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Battle against soil loss

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The Sultanate of Oman joined other countries to observe the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, which is observed every year on June 17.

The date was chosen as it is the day when the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) was signed in 1994 to raise awareness of the presence of desertification and drought and promote actions in this regard.

Desertification is an increasing ecological problem. It occurs when previously fertile land becomes desert through deforestation, drought or improper agriculture.

“Oman’s participation in the day focuses on educating the community to conserve wild plants, combat desertification and increasing green cover”, the Environment Authority said on the occasion.

The Sultanate of Oman has always excelled in pioneering initiatives in environmental work that accompanies accelerating economic and social growth and in its high responsiveness to the world environmental awakening at regional and international levels.

Different governmental institutions cooperate with the private sector and civil society organisations to implement educational and awareness programmes that enshrine the values of preserving biodiversity among the youth and within the society in general.

The country is in the process of increasing its green spaces through establishing tree belts, public gardens and parks and green landscapes whilst preserving agricultural areas and implementing planting and agricultural programmes in different natural sites such as valleys and grazing areas.

As a result, the Sultanate of Oman could make great strides in reducing land degradation and combat desertification by continuously increasing sustainability and reducing overexploitation of land resources.

The Omani authorities have also made efforts to use technologies to prevent land degradation and take advantage of the opportunities available under the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in training, capacity building and technology transfer from developed countries.

The Sustainable Development Goals 2030 proposes an Omani National Programme to Combat Desertification and Land Degradation, with the implementation of the project on the Use of Models and Remote Sensing to Monitor the State of Vegetation, Agricultural Land and Water.

Oman has also implemented several projects to alleviate land degradation and combat desertification, in which many scientific and research institutions participated to ensure the quality of implementation and access to reference information at the national level.

The most important projects implemented, as mentioned in the First Voluntary National Review of SDG Goals 2030, are the fog harvesting project in Dhofar Governorate, the draft land degradation map and the land rehabilitation of areas affected by desertification factors.

“These projects identified degraded areas and lands prone to degradation, the development of a spatial database and a monitoring system based on high-resolution satellite data”, the review report reveals.

The initiatives also include reforestation and tree regeneration projects, in addition to the planting of native plants.

According to a UN report on desertification, over 75 billion tonnes of fertile soil is lost to land degradation globally every year. Similarly, 12 million hectares of land is lost every year to desertification and drought, an area that could produce 20 million tonnes of grain. Additionally, desertification and land degradation cause $42 billion in lost earnings each year.

Fertile land is being lost through human action and weather-related events, such as flash floods and drought. Put another way, every second, 24 football pitches of fertile land become unproductive due to desertification and drought alone!

“What’s more troubling is the level of ignorance among the majority of the human race. Very few people know that only about 3.3 per cent of the entire earth is productive land. Very few people value it”, points out the report.

Worse, most people assume that the dry lands that make up nearly 34 per cent of the earth are wastelands, land of no value. And yet, a lot of the foods we eat today originated from these fragile soils. In fact, these dry areas make up 44 per cent of all the systems that are cultivated and half of the world’s wildlife lives there!

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