2021 Teens Dream — Combating Desertification
My dream is to combat global desertification. Desertification occurs when arable land degrades due to destructive human activities. Often, food resources become scarce and droughts increase in prevalence. 75% of global desertification is caused by over-cultivation. To keep up with rapid population growth, global crop yields must increase by 70% by 2050. To do so, farmers employ intensive cultivation methods that deteriorate soils, deplete freshwater resources, and contribute to desertification. Contradictorily, the solution to this crisis lies in weeds. Weeds are distinct from other plants because they can rapidly germinate and thrive in depleted soils. However, they often compete with crops for space and are expensive for farmers to eradicate. If farms collect the seeds from unwanted weeds and replant them strictly in desertified areas, these seeds will quickly grow to provide essential nutrients to degraded soils without disrupting nearby vegetation. Once the weeds have restored the soil, the area can be replaced with larger trees and crops to help feed our population and promote diverse ecosystems. To take this one step further, farmers can use these leftover pulled weeds to create a liquid fertilizer solution that I call “NutriBoost”. To make the fertilizer, farmers will add weeds and water to a large bucket and let sit for thirty days. Afterward, farmers will use a sieve to separate the plant material, seeds, and water. The separated seeds can again be replanted to continue the cycle of restoring degraded soils. The leftover plant material, however, will be blended with the collected nutrient-rich water. This mixture will leave farmers with organic fertilizers to aid crop growth and maintain soil quality. Evidently, my plan aligns with the UN’s fifteenth sustainable development goal of preserving life on land. By repurposing weeds, the world can minimize desertification while ensuring that all communities are provided equitable access to nutritious foods.