A growing world population means that more land is required for living on, for growing food for both humans and animals. Meeting the demands and requirements means that good fertile land is being misused and abused and changing it into deserts. On World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought 2020, which is marked on June 17 every year, we take a look at some of the measures that can be taken to reverse the effect of desertification and drought. Also Read - World Day to Combat Desertification And Drought 2020: History And Significance of The Day

Desertification happens when land that is fertile becomes arid due to the overexploitation of soil through human activity. Deserts do form naturally over the course of a planet’s life cycle, but when rampant and unchecked depletion of nutrients in the soil occur due to human use, it leads to desertification. Also Read - To Tackle Desertification & Climate Change, Govt Plans To Build a 1400-Km Long 'Great Green Wall'

Difficulty in Implementing Countermeasures:

There are some techniques and countermeasures that exist which can reverse the effects of desertification, though they are difficult to implement. The cost of adopting sustainable agricultural practices can sometimes be too much for individual farmers as they do not benefit much from it. The lack of help from the government when it comes to funding such projects makes it difficult to support land reclamation and anti-desertification programs.

Reforestation to Combat Desertification:

Deforestation is another cause that leads to desertification, and the effect can be reversed with reforestation. Environmental organizations have been working to educate the local population about the dangers of deforestation, and have at times encouraged them to grow seedlings which are then planted in deforested areas.

Techniques That Could Combat Desertification:

The use of shelter belts, woodlots and windbreaks could help in fixating and hyper-fertilizing the soil. Using windbreaks from trees and bushes can help reduce soil erosion and evapotranspiration. Another technique is using contour trenching, which involves digging 150 metre long, 1 metre deep trenches in the soil. The trenches prevent the water from flowing within them and causing erosion.

Another way to combat desertification is to enrich the soil and restore its fertility by planting leguminous plants, succulents and food crops and trees like grains, barley, beans and dates. To control the drifting of soil and sand erosion, sand fences can also be used. The use of nitrogen-rich fertilizer would help in restoring soil fertility, and several countries have put subsidies in place for farmers to encourage them to adopt the technique.

Another technique is farmer-managed natural regeneration (FMNR), which has proven useful when it comes to desert reclamation. It is a simple and low-cost method that enables farmers to regenerate land. It works by enabling native sprouting tree growth through selective pruning of shrub shoots with residue from pruned trees used as mulch for fields, which in turn increases soil and water retention and reduces evaporation.