The World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, celebrated each year on June 17th, serves as a reminder of the critical issues of desertification and drought that threaten our planet. This year's theme, "United for Land: Our Legacy. Our Future," calls on all sectors of society to engage in sustainable land stewardship, a vital step in addressing one of the most pressing environmental challenges of our time.

Desertification, land degradation, and drought affect up to 40% of all land area worldwide, leading to significant environmental, economic, and social consequences. Healthy land is fundamental to our existence, providing nearly 95% of our food, as well as clothing, shelter, jobs, and protection from climate extremes such as droughts, floods, and wildfires.

The Growing Challenge

With the global population rising and unsustainable production and consumption patterns persisting, the demand for natural resources has surged. This puts immense pressure on land, leading to degradation. The consequences are severe, driving forced migration and displacing tens of millions of people each year. In developing countries, where over one billion young people under the age of 25 rely directly on land and natural resources, the need for sustainable solutions is urgent.

Creating job prospects for rural populations, particularly through eco-entrepreneurship, offers a viable path forward. By engaging young people in sustainable land practices, we can scale up best practices and ensure the stability and prosperity of billions of people worldwide.

Technological Innovations for a Sustainable Future

Modern technologies are playing a crucial role in combating desertification and drought. Innovations such as Big Data, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and the Internet of Things (IoT) are powerful tools developed through digitalization to address these global issues.

Big Data and AI

Big Data and AI can analyze vast amounts of environmental data to predict and monitor drought conditions. AI algorithms can process satellite imagery and climate data to identify areas at risk of desertification, enabling timely and targeted interventions. These technologies also help optimize water use in agriculture, ensuring that water resources are used efficiently and sustainably.

Internet of Things (IoT)

The IoT connects sensors and devices to monitor soil moisture levels, weather conditions, and crop health in real-time. This data allows farmers to make informed decisions about irrigation and crop management, reducing water waste and improving crop yields. IoT technologies also support precision agriculture, which tailors farming practices to the specific needs of the land, minimizing environmental impact.

Afforestation and Water Harvesting

Afforestation, the process of establishing forests in areas where there were none, is a key strategy in combating desertification. Trees and vegetation help restore degraded land, improve soil health, and increase biodiversity. Water harvesting techniques, such as building dams and reservoirs, capture and store rainwater, providing a reliable water source during dry periods.

Economic Benefits of Land Restoration

Investing in land restoration yields significant economic returns. Each penny invested can yield up to thirty times in return, particularly in countries heavily impacted by desertification, land degradation, and drought. Agriculture, a major economic sector in many affected regions, stands to benefit greatly from sustainable land management practices.

A Global Commitment

Under the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), over 130 countries have pledged to achieve land degradation neutrality (LDN) by 2030. This goal envisions a world where human activity has a neutral, or even positive, impact on the land.

Empowering Forest Communities through Geo-ICT: A SPARC Success Story in Uttarakhand

In the fragile Himalayan region of Uttarakhand, climate change is causing significant forest cover loss, landslides, and cloudbursts, exacerbating issues of desertification and drought. To address these challenges, SPARC in collaboration with Uttarakhand Forest Department implemented a Geo-ICT enabled Monitoring, Reporting & Verification (MRV) system. It was central to this initiative, positioning the project as a REDD+ initiative and a potential Forest Carbon Project for carbon financing.

  • Target Area Selection: Using satellite remote sensing and GIS analysis, SPARC identified areas based on forest degradation and potential for cluster formation, crucial for combating desertification.

  • Baseline Forest Conditions: Precise boundary delineation and analysis of pre-intervention forest cover and terrain to establish baseline conditions, essential for monitoring changes related to drought and land degradation.

  • Eco-Restoration Plans: Assistance in finalizing plans, including proposals for assisted natural regeneration and soil moisture conservation, vital for restoring degraded land.

  • Data Collection: Field intervention data, including GPS locations and geo-tagged images, were collected via a location-based mobile application, providing real-time insights into land restoration efforts.

  • Geo-ICT Platform: Implementation of a platform for mapping ongoing/completed interventions and verifying field report accuracy, ensuring transparency and effectiveness in combating desertification.

  • Management Information System (MIS): Development of an MIS for progress monitoring, crucial for tracking the impact of restoration activities on drought-prone areas.

  • Livelihood Monitoring: Oversight of livelihood programs and economic activities of Self-Help Groups and Community Federations, linking ecological restoration with community well-being.

  • Training and Capacity Building: Conducted training sessions for forest officials, local communities, and NGOs on the tech platform and applications, empowering them to actively participate in combating desertification and drought.

By offering innovative Geo-ICT solutions, SPARC's contributions have empowered local communities, promoted sustainable forest management, and demonstrated the potential of digital innovation in enhancing conservation efforts and addressing the pressing challenges of desertification and drought.


The theme for this year's Desertification and Drought Day, "United for Land: Our Legacy. Our Future," underscores the importance of sustainable land stewardship for our collective future. By embracing modern technologies and engaging communities in sustainable practices, we can combat desertification and drought, ensuring a healthy and prosperous planet for generations to come.

Let us unite for land, our legacy, and our future.