Wednesday, June 17, 2009

World Day to Combat Drought and Desertification

by Aly Lewis Working at Plant With Purpose has spurred a fine-tuning of my development vocabulary and equipped me with some pretty shnazzy terms to throw out in casual conversation: deforestation, microentrepreneur, beneficiaries, ecological latrine(okay, maybe I still haven’t found an appropriate way to integrate ecological latrine into a casual conversation, but I sure am trying). Here’s a doozy of a term for you: desertification. No, not dessertification, or the process by which someone either 1. becomes a dessert or 2. turns an ordinary food, say an apple, from a healthy snack into an ooey gooey, caramelized treat. Sadly, desertification is a much graver issue than a renegade apple fritter. While deforestation is the disappearance of forests, desertification is the appearance of desert wastelands in arid areas. Land that once bustled with biodiversity and productivity becomes dry and virtually unusable. Basically, overuse and abuse of scarce resources (such as slash-and-burn agriculture and deforestation) has plunged desert lands (and people) into a deadly cycle of drought and decreased land productivity. The U.N. has declared today, June 17, World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought. According to a recent press release issued by the U.N. Secretary General, “Desertification and land degradation affect one third of the Earth’s surface, threatening the livelihoods, well-being and development of as many as 1 billion people. Faced with long periods of drought, famine and deepening poverty, many have only one option: flight from the land. There are already an estimated 24 million environmentally induced migrants. That number could rise to 200 million by 2050.” This has huge implications for many of the world’s poor. Without short-term options and long-term solutions, the problem will only get worse as impoverished families continue to destroy their land in a desperate effort to survive. But there is hope. Just like it’s difficult to curb your sweet tooth, reversing such drastic conditions as deforestation and desertification isn’t easy, but it’s not impossible. Plant With Purpose works with communities around the world to implement sustainable agricultural practices that will actually improve and restore degraded lands while simultaneously improving farmers’ livelihoods and transforming their lives. We’ve seen hillsides be renewed and streams be replenished. We’ve watched as schoolchildren plant tree seedlings and learn the value of caring for the environment. We’ve witnessed entire communities joining together to establish sustainable land use practices. People and communities around the world are coming together to tackle desertification and are learning ways to build a better future for themselves and their families. Now you’ve got a shnazzy new word to flash around the next time you’re trying to impress your friends with your multi-syllabic-lingo. But more important than flaunting your verbal prowess, maybe take a minute or two to share about the devastating effects of desertification around the globe and what can be done to help. If you’re interested in learning more about desertification and what's being done to stop it, check out these links:

Also, check out our website to see how all of Plant With Purpose’s projects work together to restore the land, create economic opportunity, and transform the lives of the rural poor.

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