World Day to Combat Desertification – June 17, 2019 “Let’s Grow the Future Together”


Message from Ministry of Agriculture, June 17, 2019

Desertification is threatening the livelihoods of 1 billion people in over 100 countries, and each year 12 million hectares of arable land are lost to drought.The extent and severity of land degradation worldwide, combined with the negative effects of climate change, population growth and an ever-increasing demand for natural resources, requires immediate and assertive action. The economic costs of desertification and land degradation are estimated at USD 490 billion per year. Avoiding land degradation through sustainable land management can generate up to USD 1.4 trillion of economic benefits.

According to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) reports, land degradation is found in every region of the world and affects the wellbeing of around 3.2 billion people, leading to food and water insecurity and poverty. Land degradation also leads to increased vulnerability to climate change of affected areas and among affected communities. Moreover, competition for the already strained land and water resources is further intensified by a growing world population that is increasingly urban and affluent, which has led to increased demand for food, especially animal products that often have high ecological footprints.

Land and Drought

Drought, a complex and slowly encroaching natural hazard with significant and pervasive socio-economic and environmental impacts, is known to cause more deaths and displace more people than any other natural disaster. By 2025, 1.8 billion people will experience absolute water scarcity, and 2/3 of the world will be living under water-stressed conditions.

By 2050, the demand for water is expected to increase by 50 per cent. As populations increase, especially in dryland areas, more and more people are becoming dependent on fresh water supplies in land that are becoming degraded. Water scarcity is one of the greatest challenges of the twenty-first century. Drought and water scarcity are considered to be the most far-reaching of all natural disasters, causing short and long-term economic and ecological losses as well as significant secondary and tertiary impacts. To mitigate these impacts, drought preparedness that responds to human needs, while preserving environmental quality and ecosystems, requires involvement of all stakeholders including water users and water providers to achieve solutions for drought.

Land and Human Security

Some 135 million people may be displaced by 2045 as a result of desertification. Land and soil degradation undermine the security and development of all countries.

The geo-political and security challenges we face are complex. But by better implementing good land management practices, we can simultaneously help populations adapt to climate change and build resilience to drought; reduce the risk of forced migration and conflict over dwindling natural resources and secure sustainable agricultural and energy production. Land truly is the glue that holds our societies together. Reversing the effects of land degradation and desertification through sustainable land management (SLM) is not only achievable; it is the logical, cost-effective next step for national and international development agendas. It is a clear goal for the UNCCD and an exciting challenge.

Food Security

12 million hectares of productive land become barren every year due to desertification and drought alone, which is a lost opportunity to produce 20 million tons of grain. We cannot afford to keep degrading land when we are expected to increase food production by 70% by 2050 to feed the entire world population. Moreover, losing productive land is driving people to make risky life choices. In rural areas where people depend on scarce productive land resources, land degradation is a driver of forced migration.

Eritrea’s case

Eritrea is located in drought prone part of the world. Moreover due to various manmade and natural processes, Eritrea’s land has been heavily degraded. Taking these facts in to account, the Government of Eritrea, ever since 1991, has been engaging in various land rehabilitation activities. These include construction of water reservoirs, students’ summer campaign programs, community mobilization in natural resources management and starting from 2006, the Great Greening Campaign.

The government of Eritrea has constructed hundreds of different sized water reservoirs that include ponds, micro dams and strategic dams. Around 135,000 hectares of land has been treated with various soil and water conservation measures since Eritrea’s independence, 1991. Establishment of enclosures is also part of the land rehabilitation programs. So far, more than 370,000 hectares of land has been put under enclosure. Thanks to the greening campaign, more than 43 million tree seedlings have been planted by communities, individuals and a number of institutions. Students are being sensitized and actively participating in the campaign by establishing green clubs. 565 green clubs with around 28,000 members have established yet.

The government has also introduced energy saving stoves to minimize tree cutting and to promote domestic and health issues. So far, more than 156,000 improved stoves have been constructed and installed in rural and urban areas.

Even though all the above mentioned activities are in place, land degradation and drought are still among major challenges in Eritrea. Therefore, the Government of Eritrea is introducing various climate smart agriculture strategies that would enable sustainable land utilization.