Let’s protect our environment as it will take care of us too

What you need to know:

  • Land degradation is a complex problem caused by various factors ranging from natural to human-induced, that deteriorate the quality and productivity of land.

On June 5, 2024, the world, under the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) celebrated its 51st World Environmental Day (WED). Every year, this day is commemorated to raise awareness about the most pressing environmental challenges across the globe: climate change, deforestation, water scarcity, and loss of biodiversity. This day also intends to encourage and remind us all of our responsibility to protect and restore our Mother Earth.

All the people striving towards protecting our planet and its inhabitants through advocacy, education, and academic research on issues related to environmental conservation and sustainable utilisation of our resources are also recognised.

The theme for 2024 is 'Land restoration, desertification, and drought resilience' under the slogan “Our land. Our future. We are #GenerationRestoration”. This theme addresses the most pressing environmental issues of our time: land degradation, desertification, and climate change (drought).

Land degradation is a complex problem caused by various factors ranging from natural to human-induced, that deteriorate the quality and productivity of land. For instance, human-induced factors like deforestation, over-cultivation, overgrazing, and inappropriate land use are the major causes of land degradation and desertification.

Drought is a prolonged period of abnormally low rainfall, leading to a water shortage/scarcity by making seasonal rivers and streams dry up. Women and girls are the most vulnerable groups affected by water scarcity. Generally, drought can significantly impact water supply, agriculture, and ecosystems.

On that special day, Inger Andersen, the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, highlighted that "tens of millions of people face drought, with women suffering the most. This is because women are responsible for collecting water for their families. She also added that, “land degradation affects over three billion people, damaging livelihoods and food security."

Land degradation, desertification, and drought influence each other and affect people’s livelihoods. For instance, they reduce access to water for agriculture, drinking, cooking, and hygiene. Consequently, they contribute to food insecurity, malnutrition, waterborne diseases, respiratory diseases (air pollution), and conflicts, among other impacts.

Restoring degraded lands, combating desertification, and building resilience to drought is the collective responsibility of every individual to protect and restore our precious natural resources within our environment.

Land is one of the primary factors in production, alongside labour, capital, and entrepreneurship. It plays a crucial role in economic activity by providing essential natural resources and space for various productive activities, like agriculture. It encompasses a wide range of natural resources such as soil, minerals, forests, water bodies, fossil fuels, and biomass, which are crucial for various economic activities (agriculture, mining, and industrial activities) and contribute significantly to the economic growth of a nation and environmental functions.

However, over-utilization of the same may cause land degradation and desertification. Therefore, effective land management, utilisation, and conservation of land resources are crucial to ensuring they continue to provide benefits to current and future generations while enhancing productivity, achieving economic growth, and ensuring sustainable development, ecological balance, and the well-being of society.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), air pollution poses a health risk to our bodies. Thus, reducing air pollution will help reduce the burden of diseases like lung cancer, heart disease, and stroke.

So, let us protect our environment by adopting sustainable environmental practices that protect and preserve our environment and live in harmony with nature. Let’s reduce deforestation and plant more trees to benefit current and future generations. When we protect the environment, we create a healthy environment that gives us clean air for breathing (oxygen) and renewable resources to meet our basic needs.

The health of our land and environment determines the future of our well-being. By restoring degraded lands, combating desertification, and building resilience to drought, we can create a more sustainable and prosperous future for all.

Dr Saumu Jumanne is a lecturer at the Dar es Salaam University College of Education (DUCE).