Desertification & Land Degradation in the European Union

Challenges and opportunities for action
6 December 2018



Secretary Environment Directs For Expediting Spring Trees Plantation Campaign (Pakistan)

Secretary Environment and Forests, Syed Nazir Hussain Shah has visited plantation in Hazara tribal forest division at Upper Hazara and directed the field staff to further expedite spring plantations to achieve the set targets

by Umer Jamshaid  – 17th April 2019 |

PESHAWAR, (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News – 17th Apr, 2019 ) :Secretary Environment and Forests, Syed Nazir Hussain Shah has visited plantation in Hazara tribal forest division at Upper Hazara and directed the field staff to further expedite spring plantations to achieve the set targets.

The secretary was accompanied by Chief Conservator of Forests, Conservator Forests Hazara circle and Divisional Forests Officer Tribal Forest Division, Farhad Ali besides others officials.

The Secretary inspected plantation sites at Kot Gala under Billion Tress Afforestration Project (BTAP) and appreciated the plantation work done.

He forests play key role to mitigate effects of climate change and global warming and it was our collective responsibility to plant maximum saplings to make KP lush green.

Under BTAP, the Forests Department with support of all relevant stakeholders and general public had planted a record one billion and 18crore saplings of different species during last five years in Khyber Pakthunkhwa.

He said combating problems of desertification, climate change and global warming was a big challenge and these issues can be addressed through whopping plantations.

The Secretary said great responsibility rest on the shoulders of Forest Department as well as general public to make the spring plantation campaign a success.


China is sharing how it succeeded in reversing rocky desertification

16-Dec-2018 By Gong Zhe

When talking about desertification, we usually mean soil turning into sand.

But in southwest China, there is a special type of desertification in which the soil simply disappears, revealing the rocks underneath.

Since we cannot grow most crops on rocks, this type of desertification is a serious issue.

China has been trying to reverse this kind of desertification for several years and has begun making progress.

On Thursday, the country’s forestry administration released its latest statistics in Beijing.

Deputy head of China’s forestry administration Liu Dongsheng explains the country’s efforts in combating rocky desertification in Beijing, December 13, 2018. /VCG Photo

“The third round of monitoring started in April 2016 and ended in September 2017, with more than 4,000 technicians setting up 100,000 monitoring points,” Liu Dongsheng, deputy head of the administration told reporters in an official press release.

“We collected 190 million entries of data and understood the desertification situation from 2012 to 2016,” he added.

In this period, the total area of rocky deserts has been shrinking at an yearly average speed of 3.45 percent.

This means more than 16 percent of rocky deserts have been reverted in the five-year period.

If China can keep up with the speed, the total area will be halved by 2030.

Human efforts


‘Sowing hope’ as China tries to reverse desertification

by Alok Gupta

Contrasting the vast golden yellow sand in China’s Tengger Desert are pale green lines, forming nearly perfect squares that stretch on for miles. Unfazed by the chilly wind, Ma He carefully plants shrubs – one in each square.   

For nearly half a century, thousands of workers have used agricultural waste – mostly wheat and rice straws – to prepare “checkerboards” in an attempt to stem the alarming rate of desertification in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region.

Ma He preparing checkerboard in Tengger Desert (L); one of the climate resilient shrubs planted in the dryalands to reverse desertification (R). /CGTN Photo 

The bundle in Ma’s hand is one of the five shrubs – Caragana korshinskii, Hedysarum scoparium, Artemisia ordosica, Atraphaxis bracteates, and Calligonum mongolicum – that can grow in the harsh desert environment.

The climate-resistant shrubs were developed after two decades of research at Shapotou Desert Research and Experiment Station (SDRES).

“We are sowing hope,” says Ma, a mother of two adolescents. “We have created a straw net over the desert, to cease the advancing sand destroying our land.”

The battle against desertification – a process of land degradation – is not restricted to Ningxia. Globally, it has affected 75 percent of the Earth’s land area.

More than 90 percent of the Earth’s land could become degraded by 2050, vastly impacting the soil’s fertility, the World Atlas of Desertification published by European Commission last year said.

With Africa and Asia being the most affected, the world is losing 120,000 square kilometers of land, an area the size of Benin, annually. Overgrazing, climate change and the massive extraction of groundwater are known causes of land degradation.  

Concerned over the alarming rate of land degradation, United Nations Convention to Control Desertification, a legally-binding international agreement linking environment and development to sustainable land management was launched in 1994. 

“We are resolving this issue by working with countries to achieve the global target that can ensure the amount of productive land available today stays stable or increases beyond 2030,” Yukie Hori, UNCCD told CGTN.


Drought is not just about water. It affects air pollution, too

FRESNO, CA – APRIL 24: Dead trees stand in a field on April 24, 2015 in Fresno, California. As California enters its fourth year of severe drought, farmers in the Central Valley are struggling to keep crops watered as wells run dry and government water allocations have been reduced or terminated. Many have opted to leave acres of their fields fallow. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) – A lengthy California drought left trees and plants parched and influenced their contributions to smog.

By Jason Plautz – Apr. 11, 2019

The severe drought that struck California from 2011 to 2015 had an obvious impact on rivers, forests, and wildlife. Now, a new study shows it also had some surprising effects on the state’s notorious air pollution, adding new wrinkles to the state’s efforts to clear the skies.

Researchers have long known that plants can both help create and cleanse one dangerous air pollutant: ground-level ozone, which causes breathing problems and exacerbates lung damage. Plants can scrub ozone from the air by absorbing the pollutant through their stomata, or pores. But certain plants also emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that react with other atmospheric chemicals to create ozone.

Understanding how drought influences these two processes can be tricky. Dry conditions could cause ozone levels to rise, because plants shrink their stomata to prevent water loss, reducing their ability to remove pollution. But drought might also reduce ozone levels, because the stress could cause plants to produce fewer ozone-forming VOCs.

California’s lengthy drought, and the state’s extensive network of air pollution sensors, gave researchers a rare opportunity to see what happens in the real world. The team, led by atmospheric chemistry Ph.D. candidate Angelique Demetillo and environmental science professor Sally Pusede at the University of Virginia (UVA) in Charlottesville, examined more than a decade’s worth of satellite and sensor data that documented atmospheric conditions over Bakersfield and Fresno, two California cities that suffer from ozone pollution.

The drought’s impact on air quality changed over time, the researchers report this week in Environmental Science & Technology. Plants did remove less ozone, with absorption dropping by about 15% during the most severe years of the drought. But during the early years of the drought, trees and other plants were able to maintain their production of one key ozone-forming VOC, isoprene. The chemical helps plants like oak trees withstand heat stress, and it appears the trees draw on carbon stores to sustain isoprene production. “It’s like a person exercising; when you’ve burned through your recent consumption the body switches over and starts burning fat,” says Manuel Lerdau, an organismal ecologist at UVA and a co-author of the study.


FAO Early Warning Early Action report on food security and agriculture (April – June 2019)


The Early Warning Early Action (EWEA) report on food security and agriculture is produced by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). It provides a quarterly forward-looking analysis of major disaster risks to food security and agriculture, specifically highlighting:

• potential new emergencies resulting from imminent disaster threats

• new developments in countries already affected by protracted crises which are likely to cause a further deterioration of food insecurity

This report is part of FAO’s efforts to systematically link early warnings to anticipatory actions. By providing specific early action recommendations for each country, the report aims to prompt FAO and partners to proactively mitigate and/or prevent disasters before they start to adversely impact food security.

High risk

Countries are categorized as “high risk” when there is a high likelihood of a new emergency or a significant deterioration of the current situation with potentially severe effects on agriculture and food security.

On watch

Countries categorized as “on watch” instead have a comparatively more moderate likelihood and/or potential impact, requiring close monitoring.

This report represents a summary and a prioritization of analysis provided by FAO’s corporate and joint multi-agency information and early warning systems:

• Global Information and Early Warning System on Food and Agriculture (GIEWS)

• Food Chain Crisis and Emergency Prevention System (FCC-EMPRES)

• Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) and Cadre Harmonisé


Ethiopia: Drought – 2015-2019 –Photo credit: AddisAbabaOnline


While Ethiopia battles residual needs from the 2015/2016 El Niño-induced drought, below average 2016 autumn rains in the southern and southeastern parts of the country have led to a new drought in lowland pastoralist areas, as well as in pocket areas across the country. As a result, some 5.6 million people in Ethiopia require emergency food assistance in 2017. In addition, 2.7 million children and pregnant and lactating mothers require supplementary feeding, 9.2 million people need support to access safe drinking water, 1.9 million households need livestock support, and 300,000 children between 6-59 months old are targeted for the treatment for severe acute malnutrition in 2017. Drought conditions are expected to peak during the dry December to March jilaal season, which is likely to lead to a sharper deterioration in livestock body conditions, and impacting milk production and nutrition status of the families that depend on livestock for their food and income. During the dry season, the response will be complemented by supplementary food based on regular screenings to ensure the most vulnerable are reached. (OCHA, 17 Feb 2017)

Southern and eastern Ethiopia continue to battle the impact of the Indian Ocean Dipole-induced drought, exacerbated by disease outbreaks, large scale loss of livelihood assets and displacement. The humanitarian situation countrywide has been further compounded by below average spring rains – the third consecutive poor/failed rains in the southern drought belt. […] In the second half of 2017, some 8.5 million people will require emergency food assistance, some 3.6 million children and pregnant and lactating mothers will require supplementary feeding, some 10.5 million people will not have regular access to safe drinking water and some 2.25 million households will require livestock support. Partners also estimate that 376,000 children will become severely acutely malnourished until the end of 2017. (Gov’t of Ethiopia, OCHA, 08 Aug 2017)

Since the revision of the Humanitarian Requirements Document (HRD) in August 2017, the humanitarian context in Ethiopia has continued to evolve which has led the Government and humanitarian partners to further adjust the HRD requirements. In the food sector the needs have been revised slightly upwards to accommodate an increase in the number of beneficiaries through the inclusion of 4 million former Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP) clients in the HRD. In other sectors such as health and nutrition, needs have also continued to increase mainly due to the deteriorating nutrition situation in Somali region, increase in the number of displaced people, as well as the Fall Army Worm (FAW) outbreak that continues to ravage crops throughout the country. (Gov’t of Ethiopia, OCHA, 19 Oct 2017)