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Securing every hectare of land and rehabilitate all the degraded land

Photo credit: UN News Centre

Walking through desert in Nigeria. Photo: World Bank

On Day to Combat Desertification, UN urges action to protect ‘every hectare’ of arable land

Land is a renewable resource, but only if investments are made in land degradation neutrality, which has been proposed as an element of the post-2015 development agenda, today said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his message on the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought.

“We need to change course and start securing every hectare of land that can provide food or freshwater and rehabilitate all the degraded land that we can,” urged Mr. Ban, who assured that by doing so, the international community will be able to make rapid steps towards controlling climate change.

With No such thing as a free lunch: Investing in healthy soils as the theme, this year’s Day is intended to promote public awareness of the issues of desertification and drought, and the implementation of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) in those countries experiencing serious drought and/or desertification, particularly in Africa.

“Our lives and civilizations depend on the land. Let us invest in healthy soils to secure our rights to food and freshwater,” Mr. Ban added.

When a plate of food is served in front of you, what comes to mind? Few of us actually think about it, but it is the endpoint of a long and complex process…Without the land, there is only an empty plate,” underscored Monique Barbut, who is the UNCCD Executive Secretary.

Noting that 70 per cent of the Earth’s grasslands, 50 per cent of the savannahs and 45 per cent of its temperate forests have been cleared to feed generations gone by, she expressed her deep concern that resources are treated like disposable goods.

“We degrade the land through unsustainable farming and walk away when it cannot produce anymore. Today, one third of previously fertile farmland lies abandoned. With a population of 9.6 billion expected by 2050, we will need to clear 3 million hectares of new land every year, on average,” she explained, warning that “we are heading towards a tipping point.”

“If we do not change how we use our land, we will have to convert an area the size of Norway into new farmland every year to meet future needs for food, freshwater, biofuels and urban growth,” underscored Mr. Ban.

Read the full article: UN News Centre

Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

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