Critical links between land degradation, food insecurity, political instability and migration are often overlooked (Google / ASNS)

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Why land degradation must feature high on global change agenda for G8 and G20 Summits

Written by Henry Neondo

The world’s food production system is under stress, but the critical links between land degradation, food insecurity, political instability and migration are often overlooked. Examining these links would advance the G-8’s agenda on partnership with Africa and on peace and security and concretely advances the 2009 L’Aquila G-8 Summit Declaration on sustainable development,” according to Luc Gnacadja, the United Nations top advisor on matters of desertification, land degradation and drought mitigation.

Speaking ahead of the G-8 Summit scheduled to take place on 26-27 May in Deauville, France, Gnacadja said there is growing concern about food insecurity globally, especially in the developing countries, in part because disposable incomes are virtually non-existent.

“Growing political restlessness, unceasing economic hardship and increasing environmental vulnerability globally mean a lot is expected from this year’s G-8 and G-20 summits,” he said.

Gnacadja stressed that “for a majority of the least developed countries (LDCs), up to 70% of the food-insecure live in the rural areas, and, for the most part, in areas with low land productivity.

Similarly, most LDCs, especially in Africa, are drylands countries whose economies rely heavily on a climate-sensitive agricultural sector that, on average, employs 70% of the population.

And as the land, which is their main – if not sole – capital gets depleted, they are entrenched further into poverty. Land degradation is a particularly knotty policy issue,” he said, “because it is both a cause and a consequence of poverty.”

A 2010 report of the Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel of the Global Environment Facility states that about 1.5 billion people in the world depend directly on degrading land. Preliminary results from a meta-analysis on the cost of drought and land degradation being undertaken jointly by the UNCCD Secretariat and the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development, BMZ, suggests that approximately 42% of these are the very poor, whereas 15% are the non-poor.


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Willem Van Cotthem

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