Deputy Minister Sotyu calls for sustainable land management practices as South Africa marks desertification and drought day

17 June 2020


The Deputy Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries Ms Makhotso Sotyu has urged South Africans to protect their land from over-use so that it can continue to provide us with food, water and energy to support our wellbeing.

The Deputy Minister’s call comes as South Africa joins the global community in marking the annual Desertification and Drought Day on 17 June 2020. The Day is marked under the theme: Food. Feed. Fibre, highlighting the links between consumption and land.  Key to the leading drivers of desertification and land degradation are unsustainable production and consumption patterns. The food we eat, the clothes we wear, and the feed for animals come from the land. The marking of the 2020 Desertification and Drought day is therefore another call for more efficient and sustainable practices.

“We all can play a role in combating the effects of desertification. As individuals and corporates, we need to change our behaviours, adopt efficient land use planning and more sustainable land management practices. This will enhance the capacity of land to provide a wide range of goods and services. This call is more relevant even as government continues to facilitate the transformation that is fundamental for the future of this country, ” said Deputy Minister Sotyu.

Desertification and Drought Day, formerly known as the World Day to Combat Desertification, is a United Nations observance day held on 17 June each year with the aim of raising public awareness on the impacts of desertification, land degradation and drought. It also serves as an initiative that propels the implementation of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in countries such as South Africa that are prone to serious drought and/or increased desertification.

According to the United Nations, there is growing demand and competition for land from agriculture, urban expansion and infrastructure. Almost 75% of all land has been transformed from its natural state, and the pace of conversion is accelerating. Moreover, the health and productivity of existing arable land is declining, worsened by climate change.

This year’s theme seeks to highlight how much of what people eat and wear is derived from nature, the land and the soil that support all life on earth. Statistics indicate that, by 2050, food production will require an extra 593 million hectares of agricultural land, while at least 80% of agricultural land globally is used for grazing and grain production to feed animals. It is predicted that by 2030, the fashion industry will use 35% more land – over 115 million hectares. All of these will result in gobbling up land at a fast rate, and that is unsustainable.

It is in this regard that the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries working with other government and non-state actors,  remains steadfast in implementing programmes that aim to rehabilitate the land and enhance the productivity of land.

“Through our various Expanded Public Works Programmes, we have been able to build the much needed infrastructure with an aim of preserving productive land whilst creating some form of resilience against the impacts of climate change. We will continue to make funds available for such programmes, as they do not only serve to preserve the environment, but also contribute to improving and sustaining the livelihoods of our people. The Department has for years invested heavily on projects and initiative across provinces that provide employment opportunities in rural areas while restoring degraded landscapes. We therefore call on all hands on deck in protecting our precious natural resources that provide food, feed and fibre. All livelihoods and human existence are reliant on healthy land,” said Sotyu.

As a signatory to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), South Africa works collectively with the all countries in the Africa region in advancing programmes and initiatives that combat and mitigate the effects of desertification and drought throughout the continent.

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