As consumers in modern societies, we have all contributed towards man-made desertification and climate change.
The world needs more fertile soil to feed the rising population
The world’s most significant non-renewable resource is fertile soil, which is the peel of productive land. Fertile soil is a finite and irreplaceable resource, which feeds seven billion people today and is expected to feed nine billion in 2050, which will require a 70 per cent increase in global food production.
The world is losing its topsoil
Fertile soil is a common wealth that provides us not only with food, but also secures water, energy and resilience to climate change for present and future generations. The earth’s fertile soil is disappearing at an alarming rate. A thin layer of soil take centuries to develop but can be blown or washed away in a few seasons.
Desertification and land degradation are not limited to the expanding deserts
Every year, over 12 million hectares of productive land are lost due to desertification or land degradation, three times the size of Switzerland. When land degradation happens, it turns land into desert like barren tracts of sand, and hence the term desertification. The result of this destructive process is the loss of capacity for these once arid, semi-arid or dry humid areas to grow crops or raise livestock.
Soil degradation in dryland affects global food production and biodiversity
there are more than flowers in this picture both above and below the surface.
Land degradation and desertification are not problems only affecting a few people in some remote places. Dryland, whether in the form of cultivated lands, scrublands, shrublands, grasslands, savannas, semi-deserts or true deserts, accounting for more than 40% of the world’s land surface, harbors some of the world’s most valuable and rarest biodiversity. They are keys to supporting the habitats, crops and livestock that sustain the entire global population. They are home to two billion people, one third of the world population.
Global warming aggravates the problem of desertification and in turn, worldwide desertification also further accelerates global warming
- The UNCCD entered in force on 26 December 1996 and has worked towards worldwide food security that affects everyone for decades.
- FAO of the UN launched the concept of Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) in 2010 as a unified approach to address the challenges of climate change. The CSA approach seeks to reduce trade-offs and promote synergies, and provides the means to help stakeholders from local to national and international levels identify agricultural strategies suitable to their local conditions.
- Because of the link between land degradation and a decline in food production and its threat to biodiversity, desertification has become more and more of a concern in international community.
Accelerating desertification in recent decades is mostly man-made
- Advancement in knowledge about how ecosystems function nowadays reveals the complexity of the intertwining nature of regional and global influences resulting from climatic variations and human activities like unsustainable agriculture, poor management of water resources, unfair trade, short-sighted business models, etc. Desertification is now perceived as one of the most complex challenges today with serious environmental, economic, political and social impacts affecting everyone everywhere, in this generation and generations to come.
- Unsustainable and chemical intensive agriculture have severely aggravated the problem of desertification in recent decades.
- The planetary boundaries concept, first put forward in 2009, presents a set of nine planetary boundaries within which humanity can continue to develop and thrive for generations to come. Agriculture aggravates 8 out of the 9 planetary boundaries.
Are these issues of concern to us?
You bet. Life forms on earth depend on fertile soil. That includes you and I. But humans are the ones who have been disrupting the ecosystem and accelerating desertification.