17 June: World Day to Combat Desertification
Global temperatures are rising. But climate change is not only about the planet heating up. Global warming brings more extreme weather events such as prolonged droughts and floods. As a result, farmers produce less food, livestock herders have less grass to feed cattle, and communities become more vulnerable.
Building up resilience is particularly important in the drylands where people living in poverty depend heavily on the productivity of their land and the many benefits it provides. Desertification, defined as land degradation in drylands, is a major challenge being exacerbated by climate change.
That is why the World Day to Combat Desertification (WDCD) is observed worldwide on 17 June every year, since 1995. The goal is to promote public awareness relating to international cooperation to combat desertification and the effects of drought.
Theme and slogan
The theme of this year's WDCD is ecosystem-based adaptation. This means the strengthening of natural systems to cushion the worst impacts of climate change. When ecosystems are healthy, they are less vulnerable to the impacts and hazards of climate change.
With the slogan ‘Land Belongs to the Future, Let’s Climate Proof It’, the 2014 WDCD highlights the benefits of mainstreaming sustainable land management policies and practices into our collective response to climate change.
Sustainable land management increases both community and ecosystem resilience while improving the human condition particularly in the drylands.
The objectives of the 2014 WDCD are to:
- Increase the attention given to land and soil within climate change adaptation
- Mobilize support for sustainable land management
- Call for the inclusion of land and soil and their significance in food security into national climate change adaptation policies.
How does desertification affect me?
The effects of desertification, land degradation and drought are the most extreme for the rural poor. Approximately 1.5 billion people globally depend on degrading areas for their livelihoods, and nearly half of the world’s very poor (42%) live in degraded areas. While these people may seem far away to those of us who live in cities or developed countries, the effects of their suffering ripples across the globe.
But desertification and land degradation are not just problems of the very poor. More than 110 countries are potentially at risk of desertification, and half of the world’s livestock can be found in the drylands. If food production in the drylands collapses, food prices worldwide will skyrocket. The global economic losses from desertification and land degradation amount to approximately USD 42 billion each year.