The world Desertification and Drought Day is being observed on June 17 of each year.
Desertification is the damage of land in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas. It is caused primarily by some activities of man and also some odd climatic variations.
This day is being observed to increase public awareness of the detrimental effects of desertification.
Desertification refers to the overall declining productivity of land due to overexploitation and inappropriate usage of land by human and other man activities, sometimes attributed to Poverty, political instability, deforestation, overgrazing, and bad irrigation practices.
This year’s world Desertification and Drought Day focuses on turning degraded land into healthy land.
Humans, while trying to meet an ever-growing demand for food, raw materials, highways and homes have succeeded in damaging nearly three-quarters of the Earth’s ice-free land.
The United Nations states that restoring degraded land brings economic resilience, creates jobs, raises incomes, and increases food security.
This years’ World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought is focusing on the current commitments by over 100 countries to restore almost 100 hectares of lands over the next decade.
Which in turn can prevent the elimination of sustainable living conditions on Earth for all human beings, including animals.
Conditions like desertification and drought not only make human life on this planet difficult but also push the environment towards a situation from which it might be impossible to return.
Hence the Restoration of these damaged farmlands, so as to bring economic resilience.
According to the United Nations, Desertification does not necessarily mean the expansion of existing deserts. Desert’s expansion occurs because of dryland ecosystems, which cover over one-third of the world’s land area.
In Nigeria, Due to the fact that the most vulnerable sector to drought is water resources, and water resources represent a major prerequisite and driver of social-economic development and cater for other economic sectors such as; domestic, agriculture and fisheries, industry, biodiversity, power and energy generation.
The National Emergency and Management Agency (NEMA) the institution mandated to handle disasters in Nigeria had stressed the importance of adopting vital Strategies to manage and control drought in the country.
According to NEMA, agriculture is one of the main economic activities in Nigeria and accounts for around 40 per cent of the country’s GDP, it also employs about 60 per cent of the active labour force, thus drought would lead to a catastrophe with unprecedented repercussions.
Agricultural production is reduced in periods of drought, the majority of the populations in the drought-prone areas are peasant farmers, living on marginal lands in rural areas and practising rain-fed agriculture.
Drought threatens agricultural production on these marginal lands, exacerbating poverty and undermining economic development. The poor crop yields due to drought result in mass poverty and starvation as agriculture is the mainstream of Nigeria’s rural economy.
Avoiding, slowing and reversing the loss of productive lands and natural ecosystems now are both urgent and important for a swift recovery from the pandemic and for guaranteeing the long-term survival of people and the planet.
Hence, The Desertification and Drought Day aimed to remind everyone that land degradation neutrality can be achieved through problem-solving, strong community involvements and cooperation of everyone.
Current commitments from over 100 countries specify the restoration of almost one billion hectares of land over the next decade – an area almost the size of China. If that huge area of land can be restored, it will deliver massive benefits for people and the planet.
Experts say the matter requires even more attention now because when the land degrades and stops being productive, natural spaces deteriorates and transform.
Thus, greenhouse gas emissions increase and biodiversity decrease. It also means there are fewer wild spaces to buffer zoonoses, such as COVID-19, and protect us from extreme weather events, such as droughts, floods, and sand and dust storms.
To celebrate the Day and become aware of our role, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is therefore calling on all members of the global community to treat the land as a limited and precious natural capital, prioritize its health in the pandemic recovery and push hard to restore the land. Because Everyone has a role to play as everyone has a stake in the future.
Desertification can be reduced by adopting some of the strategies listed below
Planting more trees – the roots of trees hold the soil together and help to reduce soil erosion from wind and rain.
Improving the quality of the soil – this can be managed by encouraging people to reduce the number of grazing animals they have and grow crops instead. Animal manure can be used to fertilise the crops grown. Growing crops in this way can improve the quality of the soil as it is held together by the roots of plants and protected from erosion. This type of farming is more sustainable.
Water management – water can be stored in earth dams in the wet season and used to irrigate crops during the dry season. This is an example of using appropriate technology to manage water supplies in the desert environment.
Magic stones (or bunds) are circles of stones placed on the ground to hold water on the soil rather than letting it run quickly over the surface.
Drip irrigation is where water drips slowly onto the ground from pin-sized holes in a hose lying on top of the soil.
This minimises water loss, maximises effectiveness and can be delivered via a solar pump.