Pakistan is listed among the 23 countries by the United Nations that are facing drought emergencies in the last two years, stated a report released by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).
Other than Pakistan, the list also includes Afghanistan, Angola, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Chile, Ethiopia, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Lesotho, Mali, Mauritania, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Niger, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, Pakistan, the United States and Zambia.
Emphasising the need to provide immediate funding to the developing countries, the report also stated that an additional four million square kilometres will need to be rehabilitated by 2050.
United Nations Global Land Outlook says that Desertification Control through Sustainable Land Management Productive land is scarce in Pakistan — with 80% of the country being arid or semi-arid.
The land degradation and desertification are caused by unsustainable land management practices, coupled with increased demand for natural resources, and driven by a rapidly growing and largely rural population dependent on dry lands for their livelihoods.
To address these problems, in 2007, the Pakistani government began implementing a Sustainable Land Management Project across nine dry land districts. Over eight years, 120 square kilometres of degraded rangeland were rehabilitated through reseeding and community-based grazing management, and a further 80 square kilometres under sustainable rainfed agriculture and water conservation measures.
In 2015, the project was extended and rolled out more widely, utilising water control and storage structures, creating shelterbelts and rangeland management plans, restoring degraded dry land forests (for eg: community tree nurseries and plantations for domestic fuel), and implementing sand dune stabilisation measures. As a result, some 13,000 households directly or indirectly benefited from nearly 200 square kilometres of improved land health, better access to water for livestock, and reduced wind erosion.
This success of the program inspired the Billion Trees Afforestation Project in Pakistan’s mountainous Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which saw 3,500 square kilometres of forests and degraded land restored in just two years.
In 2018, the popularity of this initiative gave impetus to the world’s largest reforestation initiative — the Ten Billion Tree Tsunami Programme — as part of a suite of nature-based solutions to fight desertification and climate change in Pakistan.