Desertification is a serious global ecological problem that affects 40 percent of the Earth’s surface and about 1 billion people in more than 100 countries.
is a type of land degradation in which dry regions become increasingly arid, losing water bodies as well as plants and animals. It is caused by human activity
and by a variety of natural factors and processes.
Most deserts are located in the savannahs of Africa, the Great Plains and Pampas of the Americas, the steppes of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, sparsely populated areas of Australia, and some parts of the Mediterranean. The largest deserts in the world were formed by natural processes. For a long time, these deserts expanded and shrank without human interference.
However, for several thousands of years human beings have exerted an influence on desertification. This influence is particularly strong in arid areas, where constant cattle grazing has killed the already sparse vegetation. Trees and shrubs have been cut down, and land has been ploughed despite not being suitable for crop farming. Activities such as these have dried out the top layers of the soil, and the desertification process has been exacerbated by wind erosion. Many wells have dried up due to the falling levels of groundwater. Many rivers have had their flows regulated, and the construction of dams has further disrupted the water balance. Water imbalance gradually breaks down the soil structure, as mineral salts saturate the affected areas. Once the natural balance has been completely destroyed, river basins are transformed into desert landscapes.
Most of the world’s grain production and cattle grazing still takes place in water-deficient areas. Human activities that contribute most to accelerating desertification are over-farming on arable land, over-grazing, deforestation, and the use of outdated modes of irrigation.
Desertification leads to:
At least 250 million people are already affected by desertification, and 1 billion people in more than 100 countries around the world may be affected in the very near feature. The vast majority of those most affected by desertification are poor.
In an effort to address the problem collectively, on June 17, 1994, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the Convention to Combat Desertification. Parties to the convention are responsible for creating an enabling environment and are required to provide “effective participation for local, national and regional non-governmental organisations and the local population”. Most countries have ratified the convention, including Belarus.
Belarus is affected by the problem of land degradation due to the country's high levels of land cultivation:
Land degradation in Belarus is caused by:
The Republic of Belarus became a full party to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification on November 27, 2001.