7 December 2011
Africa is setting the example in tackling land degradation, with some encouraging results – countries like Niger have managed to regenerate five-million hectares in the last 20 years. But there is still much more that can be done to tackle desertification, land degradation and drought.
Some parts of Africa – the West African Sahel region, Sudan, northeast Ethiopia and Kenya – are particularly vulnerable to land degradation, resulting in soil erosion, deforestation, and loss of woody vegetation which makes them less able to bear crops and pasture.
South African Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe used the Land Day side-event at COP 17 in Durban on Tuesday to ask all stakeholders to put this serious issue on their agenda at Rio+20 and beyond.
“We meet at a time when there is growing despondence about the multilateral world governance system, where the world community has lost patience with too much talking and no action,” Motlanthe said.
“You must at all times, starting here in Durban, Rio+20 and beyond, advocate the need for urgent agreement on action and funding for sustainable development and mitigating the effects of climate change.”
Achieving zero net land degradation ‘very possible’
Dennis Garrity, Drylands Ambassador for the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), said during his address that achieving zero net land degradation and in turn overcoming poverty was very possible.
He said local communities were taking action, but needed more support through policy and the creation of a rural resource centre. Garrity said a fresh, low-cost approach had to be taken to regenerate land.
Motlanthe said there was a need for everyone to enhance the implementation of the UNCCD as a global policy and monitoring framework to address issues of soil and land degradation.
“We also need to invest in infrastructure and services that support sustainable land use and management,” Motlanthe said. “The actions that are required on the ground to achieve a zero net rate of global land degradation are in line with the Sustainable Land Management approach.”
Preserving the resource base for food
Motlanthe said African ministers had unanimously agreed that the time had come for the international community to commit itself to zero degradation of land.
“Achieving such targets will go a long way in addressing climate change adaptation and mitigation, thus building the resilience of the populations and the ecosystems affected by desertification and land degradation,” he said.
“Such action will also support efforts to preserve the resource base for food security and accelerate poverty eradication.”
Motlanthe said it was encouraging that legislation and policies of many countries embraced the principle of sustainable development, particularly in as far as matters of land-use management were concerned.