South Africa celebrates World Environment and World Day to Combat Desertification Days

15 June 2017


The Deputy Minister of Environmental Affairs, Ms Barbara Thomson led the country’s joint celebration of the World Environment Day and World Day to Combat Desertification today, 15 June 2017 in Jane Furse, Makhuduthamaga Local Municipality.

The World Environment Day is celebrated every year on the 5th of June, with the aim of galvanising positive environmental action. As a signatory to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), South Africa also celebrates the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought (WDCD) that is aimed at promoting public awareness about the international efforts to combat desertification and effects of drought.

Adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1994, WDCD has been observed since 17 March 1995 to raise public awareness on Desertification, Land Degradation and Drought (DLDD). It is an initiative that also propels the implementation of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification in countries, such as South Africa, that are prone to serious drought and/or increased desertification.  This year, the WDCD is being celebrated under the theme “Our home, Our land and Our future.”

WDCD also serves as a tool to strengthen community participation and co-operation in coining sustainable solutions to effectively address desertification.

Speaking at community event in Jane Furse, Deputy Minister Thomson has called on South Africans to act responsibly in addressing poverty and hunger, tackling inequality, empowering women and stimulating economic growth. “Nations are losing their productive lands, sources of employment and the means to secure their economies. Land degradation corrodes the three pillars of sustainable development worldwide. We therefore have to take responsibility and act to avert the severe consequences of land degradation in our communities,” she said.

Deputy Minister Thomson further urged communities to use their land responsibly while striving to achieve Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN). “This can be done through conservation, smart agriculture and adaptation to our changing climate, especially in the dry fragile parts of our areas where food and water shortages are becoming more severe,” she said.

"We need to protect our land from being over-used so it can continue to provide us all with food, water and energy to support our wellbeing. If we sustainably manage our land, we will reduce the impacts of climate change and reduce the potential for disasters. Our success in this regard will depend on our ability to avoid degradation in new areas and by prioritization of the restoration of degraded land to enable it to regain its natural abilities," she added.

The objective is to work towards the achievement of Land Degradation Neutral world, which requires a paradigm shift in land stewardship: from “degrade-abandon-migrate” to “protect-sustain-restore”. This means cooperation among various sectors that embrace complementary management options in order to minimise current land degradation; avoid future land degradation and further rehabilitate degraded lands as well as restoring degraded natural and semi-natural ecosystems that provide vital benefits to people.

In rural areas, where people depend on scarce productive land resources, land degradation is a driver of forced migration. Africa is particularly susceptible because more than 90% of the economy depends on a climate-sensitive natural resource base such as rain-fed, subsistence agriculture.

Sustainable land management offers young people opportunities for income generation from agriculture, food processing and tourism.

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