World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought - June 17, 2024 “United for Land: Our Legacy. Our Future”

World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought - June 17, 2024 “United for Land: Our Legacy. Our Future”

M. Youssouf AMADOU

Mr Youssouf AMADOU
Sustainable Development Specialist
Sahara and Sahel Observatory


Over the past fifty years, our planet has lost a third of its arable land, affecting half of the world's population. This loss obliterates our ability to feed ourselves and puts countless species at risk due to the destruction of their habitats. Is that all? Hell no. When it affects forests, the main carbon reservoirs of our planet, deforestation modifies water cycles and exacerbates global warming. According to the UN, around 45% of African land is hit by land degradation. The Montpellier panel stated that the economic loss in Africa due, in particular, to demographic pressures and inappropriate agricultural practices is nothing short of 68 billion dollars per year.

Like every June 17, humanity celebrates World Desertification and Drought Day. On this occasion, the “United for land. Our heritage. Our Future” slogan is a call to public awareness of the urgency of protecting our land and promoting sustainable management of natural resources. It is a renewed opportunity to think of the state of our environment, particularly in Africa, where these challenges are particularly pressing. This Day also highlights the need for building a resilient future for the generations to come.

Despite the international community deadline to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2030, especially halting and reversing deforestation, there is no true indication that the millions of hectares of degraded land will be restored in the remaining six years.

“Through darkness, shines a light of hope”
Many African cultures worship nature. Societies are marked by the beliefs of indigenous people, where trees, rivers, mountains and animals are thought to be living and spirited entities. This perception shapes the relationships between communities and their natural environment, encouraging them to adopt conservation and sustainable resource management practices. Tribal communities have long lived in harmony with nature, taking advantage of its benefits while observing the limits it draws. Balanced hunting, fishing and agriculture activities were practiced, respecting natural cycles and traditions passed down from one generation to the other.

However, the rapid evolution of African society has put this age-old harmony to a challenge. Rampant urbanization is putting increasing pressure on land and natural resources, threatening fragile ecosystems and traditional ways of life. Deforestation, resulting from land conversion for agriculture and logging, endangers biodiversity and ecosystem services. Increasingly frequent extreme weather events, prolonged droughts and devastating floods threaten the livelihoods of millions of people, exacerbating poverty, food insecurity and forced migration in many regions, particularly arid and semi-arid areas.

Stakeholders and the scientific community know all too well this bleak picture and are sounding the alarm. Are we really endeavoring to reverse these trends? What solutions should we prioritize to achieve a resilient future for future generations?

In response to this observation and in accordance with its missions, the Sahara and Sahel Observatory, with the support of its partners, is organizing an International Conference on Land Degradation in Africa on June 25 and 26. This event will bring together high-level experts and policy makers to highlight the state and root causes of land degradation and come up with possible solutions through the sharing of experiences and the identification of innovative strategies.

This event aims to explore this complex issue through various thematic sessions and panels. Each panel will address a specific aspect of the challenge. Ministers responsible for land management from various African countries will discuss key public policies for land restoration and explore how governments can strengthen their action to contend with this environmental emergency.

On this occasion, the OSS will introduce and present the documentary book “AFRICAN LAND: THE DEGRADATION AND THE ABSOLUTE REQUIREMENT OF SUSTAINABLE MANAGEMENT”. This work is a call to action for decision-makers, scientists, local communities and all stakeholders involved in preserving the environment. Sustainable natural resources management is not only an ecological necessity, but a moral imperative to ensure a viable and prosperous future for all.

World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought - June 17, 2024 “United for Land: Our Legacy. Our Future”