Message from the UNCCD Executive Secretary:
A growing movement has emerged which places land at the heart of an effective response to many global problems. In part, this has been triggered by the preparatory process for the Rio+20 Summit, where the idea of a land-degradation neutral world took shape. I am very pleased to see that since then, many politicians, scientists and practitioners have committed to develop this innovative approach in really practical ways.
However, it is not all plain sailing. The outcomes of the Climate Change Conference in Doha, for example, were disappointing from both a climate and an agricultural perspective, with the key issues of land and agriculture postponed for another year. How much more evidence is needed before effective action is taken?
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), 25 per cent of the world’s land is highly degraded and only 10 per cent is improving. Every minute, a staggering 23 hectares of productive land and soil are lost to desertification and drought alone. Land degradation can no longer be ignored.
We need to ensure that sustainable land management, in particluar achieving a land-degradation neutral world becomes part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and is mainstreamed in the entire post-2015 development agenda. Sustainable land management and achieving land-degradation neutrality are ideas whose time has come. Good land management would help meet the food, energy and water security needs of the rural poor, forming the basis of economic growth and thus helping to lift people out of poverty. At the same time, we will all benefit from greater food price stability, effective climate change adaptation and mitigation and the ecosystem services provided by land and soil.
Anyone can help breathe life into the concept of a land-degradation neutral world. We call for the world to commit to sustainable land use for all and by all and to achieve zero net land degradation (ZNLD) as soon as possible and no later than by 2030. You can play an important role. Land degradation should be avoided and every hectare of degrading land should be offset by the same amount of land restored, preferably in the same landscape. Land users should receive incentives through payments for ecosystem services and we want to see more investments in dryland productivity and better land-use accounting. Land-degradation neutral policies will be more inclusive and accountable, with mechanisms established to measure action at the landscape as well as user-community level.
Many solutions already exist at the grassroots and we will rely on farmers’ sharing their experience and replicating their success. But policies and institutions should be designed and/or reshaped for the purposes of scaling up and out.
Is this just wishful thinking? My answer is an unequivocal “no”, but there is a great deal of work to be done if we want to turn this concept into viable and effective action. We are at a crucial crossroads for the future we want. Let’s not miss this opportunity. Our land and soils need us to choose the right way forward. Join us on this journey.