CHERYL PELLERIN, America.gov, September 21, 2010: The United Nations has designated 2010'2020 as the decade to raise public awareness of the threat posed by worsening drought and human mismanagement of drylands. Meanwhile, farmers around the world find new ways to salvage degraded lands that lead to desertification.
Drylands make up more than 40 percent of the world's land surface and are home to 2.1 billion -- one in three -- people worldwide. Every year, 12 million hectares of land (120,000 square kilometers) are lost to such degradation, an estimated economic loss of $42 billion.
"If the land is totally degraded, it takes hundreds of years to recover," Yukie Hori, coordinator of the Awareness Raising, Coordination and Education Unit of the U.N. Convention to Combat Desertification, told America.gov. "But if you stop the desertification by properly managing land -- we call it sustainable land management -- the land becomes very productive."
Part of the challenge for the Decades for Deserts and the Fight Against Desertification, launched August 16, is to educate people about the difference between deserts, drylands and desertification.
image: Desertification at Lobos Island, Canary Islands (credit: Federico Del Bene)