Published in April 2021

22 April 2021 is Earth Day. It’s a date that is flagged up in many people’s diaries.

This year I wanted to find out a bit more about where the idea of Earth Day came from. With just a few clicks on-line, I discovered the origins of the campaign which is designed to galvanise people across the world to become environmental citizens.

Earth Day was established in the US, back in 1970. Even then concerns about environmental degradation were gaining momentum. Some of you might recall Rachel Carson’s ground breaking book Silent Spring which warned of the impact uncontrolled economic development was having on the natural world and people’s health. The book helped lay the foundations of the modern environmental movement and for Earth Day. In 1990, Earth Day went global. Since then, it has gained momentum as the list of threats to the environment has become longer and more worrying.

"Desertification, deforestation, poor soil management and urbanization have all contributed to this sad state of affairs. The challenge now is how to reverse this trend. It won’t surprise you to hear me say that sand dams can be a big part of the solution."

The theme of this year’s Earth Day is ‘Restore our Earth’, a topic that really chimes with the work of Excellent Development. A bit more on-line research and it’s easy to see why this is such a relevant theme today. The United Nations estimates that land degradation affects one fifth of the Earth’s land area, undermining the wellbeing of 3.2 billion people and intensifying climate change.

Desertification, deforestation, poor soil management and urbanization have all contributed to this sad state of affairs. The challenge now is how to reverse this trend. It won’t surprise you to hear me say that sand dams can be a big part of the solution. 

We know from our work on the ground that building a sand dam can kick start a series of events that restore degraded land. Once it is up and running, a sand dam raises the water table. Throw in some terracing and climate-smart agriculture, and land that was previously a dry dust bowl can become productive and green. Over time the roots of trees stabilise the soil and through good husbandry, the organic content of the land increases. 

Of course, none of this happens overnight, but with some patience and an enthusiastic group of local farmers, the transformation is complete and long-lasting. Of course, I am not saying that sand dams are the only solution to large scale land restoration but, being one of the lowest cost rainwater harvesting techniques, they do have a role to play.

Reversing degraded land needs many years, even decades of effort. So, on Earth Day 2021, I will be thinking about the year ahead and what we have achieved so far confident in the knowledge that, with your help, we are making a difference and helping to Restore our Earth.

Please consider making a donation to Excellent so we can empower families in drylands to build brighter futures for themselves with sand dams and access to clean water

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