Desertification is described as the greatest environmental challenge of our time – how do we combat the consequences?


World Day to Combat Drought and Desertification is observed every year on June 17. The aim is to raise public awareness about desertification prevention strategies being done internationally. Simultaneously, it is also an occasion to think about how to recover from the drought. Technically, desertification is the conversion of productive land to desert; and this is frequently caused by drought, deforestation or inefficient agriculture.

Desertification has been described as “the greatest environmental challenge of our time” and climate change is making it worse. It is an issue that goes far beyond those living in and around the world’s deserts, threatening the food security and livelihoods of people.

In fact, the combined impact of climate change, land mismanagement and unsustainable freshwater use has seen the world’s water-scarce regions increasingly degraded; and this leaves the soil less able to support crops, livestock and wildlife.

So, desertification can indeed, be harmful. It decreases biological productivity; and this specially harmful in places already plagued by poverty and hunger. The day provides an opportunity to recognize that land degradation neutrality is attainable via problem- solving, strong community involvement, and collaboration at all levels.

What is the theme of world day to combat desertification 2023? It is – “Her Land. Her Rights,” which focuses on women’s land rights as a critical component of achieving the linked global goals of gender equality and land degradation neutrality by 2030.

Why is World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought celebrated? Every year, Desertification and Drought Awareness Day is commemorated to raise public awareness. This day is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to remind everyone that land degradation neutrality (LDN) is attainable.

Tracing the history, desertification was acknowledged as one of the most significant threats to sustainable development at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. in 1994, the General Assembly established the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), the sole legally binding international agreement linking environment and development to sustainable land management, and declared 17 June “World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought”.

How can entrepreneurs help to prevent deforestation, combat desertification and protect biodiversity?

Businesses, big and small, must care about sustainable land use because of the following factors:

> Sustainable land use mitigates risks for businesses: Many businesses depend directly on the land for direct operation and supply chain. However, land-related risks to businesses are not always immediately visible, as their dependence on land is often embedded in the supply chains. Land use-related reputational, market, legal and financial risks are also rising. Governments are taking ambitious actions to conserve and restore land too. Trying to understand a company’s impacts and dependence on land can provide a good starting point for risk mitigation.

> Sustainable land use creates business opportunities and resilient jobs: A sustainable transition in food, land and ocean-use systems can create almost $3.6 trillion in annual value and 191 million jobs by 2030, according to research. Preserving and restoring land resources is also for the future generations. And, business investments are needed to develop the skillsets for them to pursue meaningful work or become ‘ecopreneurs’ in the new restoration economy.

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