neutrality as part of a broader effort to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and build a future of dignity and opportunity for all.”

A statement sent by Monique Barbut, Executive Secretary UNCCD, stated that nearly half of the global population was living below the poverty line in 1980; and that by 2012 that number was down to about 13%.

“This means more of us today have the freedom to choose how we live; what we eat or drink, how we spend our time and, even, how we earn our incomes. But ours might be the last generation with such a sizeable global population enjoying these freedoms.”


“The freedoms we enjoy are made possible by the wide array of land resources we draw on to develop, such as fertile soils, fresh water or the plant and animal life in grasslands and forests. But this freedom to choose has come at a very high price: the degradation of more than 2 billion hectares of all the productive land available to humankind.

“Today, for every three hectares of land that was productive to start with, one hectare is virtually unusable.

“Our inclination to degrade new land instead of fixing and re-using the land that is already degraded means future generations cannot benefit from the same resources. What’s more, the greenhouse gases we emit through our choices are changing the weather patterns so dramatically, they are hastening the destruction of the remaining land resources. Droughts, flashfloods, rainy and hot seasons that are unpredictable, more intense, frequent and widespread are stripping the land bare of its resources faster than ever before.

“The rights we claim to enjoy these land resources come with a heavy moral obligation to manage them well. More so, as we may be, literally, the last generation that can significantly slow down the accelerated loss of the land resources left. This generation – our generation – has the time, human, knowledge and financial means to reverse these trends, and restore a vast amount of the degraded lands. But we must work together.

Will we rise to the occasion?

“Last year, 193 countries pledged to strive to become land degradation neutral by 2030. It means that you and I made the commitment to maintain the amount of productive land available within our borders during the next 15 years and beyond, or better still, to increase it. If one hectare of land is degraded, we would strive to restore back to health an equal amount of some degraded land.

“Ninety countries have already signed up to the challenge and are setting their national targets. This is admirable. But it is not enough when at least 169 countries are affected by land degradation or drought, and all countries are indirectly impacted by them. Actions to avoid, halt and reverse land degradation must begin now with everyone fully engaged.

“The prospect of a land degradation neutral world grows dimmer if we procrastinate. But it shines brighter each time a person or country joins the campaign to restore degraded land or the battle against the degradation of new land.

“Land degradation neutrality should be a top policy goal for every nation that values freedom and choice. Conserving land and restoring that which is degraded back to health is not a benefit that only flows to the billions of people who eke out a living directly from the land. It is a vote to safeguard our own freedoms of choice, and those of our children. It is also a moral standard against which we may well be judged by history.”