BY: Tasneem Johnson-Dollie
What’s so special about 17 June? Well it’s the date of World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, and we can all get clued up on conservation from this annual reminder.
Keeping track of the causes and impacts of climate change can be tricky on a day-to-day basis.
But World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought can fill us in on all the latest facts, and help us to see how things change each year.
Even those asking – “Is climate change real?” – can get some informative answers from this annual event.
And we can all get a clearer picture of what we can do to address these impacts of climate change ourselves.
What are the causes of drought and desertification?
The word drought refers to prolonged periods of low rainfall.
But what causes drought in the first place? Well it’s just one of the many effects of climate change.
Some of the leading causes of drought worldwide include:
- changing ocean and land temperatures that lead to a drier environment
- altered weather patterns, like decreased winter rainfall and warmer summers
- reduced soil moisture, which means that less water can evaporate from the soil, travel to the clouds, and rain back down as water
- human activity – like the overuse of water.
If droughts occur regularly in an area with fertile soil, the soil will eventually dry out completely, lose its nutrients and become unable to support plant life. So think no crops, or fields full of flowers in spring.
This is called desertification.
Plants are an important part of any natural environment. And, when plants are lost from an area, it affects the survival of animals and humans living in the area too, because plants purify the air and provide food, building materials and even medicines.
Besides drought, overgrazing – when cattle graze excessively on a piece of land – is also one of the major causes of desertification.
When animals eat the plant matter in an area faster than it can re-grow, eventually these plants will stop growing and leave the land bare.
Desertification and drought are both causes and effects of climate change. This is because they happen as a result of changing global temperatures, but they also affect global temperatures and humidity – which adds to the impacts of climate change.
What’s the purpose of World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought?
The effects and causes of climate change have a big influence on the well-being of the global community.
In fact, research has shown that desertification and drought affect the living conditions, economic potential, and health of communities.
By the late nineties, desertification and drought were acknowledged as being key focus areas for global development efforts.
And, on 17 June 1994 the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) was put into play globally, and adopted by a number of states across the world.
This convention was a turning point because it:
- put a spotlight on desertification and drought as a global concern
- highlighted how best to address these effects of climate change
- identified where in the world these efforts were most needed.
And so began the first step in a global approach to identifying and addressing the causes of drought and desertification.
So why do we celebrate World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought each year?
Because this convention adds to the global community’s awareness of the leading causes and effects of climate change.
It also makes it clearer how we can all contribute towards curbing the effects of climate change.
Here are some of the important facts about desertification and drought that this annual event has taught us over the past ten years.
Facts about desertification and drought
- Over 1 billion people depend on land that is slowly becoming desert for their personal and economic well-being.
- Each year the global community loses 12 million hectares of fertile land to desertification and drought.
- Land degradation and desertification account for a loss of $42 billion in earnings every year.
The bottom line is that desertification and drought are still a big global challenge, even after years of efforts to address them.
But the big benefit here is that these facts about desertification and drought have pushed international organisations to take the next step – developing and implementing more impactful climate-change solutions.
And you could be part of the team contributing towards the goals set in the UNCCD. How?
By getting involved in environmental conservation work of course!
How to contribute towards World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought
Adding to environmental and wildlife conservation programs means you can make a positive impact in addressing desertification and drought.
And what’s better than that?
Well, having the skills and background that you need to contribute in the best ways possible is important too.
Bushwise Field Guides offers top-rated courses in environmental conservation, wildlife conservation and wildlife conservation research.
These courses will set you up with all the conservation knowledge and practical experience you need to start adding to environmental conservation in an impactful way.
Check out Bushwise’s conservation and wildlife research programs, or look into our internship in conservation, and see how you can start amplifying the message of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought.