Tomorrow, on June 17th, we celebrate World Day to Combat Desertification, a day for people worldwide to unite to counteract one of the greatest environmental issues we face. Although very prevalent, the meaning of desertification is widely unknown. Desertification does not refer to the spreading of deserts, but does refer to the persistent degradation of habitats by humans, including unsustainable farming, mining, overgrazing, clear-cutting, and climate change. This leaves the land highly susceptible to water and wind erosion and results in unfertile soil. In Cambodia, the problem is exacerbated by the hot temperatures and powerful monsoon seasons. Temperatures are often too hot for crops to survive and the monsoon rains often wash away seeds and soil. Locals rely on slash-and-burn farming as a way to cope with the constantly degrading landscape.
This year’s slogan is “Protect Earth. Restore Land. Engage People.” Wildlife Alliance exemplifies this mission with our Forest Protection Program, our Tropical Reforestation project and our Sustainable Livelihoods projects. Wildlife Alliance has protected the earth by preserving 1.7 million acres of forestland. The Tropical Reforestation Program has restored land by employing local Cambodians to plant and maintain 733,000 trees over 1,811 acres (733 hectares) in areas that had been cleared of rainforest. And the Livelihoods programs have engaged people by providing former poachers and slash-and-burn farmers with sustainable, ecologically friendly jobs. By engaging people and providing them with sustainable alternatives, our programs address the underlying causes of forest destruction in Cambodia. These jobs not only provide people with higher incomes, but also protect the forest and its wildlife.