Eritrea: Desertification and Drought Day

Message from Ministry of Agriculture

Desertification and Drought Day - known as the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought before 2020 - is observed every year to promote public awareness of international efforts to combat desertification. The day is a unique moment to remind everyone that reversing land degradation is achievable through problem-solving, strong community involvement, and cooperation at all levels.

In 2021, the goal of Desertification and Drought Day is to demonstrate that investing in healthy land as part of a green recovery is a smart economic decision - not just in terms of creating jobs and rebuilding livelihoods, but in terms of insulating economies against future crises caused by climate change and nature loss, and in accelerating progress on all 17 Sustainable Development Goals as we recover from COVID-19.

The 2021 Desertification and Drought Day on 17 June will focus on turning degraded land into healthy land. Restoring degraded land brings economic resilience, creates jobs, raises incomes, and increases food security. It helps biodiversity to recover. It locks away the atmospheric carbon warming the Earth, slowing climate change. It can also lessen the impacts of climate change and underpin a green recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nearly three quarters of the Earth's ice-free land has been altered by humans to meet an ever-growing demand for food, raw materials, highways, and homes. Fixing damaged ecosystems mitigates against climate change and bolsters nature's defences against disasters and extreme weather events such as wildfires, droughts, floods, and sand and dust storms. Restoring natural landscapes reduces close contact between wildlife and human settlements, creating a natural buffer against zoonotic diseases.

Avoiding, slowing, and reversing the loss of productive land and natural ecosystems now is both urgent and important for a swift recovery from the pandemic and for guaranteeing the long-term survival of people and the planet.

Land restoration can contribute greatly to post-COVID19 economic recovery. Investing in land restoration creates jobs and generates economic benefits, and could provide livelihoods at a time when hundreds of millions of jobs are being lost.

-- Ibrahim Thiaw, UNCCD Executive Secretary

"Smart land-based restoration initiatives would be particularly helpful for women and youth, who are often the last to receive help in times of crises. As we enter the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration, we have a real chance to build back better from the COVID-19 pandemic. If countries can restore the nearly 800 million hectares of degraded land they have pledged to restore by 2030, we can safeguard humanity and our planet from the looming danger," adds Mr. Thiaw.

The COVID19 pandemic has reinforced just how much we need our forests, drylands, wetlands and other land ecosystems: for food, for the green economy, for eco-tourism, as a buffer against extreme climate events. In Costa Rica, our unique tropical forests are a limited and precious natural resource that we cannot neglect. On Desertification and Drought Day, I urge us all to push hard to restore our lands. We all have a role to play because we all have a stake in our planet's future.

-- Andrea Meza, Minister of Environment and Energy of Costa Rica

Eritrea's context

Eritrea's geographical location makes it prone to adverse effects of drought and desertification. This challenge is also aggravated by various man-made interferences like tree cutting for firewood and agricultural expansion; overgrazing and so on. Moreover, its landscape exposes the land to erosion and land degradation. Consequently, conserving soil and water has been one of the top priorities in the country's national agricultural strategy. Since independence, the Government of the State of Eritrea (GSE) has invested its considerable resources and mobilized the general community into rehabilitating degraded land and constructing various water reservoirs.

According to reports from the Ministry of Agriculture, so far a total of 257,000 hectares of land has been treated with different kinds of structures and around 4.5 million cubic meters of check-dams constructed by different popular campaigns. Moreover, around 785 water-holding structures have also been constructed since Eritrea's Independence.

The reports note that the National Greening Campaign which was launched in 2006 has made a great contribution in growing a culture of tree planting and soil and water conservation within communities. Since then, around 45 million tree seedlings have been planted in catchments, along roadsides, schools, public spaces, and on the grounds of different government and religious institutions.

To reduce the effects of drought and desertification, Eritrea focuses on the following areas:

Reinforcing community-based development activities to enhance land productivity

Constructing all kinds of water holding structures to improve agricultural productivity

Installing alternative energy sources to minimize tree cutting

Raising awareness of the public on environment conservation in general and tree planting and soil and water conservation in particular

Fostering international and regional engagements through pragmatic initiatives

Ministry of Agriculture,

Asmara,

17 June 2021

Before it is too late

As the land gets naked,

Our future is doomed,

Yet, the solution is at hand,

But we need to stand,

Not to lament,

But to replace the lost

The trees and the soil,

Behold, they are tolling the bell

Listen, they have a message to tell

For we rely on them.

They are showing us the time.

As the land gets naked,

Our future is doomed.

What then?

Shall we up with passion and set a system,

To brighten our days a shelter from shame,

Build a house but inside the home,

Let's Step up with passion and set a system,

Let's do it, before it is too late.

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