2020 Desertification and Drought Day will focus on links between consumption and land

Desertification and Drought Day, a United Nations observance day held on 17 June each year, will in 2020 focus on changing public attitudes to the leading driver of desertification and land degradation: humanity’s relentless production and consumption.

As populations become larger, wealthier and more urban, there is far greater demand for land to provide food, animal feed and fibre for clothing. Meanwhile, the health and productivity of existing arable land is declining, worsened by climate change.

To have enough productive land to meet the demands of ten billion people by 2050, lifestyles need to change. Desertification and Drought Day, running under the slogan “Food. Feed. Fibre.” seeks to educate individuals on how to reduce their personal impact.

The official event will take place in Seoul, Republic of Korea, but the day is observed globally, with communities and individuals encouraged to organize their own events.

“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

Food, feed and fibre must also compete with expanding cities and the fuel industry. The end result is that land is being converted and degraded at unstainable rates, damaging production, ecosystems and biodiversity.

  • Today, more than two billion hectares of previously productive land is degraded
  • Over 70 per cent of natural ecosystems have been transformed. By 2050, this could hit 90 per cent
  • By 2030, food production will require an additional 300 million hectares of land
  • By 2030, the fashion industry is predicted to use 35 per cent more land – over 115 million hectares, equivalent to the size of Colombia

Food, feed, fibre is also contributing to climate change, with around a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions coming from agriculture, forestry and other land use. Clothing and footwear production causes 8 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, a figure predicted to rise almost 50 per cent by 2030.

With urbanization, many of us have become distant from the land. “Food. Feed. Fiber” are essential to our daily life, and most of them are originated from the ground. However, in this digital world, everything mentioned above can easily buy in stores, and we, human mostly disregard the benefits given by trees and nature. On Desertification and Drought Day, we hope to make people better understand that the real links between what they buy and the damage done to the earth.

— Chong-Ho Park, Minister, the Korea Forest Service

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. If every consumer were to buy products that do not degrade the land, suppliers would cut back the flow of these products and send a powerful signal to producers and policymakers.

Changes in diet and behaviours – such as cutting food waste, buying from local markets and swapping clothes instead of always buying new – can free up land for other uses and lower carbon emissions. Dietary change alone can free up between 80 and 240 million hectares of land.

About Desertification and Drought Day

Desertification and Drought Day – until this year known as The World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought – is observed every year to promote public awareness of international efforts to combat desertification. The day is a unique moment to remind everyone that land degradation neutrality is achievable through problem-solving, strong community involvement and co-operation at all levels.

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. Here, in the area prone to drought during the dry season, over a hundred textile and garment companies use over 2 500 liters of water – largely for the cotton growing – to produce one t-shirt.

To find out how to organize a Desertification and Drought Day event or learn what you can do to help prevent land degradation and desertification, visit this page in the coming weeks and download the campaign materials. Please submit your event with photos to DDD2020@unccd.int, and we will feature it on our website!

You can also follow the campaign on social media:



Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

%d bloggers like this: