Everything You Should Know About Desertification

As the global population crosses 7 billion, the pressure on land has increased exponentially in recent decades. Food security, habitat and livelihood are the buzz words these days. The paradox is that despite ever-increasing demand for land, more than 10 million hectares of arable land turns into desert every year. The major factors responsible for desertification are deforestation, over-grazing, unsustainable cultivation methods and poor irrigation practices, apart from climate change.

According to Mr. Luc Gnacadja, executive secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, “Land degradation is a global phenomenon, with 78 percent of the degrading land taking place in non-drylands.” The inevitable outcome of desertification is the loss of invaluable agricultural lands, destruction of vegetation cover and hydrologic imbalance in drylands.

how to combat desertification

Gravity of the Situation

Desertification is a worldwide phenomenon afflicting countries all over the world. China is experiencing desertification at an alarming rate – as much as 1,300 square miles each year. Sub-Saharan Africa is drying up, as are regions of Turkey that were once rich agricultural lands. The desert is making a comeback in the Middle East, with fertile lands turning into barren lands. According to United Nation’s Development Program’s 2009 Arab Human Development Report, desertification is threatening around one-fifth of the MENA region.

Around 48.6 per cent of the land area in the Mashreq, 28.6 per cent in the Nile Valley and the Horn of Africa, 16.5 per cent in North Africa and 9 per cent in the Arabian Peninsula is endangered on account of desertification. Among MENA countries, the countries facing the greatest dangers are Libya, Egypt and Jordan. In the Arabian Peninsula, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, and the UAE are the most affected countries.

How to Combat Desertification?

The United Nations announced the decade starting 2012 as one for achieving zero net land degradation neutrality. In the Middle East region, the answer to this lies in combating desertification. We must take steps to stop the encroachment of deserts into the sparse fertile lands that we have.

fight against desertification

Desertification is a worldwide phenomenon affecting people all over the world.

There needs to be an imminent focus on the retention of the water table and stopping soil erosion. Ecosystems such as mangroves help to maintain the delicate biodiversity of our region and it is imperative that efforts are taken to prevent their destruction.

The American ecologist Aldo Leopold rightly said that “We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect”. Our ancestors got it right when they said “Whatever is affixed to the soil belongs to the soil”, thereby ensuring that trees remained where they were.

The problem of desertification is to an extent self-created and our current lack of concern is only serving to exacerbate the issue. The solutions are quite simple, but it requires high degree of social responsibility and behavioral change.

Partnership is a binding principle in the fight against desertification. The major stakeholders are individuals and governments, authorities and companies, parliaments and NGOs. Schools and colleges can also play an important role in dissemination of information and developing skills and techniques to combat desertification.

Greening the drylands has to be the key initiative in combating desertification. This is a simple and effective procedure and needs to be implemented by involving all sections of the civil society. Trees not only absorb carbon dioxide but also help in preventing soil erosion. Trees have a positive impact on climate change and help in influencing weather patterns favorably over a period of time. I humbly implore you to take that first step, plant your first tree and green the horizon before it is too late.

Tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

About Kehkashan Basu

Kehkashan Basu is 16 year old environmental and social activist from the United Arab Emirates whose sole objective is to involve and mobilize kids and youth in the movement for a sustainable and green future. She recently won the International Children's Peace Prize. She was the youngest international delegate at Rio+20 held in Rio de Janeiro last year where her work on stopping land degradation won her a global award from UN Convention to Combat Desertification. She was chosen by UN Conference on Sustainable Development Major Group for Children and Youth (UNCSD MGCY) to be the voice of the children and youth at several forums and reached out to the children of Rio’s slums to integrate them in the march towards sustainability.

7 Responses to Everything You Should Know About Desertification

  1. Pingback: Combating Desertification « Cleantech Solutions

  2. Sulphey says:

    Great article – it seems now a days you are posting less number of articles 🙂

    Can I request you to have another photograph of desertification which is free from copyright issue – so that I can use if for publication


  3. Robert Segraves says:

    The is a very good demonstration of technologies that can be applied to mitigate and potentially reverse the desertification.  A first demonstration was conducted 2001 – 2004 in Jordan by the Permaculture Institute and Mr. Geoff Lawton.  An example video can be seen  here  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=keQUqRg2qZ0      and an a more current example can be seen here.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ycLbO02lb7w.


  4. Pingback: Back in 2015 in the MENA countries – DESERTIFICATION

  5. Pingback: Why Education Should be Directed Towards Environmental Protection | EcoMENA

  6. Pingback: Everything You Need to Know About Jatropha | EcoMENA

  7. Pingback: Protecting Iraq’s Southern Marshlands | EcoMENA

Share your Thoughts

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.