World Environment Day 2024: A Call to Combat Desertification and Drought

Kula Halake stands next to one of her dead cows during Ethiopia's 2022 drought. Photo: Barnaby Jaco Skinner.

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Bringing together governments, businesses, and individuals from more than 150 countries, World Environmental Day (WED) is a cornerstone of global inspiration towards engagement, restoration, and protection for our planet. It was founded under the leadership of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in 1973 when called for the first time, and since then, it has been celebrated in June every year. This followed the detrimental effects of the climate crisis, which was felt all around the globe, and urgent action was needed to address it.

Different actionable activities from individuals mark this day, with some groups celebrating and acting from the grassroots to the international spectrum. Approaches vary but involve positive actions to restore the environment, such as speeches, cleanliness, tree planting, public rallies, dramas, etc.

This is marked as a platform to promote sustainable practices in the community and ensure that people are aware of what needs to be done to contribute to the sustainability of their environment. Each year brings a common message or theme through which people can engage.

Every year, a specific theme is chosen, addressing a particular environmental concern, ranging from air pollution and plastic waste to energy conservation and sustainable consumption. This theme stands as a core theme, and various associated actions are implemented globally, with each year’s events hosted in certain countries in rotation.

The 2024 World Environment Day theme is ‘‘Land restoration, desertification, and drought resilience ‘’. The slogan of the event will be “Our Land, Our Future. We are Generation Restoration.” The organisers wish to rally people to revive ecosystems around the world. It is going to be hosted by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia this year, and so much excitement is awaiting the event in regard to desertification, degradation, and drought.

These align with several United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, including poverty elimination, since land degradation affects more than 3 billion people globally. These land-dependent communities and individuals are vulnerable to poverty, and when land is restored, it will greatly support them.

Read Related: Carbon Trading: Tanzania’s New Avenue for Economic Growth and Environmental Protection

Besides, when land degradation is arrested, food production also improves while extra income is generated. This will also improve food security for livestock and the nutritional status of the general population.

Land is the basis for life under normal circumstances. It supports settlement, agriculture, and general ecosystems, including water resources, which are life-supporting at large. This theme is, therefore, pertinent, and it is very much relevant to the hosting country. Saudi Arabia is a desert country that experiences land degradation.

However, it has had outstanding agricultural sector advancements. Therefore, combating land degradation resolves the triple benefits of mitigating climate change, pollution, and the waste crisis, which are critical at the moment.

What Lesson Should be Learned From ‘The WED 2024 hosted by Saudi Arabia?

Tanzania can learn from Saudi Arabia’s techniques and success in combating desertification and land degradation. Several parts of Tanzania, especially central regions, are naturally semi-desert. These areas can benefit from lessons in land degradation management, agrotechnology, and water resources management, as well as their implications for the sector and environmental management.

The government of Saudi Arabia has invested heavily in this regard, and it has achieved several milestones at remarkable heights, which most countries in the region admire.

Tanzania has more than 29 million people affected by land degradation due to different causes. One of the drivers is the poor farming methodologies, which disturb the soil and reduce productivity. Examples include monoculture practices, excessive use of chemicals and agro-inputs, and land exhaustion due to continued cultivation.

Along with this is overgrazing, which exceeds the capacity of the land resources to handle a large number of livestock, causing erosion and suppressing vegetation regeneration. This is not the case with Saidi Arabia, where land reclamation has continued from desert to arable and productive resources.

Deforestation is also a driver of land degradation, whereas many rural communities rely heavily on forest resources. They depend on the forest for energy, such as firewood and charcoal, poles for construction, herbicides, thatching materials, and the list goes on. When removed from the land, these materials degrade the land and leave bare soil, which is unproductive and destabilizes the ecosystem.

Also, read: International Forest Day: Repaying Our Debts to Nature, Restoring the Green Lungs

Loss of vegetation cover, soil erosion and pollution, and, lastly, the loss of biodiversity results in unhealthy and unproductive land resources. Ultimately, this creates a global crisis, ranging from food insecurity to unhealthy lifestyles, poverty, and changes in temperature and rainfall patterns, causing so-called climate disasters.

The consequences of environmental disasters, among other things, are also associated with environmental migration and displacement, which continue overstretching the ecosystem’s carrying capacity. In turn, the ecosystems are likely to collapse and worsen the current devastation, which has been felt across space and time.

The Ballard study in 2022 indicated that about 81% of Tanzanians in rural areas have an income deficit of their basic need. However, the report also indicated further that conservation agriculture in Tanzania increases crop production by about 200%, which is quite an attractive figure.

Regardless of the existing challenges, the agriculture sector is important for the Tanzanian population, and it needs to continue learning from these advanced countries in that regard.

This year, the World Environment Day 2024 celebration occurred in Dodoma as a nation-level event in Tanzania. Aligning to this year’s theme, Dodoma experiences the same challenge of land degradation, increasing deforestation, and drought. It culminates at the right time when there is evidence and an increasing need to combat desertification, which is alarming in the region.

Regional and subregional events are also expected to parallel the World Environment Day in different areas for the same motive. As showcased by the Saudi Arabia scenario, it’s a call to embrace the year’s theme and implement what it entails.

While the global focus is on Saudi Arabia for World Environment Day 2024, our focus on Dodoma should be given a close-up look in Tanzania. It is the moment we can reflect on achievements and build on the prospective ones. Several lessons have been learned, and more are unfolding daily through experiences we live with today aside from World Environment Day.

The learned lessoned need to be practical and through this day, the call is to motivate everybody to continue doing the justice to the environment as it will also repay fair to humanity. While we are in the middle of devastation, we still need to do the best possible to spare our future, ‘’Our Land, Our Future.‘’


Dr. Emanueli Ndossi, a seasoned EIA and EA Expert, directs J & Enviroconsult (T) Ltd, with over a decade of experience. His expertise covers Project Management, Monitoring, and Evaluation (M&E) for comprehensive environmental assessments. Dr. Ndossi, with impactful roles in WCST, TFCG, and the University of Queensland, has shaped conservation efforts work spans diverse sectors, contributing to sustainable practices in tourism and conservation. Dr. Ndossi holds a Ph.D. in Environmental Science from the University of Göttingen and an M.Sc. in Environmental Management from the University of Queensland. His active engagement in organizations like ISIE, Carbon Lab, Soil Science Society of Germany, WCST, and FCC showcases his significant contributions to the environmental field.

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