Acknowledging that desertification and drought are problems of global dimension in that they affect all regions of the world and that joint action by the international community is needed to combat them, particularly in Africa, the United Nations General Assembly in 1994 declared June 17 as the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought (WDCD) in order to promote public awareness of the issue and the implementation of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) in the countries experiencing serious drought and/or desertification, particularly in Africa.
This year?s WDCD observance is under the theme: ?Ecosystem-Based Adaptation? with the slogan ?Land Belongs to the future, Let?s Climate Proof it?.The objective of the framers of this theme and the slogan is to make the Day an occasion to highlight the benefits of mainstreaming sustainable land management policies and practices into our collective response to climate change. Sustainable land management increases both community and ecosystem resilience while improving the human condition particularly in the drylands.
The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in his statement to mark the Day in 2013, declared that “Droughts are hard to avert, but their effects can be mitigated. The price of preparedness is minimal compared to the cost of disaster relief. Let us therefore shift from managing crises to preparing for droughts and building resilience.?
Desertification, accepted as a worldwide problem since the Dust Bowl of the 1930s in the Midwestern United States, is found on every continent except on Antarctica. However it only became an international issue during the Great Drought in Sahel between 1968 and 1973 and the global attention has been focusing mainly on Africa particularly the Sahel and northern Africa areas. It implies the formation and expansion of degraded soil. This comes about in croplands, grasslands and forests as a result of loss of soil, deterioration of soil and loss of natural vegetation. These are, partly, the outcomes of political decisions, poor land management, increasing population etc.
On the words of experts, desertification occasions a reduction in total species richness, an increase in the proportion of exotic plants and a decline in overall biodiversity. It often results in a decrease in the amount of vegetation covering the land leading to less shade, soil temperatures rise, accelerating the breakdown of organic matter in the soil and the evaporation of water. For?land?managers,?desertification is a downward spiral. As it proceeds, the impact of any downturn, such as a drought, may become catastrophic and result in loss of human lives due to lack of necessary resources, such as water. While the experts estimate that freshwater represents only 2.5 per cent of all water on Earth. And of all this freshwater, the total usable supply for ecosystems and humans is less than 1 per cent.
As far as drought is concerned, it is a period of unusually dry weather and can cause loss of vegetation, which in turn leads to desertification. Desertification can occur without drought, and drought can occur without resulting in desertification. Droughts are short-term and cyclical. By themselves, they do not degrade the land. However, they intensify the pressures that lead to mismanagement of land, plant, and water resources.
It is incumbent, therefore, on all and sundry to be conscious of the grave consequences of desertification and droughts and take all necessary steps to adapt ourselves to the environment instead of transforming it according to our wishes. Though a global issue, Africans should be at the forefront of the struggle against these menaces. To effectively face this situation they need strong political will, concerted strategies and actions at sub-regional and regional levels.
AASU calls on African governments to substitute words by deeds by integrating their efforts, resources and implementing all their national and regional strategies and plan of actions aimed at combating desertification and drought and involve all their citizenry particularly the youth in it.
AASU urges the African youth particularly the students to be self motivated and develop the sense of voluntarism by taking active part in all efforts geared toward combating desertification and drought by undertaking awareness, clean up and tree planting campaigns among others.
Land Belongs to the future, Let?s Climate Proof it!
(Secretary General)??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? [email protected]/00233(0)243101626