World Day to Combat Desertification (WDCD) is celebrated every year on June 17. The WDCD is a United Nations observance each year. Its purpose is to highlights ways to prevent desertification and recover from drought. The focus this year “Inclusive Cooperation for Achieving Land Degradation Neutrality” and will take place under the slogan: Protect Earth, Restore Land, and Engage People. This year’s WDCD advocates for the importance of inclusive cooperation to restore and rehabilitate degraded land and contribute towards achieving the overall Sustainable Development Goals.
At ARIJ, we try to consider drought and land degradation every day through the programs we implement within the State of Palestine. We believe that inclusive cooperation to rehabilitate and restore degraded land in Palestine is important. We view land as a vital link to provide solutions to cope with many other development challenges such as climate change and water scarcity. Desertification, drought and land degradation are now major concerns in Palestine. Desertification is the result of a cycle of land degradation, turning once fertile soils into sterile land because of over-exploitation by intensive farming, forest exploitation and overgrazing.
These days, and especially this day, it is important to think about the effects that our techniques for mitigation and/or reversing the effects of land degradation, drought and desertification in Palestine. When it comes to restore land, ARIJ has been conducting land rehabilitation through implementing micro and macro water harvesting techniques. These techniques focused mainly on engaging rural Palestinian communities in protecting the fertile soil in areas exposed to wind and water soil erosion. In 2015 and 2016, ARIJ rehabilitated more than 26.2 hectares of land in the West Bank. This activity empowered local farmers to convert previously non-cultivatable arid land to agricultural assets. It also provided means of income for impoverished farmers.
We also focused on restoring rangelands, to improve the livelihoods of many rural and Bedouins communities, which consider herding of sheep and goats as a main source of income through selling livestock heads, meat and dairy products. The main objective of rangeland improvement is to enhance both forage productivity and soil physical and chemical properties. The rangeland restoration depends on creating a functional and sustainable grazing management system to reduce the risk of further land degradation. This has been practiced through fertilizing rangeland soil, reintroducing seeds and seedlings of local and naturally dominated herbaceous plants and shrubs, controlling the period and intensity of grazing seasons in these areas to maintain and enrich the ground cover.
Managing Palestinian rangelands in the face of land degradation and global change requires mapping and monitoring rangeland degradation, restoration and enhancement of ecosystem resilience, and grazing management. Between 2014 and 2016, ARIJ restored more than 81 hectares of rangelands in West Bank.
Combating drought, land degradation and desertification in Palestine is everyone's responsibility, and ARIJ is working to our full capacity in preserving the important relationship between Palestinians and their land. Therefore, we would like to mark this year's World Day to Combat Desertification (WDCD) with the reminder that healthy and productive land is the key resource for all life on earth. "Protect Earth. Restore Land. Engage People." is more than just a slogan. It does not end after World Day to Combat Desertification.