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Desertification and Drought Day: Food, Feed, Fibre

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Desertification and Drought Day, which this year has the motto Food. Feed. Fibre, has heard calls for sustainable production and consumption. WMO is committed to these goals.

“If we take care of nature, nature will take care of us. We need nature, nature does not need us. If we intrude into nature’s wild spaces and degrade the land, we can expect more zoonotic diseases to emerge; we can expect the services land provide us with – healthy food, clean air and water – to disappear. In our globalized world, the food we eat, the feed for our livestock and the fibre for clothes impact land thousands of miles away,” said Ibrahim Thiaw, Executive Director of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

“The food we lose or waste every year uses 1.4 billion hectares. By wasting food, we indeed waste land and water, we waste our biological resources, we emit carbons, we jeopardize the future of new generations. In most cases, how much food we waste is entirely our choice. The land used to graze and produce grains to feed animals makes up 80 per cent of agricultural land,” he said.

Roughly 500 million people live in areas that experience desertification. Drylands and areas that experience desertification are also more vulnerable to climate change and extreme events including drought, heatwaves, and dust storms, with an increasing global population providing further pressure.

A special report last August by the WMO co-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change put the spotlight on Climate Change and Land and stressed the need for sustainable management of land resources.

Land is already under growing human pressure and climate change is adding to these pressures. At the same time, keeping global warming to well below 2ºC can be achieved only by reducing greenhouse gas emissions from all sectors including agriculture, forestry and other types of land use which account for 23% of emissions.

Natural land processes absorb carbon dioxide equivalent to almost a third of carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels and industry. But when land is degraded, it becomes less productive, restricting what can be grown and reducing the soil’s ability to absorb carbon. This exacerbates climate change, while climate change in turn exacerbates land degradation in many different ways..

Roughly 500 million people live in areas that experience desertification. Drylands and areas that experience desertification are also more vulnerable to climate change and extreme events including drought, heatwaves, and dust storms, with an increasing global population providing further pressure.

WMO is therefore committed to working with all relevant United Nations partners to promote a coordinated approach to improve resilience to the impacts of desertification and drought, including through better warnings of sand and dust storms, which adversely affect the state of the environment, health, agriculture, socioeconomic well-being, and livelihood of large populations on Earth, particularly those living on and around a dry belt.

Water insecurity costs the global economy some US$500 billion annually, with major droughts reducing per capita gross domestic product growth by half a percentage point. Investing in water security through drought management would mitigate economic losses and promote long-term sustainable growth.

While droughts have always been an issue for the world, global warming poses additional risks to vulnerable populations. WMO has therefore long campaigned for a shift from a reactive crisis driven approach to proactive drought risk management policies. The Integrated Drought Management Programme is co-sponsored by WMO and the Global Water Partnership and has over 35 partner organisations, including UNCCD and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).