Desertification is a type of dry land degradation that is caused by climate change and human activities. It is a global ecological and environmental issue. Desertification occurs on nearly all continents, and affects the livelihoods of millions, especially those living in poverty.
Human activity factors that increase desertification include mining, overgrazing, and unsustainable farming. The human demand for the earth’s natural resources is more than the ecosystem can supply. Trees and plants are stripped from the land, leaving the exposed soil vulnerable to further degradation from wind and water erosion. Cattle hooves’ repeated pounding on the soil can compact the soil, leaving it unsuitable for crop growth. Farming the drylands may become so intensive that the land becomes stripped of its valuable nutrients, causing the land to become barren.
The result of desertification can be devastating. According to un.org, “Some 50 million people may be displaced within the next 10 years as a result of desertification.” When the land becomes unable to support the local population, that population is forced to move to an area with land that is able to sustain their livelihood.
Although desertification can have serious implications, the effects can be minimized or reversed. The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) was formed in 1994. This committee works toward maintaining and restoring land and soil productivity, and to allay the climatic effects on the drylands. Included in their efforts are replanting and restoring trees, water management, repairing degraded land and improving the awareness and education surrounding desertification.