posted on Jun 14, 2024 by

On Wednesday, June 5, 2024, the whole world commemorated ‘World Environment Day’ with the theme, ‘Land Restoration, Desertification and Drought Resilience’. The global event was envisioned by the United Nations in 1972 at the Stockholm Conference on the Environment to dedicate a day to call attention of everyone on earth to the all-important need to conserve the environment and its resources, to reduce pollution and halt all anthropological activities that are harmful to the environment. It also envisioned the promotion of activities that could encourage environmental sustainability.
The first World Environment Day was held in Geneva, Switzerland in 1973 with the theme ‘Only One Earth’. Since then, many themes that were consistent with the purpose of the day have been developed over the years. These activities have led to measurable progress and development in no small measure.
Commemorating 2024 World Environment Day with the theme ‘Land Restoration, Desertification and Drought Resilience’ is very apt. This is because land is key to development and sustainability of human existence. Land stands for terrestrial habitat which sustains all terrestrial animals. Land holds many mineral resources which supports human livelihood and economic growth and development. Land holds water, referred to as underground water. Land supports agriculture which provides food for humans. Land supports animals, both domestic and wild, providing food and habitat conducive for their well-being etc.
Land degradation, land pollution, desertification and drought therefore portend danger for the whole existence of humans and animals. Every effort invested in preserving the environment is directly or indirectly promoting humans and animals survival and well- being!
No wonder, the issue of land featured prominently in the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations, which set Life on Land as the focus of goal 15.
The focus of this article is to establish the link between this theme and animal welfare globally.
Land degradation is caused by multiple forces, including extreme weather conditions, particularly drought. It is also caused by human activities that pollute or degrade the quality of soils and land utility. It negatively affects food production, livelihoods, and the production and provision of other ecosystem goods and services. Land degradation has accelerated during the 20th and 21st centuries due to increasing and combined pressures of agricultural and livestock production (over-cultivation, overgrazing, and forest conversion), urbanization, deforestation and extreme weather events such as droughts and coastal surges, which increases land salinity.
The same grave impact of soil degradation is also facing animals. Degraded land cannot support provision of habitat for animals, neither can it support the growth of good pasture. This is in direct conflict with the five freedom of animal welfare. Habitat loss poses major welfare risks including preventing safe animal movement across the landscape, restricting expression of normal behaviours and denying animals’ access to basic needs such as food, water and shelter. Other impacts include stress, injury, illness, pain, psychological distress and death.
It is estimated, for example, that over 50 million mammals, birds and reptiles are killed every year due to land clearing in Queensland, Australia. Furthermore, loss of animals from land clearing can cause negative ecological effects such as disruption of natural food chains. This can lead to further negative impacts on animals which may not have been directly affected by the initial land clearing.
Desertification is a phenomenon of land degradation that makes the fertile land arid desert. Land degradation and desertification can affect human and animal health through complex paths. Land is deteriorating and deserts are expanding in some areas, food production is low, water sources are drying up and people are forced to move to areas that are more likely to be destroyed. Potential health impacts of desertification in humans and animals include:
Increased risk of malnutrition due to reduced food and water supplies;
Increased farmer-herder clash
Increased incidence of water-borne diseases due to poor sanitation, lack of clean water, drying- up of underground water.
The incidence of respiratory diseases as a result of dust diffused in the atmosphere by wind erosion and other air pollutants;
The spread of infectious diseases due to population migration
The implications of land degradation, desertification and drought on humans and animals therefore requires compulsive and innovative actionable plans beyond traditional rhetorics. The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security and the Federal Ministry of the Environment and the Federal Ministry of Water Resources need to synergize and provide leadership in this respect.
As the count down to 2030 has already started, the year set for the achievement of sustainable development goals globally, Nigeria should not lead from behind. We have the capacity to halt land degradation and desertification. We may have no power over the possibility of drought, being a natural phenomenon, which may however be provoked by climate change, we can circumvent drought, like the biblical Joseph and berth on the shores of abundance guaranteed by environmental sustainability, where humans and animals will live in peace and stability.
It is possible. We can do it. We must do it.
Dr. Ibikunle Faramade is a veterinary pathologist, sustainable development practitioner, animal welfare advocate and a lecturer at the Federal College of Animal Health & Production Technology, Apata. Ibadan. He’s the C.E.O of the Society for Animal Rights Protection, a non-profit and a non-governmental organization dedicated to the promotion of animal welfare, animal rights and prevention of cruelty to animals. , +2348028305284

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