Land degradation intensifies agricultural economic losses, disorganizes local and regional food markets, and causes social and political instability.
To combat it there is an increasing push towards sustainable agriculture - the ability of a farm to produce food indefinitely, without causing irreversible damage to ecosystem health. And now there are lots of creative ways you can help support this work from giving a can of worms to a Bolivian farmer through to helping create a farming conservation plot in Zimbabwe.
In 1994, the United Nations General Assembly declared June 17 the "World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought" to promote public awareness of the issue, and the implementation of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in countries experiencing serious drought and/or desertification - particularly in Africa.
Ever since, country Parties to the Convention, organizations of the United Nations System, international and non-governmental organizations and other interested stakeholders have celebrated this particular day with a series of outreach activities worldwide.
The theme of the day this year (2008) is "Combating Land Degradation for Sustainable Agriculture".
The celebration of the Day this year is very important since the adoption of the 10-year strategic plan and framework to enhance the implementation of the Convention represents a turning point in the UNCCD process and recognizes the convention as an instrument to prevent, control and reverse desertification/land degradation and also to contribute to the reduction of poverty while promoting sustainable development.
The Convention is the only internationally recognized, legally binding instrument that addresses the problem of land degradation in dryland. It enjoys a truly universal membership of 193 Parties.
The World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought is a unique occasion to remind everybody that desertification can be effectively tackled, that solutions are possible, and that key tools to this aim are in strengthened community participation and co-operation at all levels.
You can support those working to promote sustainable agriculture through agencies such as Christian Aid and World Vision, specifically through their schemes to give gifts on the behalf of others for Christmas, an anniversary or birthday.
Gifts you can give include such things as:
An irrigation kit for a family farm (World Vision)
Part of a water project in Sri Lanka the gift will allow a Sri Lankan family to grow more in their garden. A garden irrigation kit, using drip irrigation, will help them to conserve water. It will also allow the family to grow vegetables in the dry season.
Maintain a well (World Vision)
Part of Health And Water Project in Sierra Leone this effective gift will keep drinking water clean. It will provide training and basic materials to enable communities in Jong, Sierra Leone to maintain a well. This will particularly benefit local children, who are falling ill because of drinking dirty water.
Give fruit tress (World Vision)
Part of Mbella Food Security, Senegal you can get more than your five-a-day by choosing 10 fruit trees. Families in Mbella, Senegal will sell the fruit to earn an income, and will also be able to feed their children a healthier diet.
Give a conservation farming plot (World Vision)
Part of Food Security in Zimbabwe you can help a family set up a conservation farming plot, which will become an example of best practice and spread new skills throughout the whole community.
Give a can of worms (Christian Aid)
If you’re a Bolivian farmer and you want to fertilise your fields, you can’t do much better than worms. Organic, cheaper and better for the environment than chemicals, they enrich the soil and help produce more and better crops. They can make such a difference that farmers may even have a surplus to sell, giving them extra cash to pay for education, shelter and medicines. A gift like this really can do an awful lot.
Give a Rainwater Harvester (Christian Aid)
Despite being surrounded by water, people in the coastal region of southwest Bangladesh have no access to fresh, safe water. Climate change has caused sea levels to rise, turning their water sources saline and undrinkable. With the help of Christian Aid partner BCAS, villagers have turned to the sky for water. Since setting up water councils which provide rainwater harvesters and training, villagers can capture and store clean, safe rainwater. A gift like this is truly sustainable.