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On June 17, 1995, the United Nations declared the first World Day to Combat Desertification. Despite its name, desertification is not the advance of sandy deserts into fertile land. Desertification is “the persistent degradation of dryland ecosystems by human activities—including unsustainable farming, mining, overgrazing and clearcutting of land—and by climate change.”
 
Desertification is one of the greatest environmental hazards in the world. It contributes to food shortages and the forced migration of thousands of families, as land that was once used for agriculture is lost. Each year, 12 million hectares are lost to desertification—land on which 20 million tons of grain could have been grown. Desertification conditions impact regions from central Africa to Southeast Asia to the highlands of the Andes.
 
Each year, the World Day to Combat Desertification chooses a different theme. In 2008, the theme was “Combating Land Degradation for Sustainable Agriculture.” In 2013, the theme was “Don’t Let Our Future Dry Up,” and focused on preparedness for water scarcity
agricultural practice
Noun

method used to harvest crops or care for livestock.

Noun

the art and science of cultivating the land for growing crops (farming) or raising livestock (ranching).

clearcutting
Noun

process of cutting down all the vegetation in an area, usually as part of an economic industry.

Noun

gradual changes in all the interconnected weather elements on our planet.

combat
Verb

to fight.

Noun

agricultural produce.

cultivate
Verb

to encourage the growth of something through work and attention.

Noun

area of land that receives no more than 25 centimeters (10 inches) of precipitation a year.

desertification
Noun

rapid depletion of plant life and topsoil, often associated with drought and human activity.

diversify
Verb

to select a variety of options.

drip irrigation
Noun

system that delivers moisture to plants by tubes with holes that drop water.

Noun

community and interactions of living and nonliving things in an area.

environment
Noun

conditions that surround and influence an organism or community.

environmental hazard
Noun

extreme event that can cause lasting change to the physical landscape and human activity.

Noun

act in which earth is worn away, often by water, wind, or ice.

farming
Noun

the art, science, and business of cultivating the land for growing crops.

fertile
Adjective

able to produce crops or sustain agriculture.

Noun

capacity of soil to sustain plant growth; or the average number of children born to women in a given population.

forced migration
Noun

the movement of people away from their homes due to political conflict, natural disaster or environmental hazard.

Noun

increase in the average temperature of the Earth's air and oceans.

graze
Verb

to feed on grass, usually over a wide pasture.

hectare
Noun

unit of measure equal to 2.47 acres, or 10,000 square meters.

income
Noun

wages, salary, or amount of money earned.

land degradation
Noun

natural or human activity that wears down landforms, making them less viable.

livestock
noun, plural noun

animals raised for sale and profit.

mining
Noun

process of extracting ore from the Earth.

Noun

substance an organism needs for energy, growth, and life.

overgrazing
Noun

process of too many animals feeding on one area of pasture or grassland.

persistent
Adjective

lasting, stubborn, or tenacious.

soil
Noun

top layer of the Earth's surface where plants can grow.

sustainable
Adjective

able to be continued at the same rate for a long period of time.

United Nations
Noun

international organization that works for peace, security and cooperation.

water scarcity
Noun

situation when the amount of water available does not meet the amount of water needed or wanted by a population.