Time to pay attention to land degradation: UNCCD (Google / The Economic Times)

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Time to pay attention to land degradation: UNCCD

TOKYO: With the world finally focusing on the issue of climate change, the United Nations is also concerned over the lack of action on land degradation and desertification. The problem of land degradation is closely linked with the climate change and poses a serious global challenge. Deteriorated atmosphere destroys land potentials through drought, flooding and other impacts. The degraded land emits more greenhouse gases and in turn worsen climate change.

“We have created a vicious cycle,” said Luc Gnacadja, Executive Secretary of the U.N.C.C.D.

Gnacadja stressed that only way to break the cycle –also a key factor to solve the looming food crisis — is to focus on addressing both the atmosphere and the land.

“Unfortunately, the global community has much more focus on the atmosphere,”

“The world leaders have said we must do more to mitigate carbon. There is one area where we do have untapped potential to do so– the land.” he said.

The UN Convention to Combat Desertification which developed as a result of the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, believes that more investment in agriculture and the rural areas, as well as better access for farmers to local, regional and international markets are among the sound and integrated policies necessary for sustainable land management.


I couldn’t agree more with Mr. Luc Gnacadja, Executive Secretary of the UNCCD : as land degradation is closely linked with climate change, it poses a serious global challenge and addressing both the atmosphere and the land is a key factor to solve the looming food crisis.

The most remarkable observation is that many success stories and best practices of combating land degradation are well-known, but no significant initiatives are taken to apply them at a larger scale.  Nothing would be more easy than to show that these traditional methods, combined with cost-effective technologies, adapted to the specific local conditions, can bring a dramatic reverse in the situation of land degradation.

Enhancing the water retention capacity of the soil, sustainable conditioning of the soil, improving the organic matter content of the soil, improving the biomass production in the drylands, installing protective “greenhouses” in degraded areas, diversification of water harvesting, multiplying the use of drought tolerant species and varieties, introduction of beneficial micro-organisms in the soil, are but a few of the tested and accepted methods to regenerate fertile soils in otherwise infertile regions.

What is creating the hesitation of decision-makers to go for a “full” and large-scale application of these technologies and methods ?

Is it a question of financial resources ?  Looking at the enormous amount of money that is spent for gigantic projects, it is hard to believe that “cost” would be the limiting factor.

I am still believing in a “green” future, because once the day will come …

Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

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