Today marks the World Day to Combat Desertification (WDCD). The 2012 Global Observance event will be held at the Rio Conventions Pavilion, Brazil, and is entitled ‘Securing Healthy Soils and Stopping Land Degradation: Outcomes for Rio+20’. The event aims to raise awareness of the issue of land degradation and the implications it is having on the future of our planet.
The event forms part of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD), Rio+20 which will take place on 20-22 June 2012 to mark the 20th anniversary of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). The conference will bring together world leaders and participants from governments, NGO’s, the private sector and other groups to consider how we can ‘reduce poverty, advance social equity and ensure environmental protection on an ever more crowded planet to get to the future we want’.
What is desertification and how serious is the issue?
Desertification is the degradation of land caused by factors such as climate change and human activities. The most common cause of desertification is over-cultivation of desert lands, which causes nutrients in the soil to be depleted faster than they can be restored. It occurs in arid, semi- arid and dry sub-humid areas known as the ‘drylands’, and renders the land useless for agriculture, despite the populations living in these areas relying on agriculture for their livelihoods and survival.
The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) emphasises that the demand for life’s essentials will rise significantly in the next 20 years:
‘50% more food will be needed, 40% more energy and 35% more water. By 1992, only 3% of the Earth was fertile land, but every year, 75 billion tons of fertile soil is getting lost for good, slowly eating away at the six-inches or so of topsoil that stands between humanity and extinction.’
ITF’s current projects:
Last year the UN designated 2011 as the International Year of Forests, to highlight the need for forests that serve people. This is especially felt in the drylands where trees play multiple roles for local communities. They provide food, shelter and medicine for the people and their livestock.
ITF support several projects that help protect trees and forests in dryland Africa.
Re-Greening the Sokura is a three year funded programme in the Mopti District, Mali, which aims to alleviate poverty through a community forestry programme to increase the production and sustainable use of trees and tree products, whilst also mitigating the effects of land degradation on the livelihoods of the people living there.
Ousmane Sissé, of Sakarel Village is an example of one such livelihood which has greatly benefited from the programme. He has turned over the care of his millet fields to his children so he can devote all his time to his tree plantation. He has planted 2212 trees in total, and as a result has potential to earn a good income from the sale of fruits, tree seedlings and other tree products.