Desertification is the process in which fertile or good land becomes arid, losing its body of waters, and biodiversity as a result of drought, deforestation and inappropriate Agriculture. One of the major causes of desertification is the need for source of energy, using wood for cooking and heating up furnaces. In the old days wood was even used to power up steam engines for locomotives and water pumps for towns in place of more powerful sources of energy like coal which also is a huge concern on the environment. The mining of coal on its own leads to deforestation as land is cleared to make way for its extraction and big machinery to do the extraction.
One third of the world’s land mass is threatened by desertification.
The top human activity to impact on land is overgrazing worldwide. This is due to the fact that Meat production mostly beef, has grown so much over the last decades as populations have increased and in line with this, the need for more protein sources to feed all these people. Only sustainable grazing systems like paddocking are more effective in limiting overgrazing, yet some people do random uncontrolled grazing in communal lands in conjunction with other land impacting activities. This in turn leads to major desertification across the globe. Overgrazing is a major concern primarily in places where the vegetation or grasslands are struggling to regenerate due to unfavourable climatic conditions like in semi-Arid regions.
Urbanisation, climate change and natural disasters.
Among these factors that are noted above, the other desertification factors are; urbanization, climate change, over drafting of groundwater, natural disasters and tillage practices in agriculture that place soils more vulnerable to wind. Desertification affects topsoil, groundwater reserves, surface runoff, human, animal and plant populations. Water insufficiency in dry lands limits the creation of wood, crops, forage and other services that ecosystems provide to communities.
Land is currently one of the most scarce resource of late in the whole world. Increased human populations requiring homes and land to cultivate. Conservationist or Environmentalist demanding that certain spaces must be protected and preserved for biodiversity. This in its own state shows how land plays a big role in providing most of the necessities needed by all living things on the earth’s surface. There is a global need to look into the land issue with utmost respect and knowledge as to better manage it for all living things present in the world, if we hope to have a better sustainable future.
Theme for this year’s World Dessertification Day
This year’s theme is “Land has true value – Invest in it”, to promote sustainable land management across the globe hosted by Ecuador. According to UNESCO about one third of the earth’s land surface is threatened by desertification and across the globe it affects the livelihood of billions of people. The causes of desertification are basically; overgrazing, deforestation, farming practices, urbanization, climate change, stripping the land of resources, and natural disasters which of late been fuelled by climate change like super storms (Hurricanes, Cyclones, Typhoons and Tornadoes).
Effects of desertification;
- No food – Increased vulnerability to Climate Change. Without food producing farms in these areas, people will starve and become reliant on food imports from productive lands or dependant on food donors. Which in turn will put pressure on productive lands as farmers there double or triple up on their land to try and meet this demand. Vegetation dependant animals will go hungry dropping their populations as they die of, which in turn will affect all meat eating animals like in our case all African Wildcats livelihood. Thereby affecting the whole biodiversity and eventually collapsing the whole ecosystem, humans included as we run out of resources.
- Water – The quality of water will drop significantly, leaving behind a trail of contaminated water which will in turn lead to pandemics across the affected plains. This is due to that plant life play a significant role in keeping the water clean and clear; without its presence, it becomes a lot more complex for other processes to filter the water without moss for example. Water will discolour, will have concentrated bacterial activity and will have an unpleasant smell.
- Flooding – Without the vegetation cover on the earth’s surface, flooding ensues or flash flooding becomes a norm. Which will in turn cause a lot of soil erosion, washing off important minerals and seedlings to rejuvenate the land, prolonging the succession period of that environment. The risk of loss of lives also will be high both animal and humans due to flooding.
- Displacement – Losing fertile, vegetated, and resourceful lands, will then lead to displacement of people as they are pushed off on their given land into neighbouring thriving lands. This will be the same with animals. Leading to competition for food and resources, which in turn will set a phenomenal frenzy of elimination of the weaker links in the natural food chain or web. Leaving certain species to endangerment and eventually extinction.
- Inequality – Poverty will be imminent for the greater population when desertification sets in. More people will become poor without resources and the natural means to survive. The few who will control the natural rich niches will become monopolies in the region and greed will ensue in the social classes of balanced communities. They will be no more sharing nor will they be any resource compromise as people will hold on to their resources, which gradually will lead to violent clashes amongst themselves. Same with predators, dominant ones will clash for food with less dominant ones at an escalated rate than we know now as in the case of Lions attacking Leopards and cheetahs for hunting grounds.
Solutions for Desertification
- Sustainable practices – Conserving natural resources; through sustainable land management and ecosystem restoration activities together form the landscape approach, which manages the land, water and forest resources as one integrated system. Reduce Greenhouse emissions; restoring 12% of lost or degraded agricultural land could reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Increase Yields; adoption of sustainable land and management practices could deliver up to USD 1.4 trillion in crop output. Halt degradation; by rehabilitating and sustainably managing sections of land one period at a time, putting money into stopping the spread of desertification by counter-acting it, through simple things like afforestation. Incorporating the urban-forests to Cities to help with Climates and Atmospheric gases.
- Technology advances – Research and advancements in technology that will push the limits of what we currently know, will be needed. Advancements could help us find more ways to prevent the desertification concern from becoming prevalent.
- Knowledge – Awareness is an incredibly important device that needs to be employed in order to help people to comprehend the greatest way to utilise the land that they are farming on. Creating awareness on sustainable practices, will save more land from becoming desert.
- Policy changes with regard to Environmental Management – Policies need to be set to govern land use. If natural resources are sort, national governments need to make sure great care is taken not to harm the environment beyond the area being extracted or exploited. Environmental practitioners will need to be prioritised in passing natural resources extraction licenses or development plans. This will go a long way in saving the land from harmful practices as experts will look into the impacts of proposed activities way before it is initiated and also develop mitigation procedures in case things do go wrong. This is an era where all of us need to be proactive that is, dealing with situations before they happen and stop being reactive to problems that are almost out of control.
“Let the whole global community invest in land through building a sustainable land-use knowledge base and acting on the imminent danger of carelessness or irresponsibility on the environment”