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Getting back to basics on Desertification and Drought Day, the UNCCD challenges us to rethink how we use the land.

The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) brings people together to help put an end to land degradation that impacts over 1.3 billion people, and counting...

Because while the amount of land available to farm is more or less fixed, the world population continues to grow. In fact, it’s expanding so fast that sometimes we struggle to give thought to some fundamental questions. Like, how are we going to feed a projected population of ten billion by 2050? And are we really making the best use of resources when it comes to the products that we consume?

This last question is one that many of us have asked recently, especially where lockdown has forced people to make do without things that they previously considered essential. At a time when everyone seems to be  asking “do I really need so much?”, the UNCCD has dedicated this 17th of June to the question of responsible consumption.

As populations grow, we need to shift attitudes. There could easily be enough for everyone, but not in a world where conspicuous consumption is seen as a sign of success, instead of being recognized as driving disproportionate demands for land to provide food, animal feed and fibre for clothing. With a range of factors, including climate change, exacerbating the problem by causing farmland to become less productive, we cannot wait to address the problem.

The UNCCD is clear: to have enough productive land to meet future demands, lifestyles need to change. Desertification and Drought Day, running under the slogan “Food. Feed. Fibre.” is about trying to make people more aware of the impacts of consumerism, and how they can help.

If we keep producing and consuming as usual, we will eat into the planet’s capacity to sustain life until there is nothing left but scraps. We all need to make better choices about what we eat and what we wear to help protect and restore the land.

Ibrahim Thiaw, Executive Secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification

It’s a serious problem, thrown into stark relief by the figures. For example, by 2030 food production will require an additional 300 million hectares of land; yet at the same time, the fashion industry is predicted to use 35 % more land – over 115 million hectares, equivalent to the size of Colombia.

The UNCCD message is one of hope. With changes in consumer and corporate behaviour, and the adoption of more efficient planning and sustainable practices, there could be enough land to meet the demand.

By saying “no” to products that degrade the land, customers send a powerful message to producers and policymakers. As many countries start to return to economic activity and ease COVID-19 measures, Desertification and Drought Day gives us a moment to think about what sort of recovery we want to see.

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Barnaby Lewis
Barnaby Lewis

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About Desertification and Drought Day

The theme for 2020 was based on a competition open to the public. Mr Irfan Miswari won with his suggestion of the impact of the fashion industry on land and water in Indonesia’s West Java Province. In an area prone to drought during the dry season, over a hundred textile and garment companies use over 2 500 l of water – largely for the cotton growing – to produce one T-shirt.


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