Desertification and Drought Day Highlights Urgency of Sustainable Land Use

Today marks Desertification and Drought Day, an observance dedicated to raising awareness about the critical issues of desertification, land degradation, and drought. The theme for 2024, “United for Land. Our Legacy. Our Future”, underscores the need for global solidarity in promoting sustainable land use practices to ensure a healthy future for coming generations. This theme serves as a rallying cry for enhanced global efforts in sustainable land management and drought resilience as the world prepares for UNCCD COP16, scheduled for December 2024 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

With desertification and land degradation affecting up to 40% of the world’s land area, the urgency of the situation cannot be overstated. Healthy land is fundamental to our existence, providing 95% of our food, clothing, shelter, jobs, and protection from extreme weather events like droughts, floods, and wildfires. Alarmingly, an area equivalent to four football fields of healthy land is degraded every second, amounting to 100 million hectares each year. This degradation is exacerbated by the growing global population and unsustainable production and consumption patterns, driving forced migration and displacing tens of millions annually.

Particularly vulnerable are the over one billion young people under the age of 25 in developing countries who rely heavily on land and natural resources. Offering rural populations eco-entrepreneurship opportunities can address youth unemployment while promoting sustainable land practices. Investments in land restoration are notably profitable, with each dollar spent yielding up to thirty dollars in return.

Desertification and Drought Day

Satellite technology plays a crucial role in combating desertification and drought by providing precise monitoring and forecasting capabilities. Satellites enable the tracking of land changes, soil moisture levels, and vegetation health in real-time, which is essential for early warning systems and informed decision-making. These technological advancements help governments and organizations implement timely interventions, thereby mitigating the adverse effects of land degradation and enhancing drought resilience.

The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), established 30 years ago, is at the forefront of global efforts to address land degradation. The UNCCD works to promote sustainable land management practices, support countries in developing national action plans, and foster international cooperation. Through its initiatives, the UNCCD aims to enhance the livelihoods of affected populations, improve the resilience of ecosystems, and contribute to the overall goal of land degradation neutrality by 2030.

As we commemorate Desertification and Drought Day, the global community is reminded of the critical importance of sustainable land use in safeguarding our planet’s future and ensuring the well-being of billions of people worldwide.