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. Desertification does not refer to the expansion of existing deserts. It occurs because dryland ecosystems, which cover over one third of the world‘s land area, are extremely vulnerable to overexploitation and inappropriate land use. Poverty, political instability, deforestation, overgrazing and bad irrigation practices can all undermine the productivity of the land.
Desertification is a global issue, with serious implications worldwide for biodiversity, eco-safety, poverty eradication, socio-economic stability and sustainable development.
Drylands are already fragile. As they become degraded, the impact on people, livestock and environment can be devastating. According to the U.N some 50 million people may be displaced within the next 10 years as a result of desertification.
The issue of desertification is not new though — it played a significant role in human history, contributing to the collapse of several large empires, and the displacement of local populations. But today, the pace of arable land degradation is estimated at 30 to 35 times the historical rate.
Some two billion people depend on ecosystems in dry land areas, 90% of whom live in developing countries.
A downward spiral is created in many underdeveloped countries where overpopulation causes pressure to exploit drylands for farming. These marginally productive regions are overgrazed, the land is exhausted and groundwater is overdrafted.
When rural land becomes unable to support the local population the result is mass migrations to urban areas.
The increased frequency and severity of droughts resulting from projected climate change is likely to further exacerbate desertification.
Desertification, along with climate change and the loss of biodiversity, were identified as the greatest challenges to sustainable development during the 1992 Rio Earth Summit.
Established in 1994, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is the sole legally binding international agreement linking environment and development to sustainable land management. Parties to the Convention work together to maintain and restore land and soil productivity, and to mitigate the effects of drought in drylands — the arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas where some of the most vulnerable ecosystems and peoples can be found.
We need to protect environmental resources and not letting our planet earth disseaper.