Bringing Greener Pastures Back Home

Drone visual of the area in Upper East Region, Ghana prior to
restoration taken in 2015. According to the United Nations
Environment Programme (UNEP), inaction on land degradation in
Africa costs 286 billion dollars annually as 280 million tons of
cereal crops are lost each year. Credit: Albert Oppong-Ansah

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage

One month on since the Global Compact for Migration was
approved, civil society has highlighted the need to turn words into
action, supporting those who have been displaced or forced to
migrate as a result of environmental degradation.

In December, over 160 countries adopted the landmark Global Compact
for Migration (GCM)
which recognised environmental degradation
and climate change as drivers of migration. It is the first time a
major migration policy has specifically addressed such issues.

While there have been some hiccups along the way, including the
withdrawals by the United States and most recently Brazil, the next
steps are even more uncertain.

“Now we have the recognition in the GCM, now we need to move
from text to action,” Norwegian
Refugee Council’s (NRC)
Senior Advisor on Disaster
Displacement and Climate Change Nina Birkeland said to IPS.

“Because people are moving, we can’t pretend that it is not
happening,” she added.

According to the Global
Humanitarian Forum
, approximately 135 million people may be
displaced by 2045 as a result of land degradation and

A study
by the University of Oxford estimates that up to 200 million may be
displaced due to climate change by 2050.

But this is not simply a phenomenon that will happen in the
future—it is already a reality for some.

As migrant caravans from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador
continue to make their way towards the U.S., many have pointed to
climate change and years of crop failure as the main drivers.

Lesser known is the role of deforestation and land degradation
in prompting such movements.

Between 1990 and 2005, almost 20 percent of Guatemala’s
rainforests were cut down for palm oil plantations and cattle
ranches. This has since lead to soil degradation and eroded land in
a country where one-third of the population is employed by the
agricultural industry.

Across Africa, agriculture accounts for 80 percent of employment
but land degradation is leaving families and young people without
food or income security and thus forcing them to search for greener

According to the United
Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
, inaction on land
degradation in Africa costs 286 billion dollars annually as 280
million tons of cereal crops are lost each year.

“If land is degrading and the productive capacity of the land
is degrading and there are no income opportunities anymore, there
is no reason for people, young people in particular, to stay in the
village,” World Resources Institute’s (WRI) Sustainable Land
Management Specialist Chris Reij told IPS.

“The general lesson is: fight land degradation, improve living
conditions and more young people will stay rather than leave,” he

According to the U.N.
Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)
, restoring just 12
percent of degraded agricultural land could boost smallholders’
incomes by 35-40 billion dollars per year.

Reij pointed to the case of Burkina Faso which saw promising
results after villages invested in sustainable land management

According to a study by Reij and his team, Burkina Faso’s
Ranawa village saw a decline in land productivity, prompting almost
a quarter of its population to leave between 1975 and 1985.

Once the village began improving soil and water conservation
techniques, there was no recorded outmigration and some families
even returned due to restored productivity. 

Comparing villages that implemented sustainable land management
and those that did not, the study found that rural poverty
decreased as much as 50 percent in the former while poverty
increased in the latter.

‘‘In 1980 only two families had cattle, now all families
have cattle. Almost no one had a roof of corrugated iron…just
look around you and you’ll notice that almost every family has
such roofs…the land where we stand used to be barren, but now it
has become productive again,” one farmer from Ranawa told
Reij’s team.

In 2016, UNCCD implemented a similar project known as the 3S
initiative which aims to restore 10 million hectares of land in
areas most impacted by land degradation in Africa. It also hopes to
provide 2 million green jobs to the 11 million young Africans who
enter the job market each year.

Though it is not the silver bullet and migration will of course
still continue to some capacity, investing in land restoration and
providing economic opportunities is certainly a part of the

While many countries focus on border security as part of their
migration policy, Birkeland urged governments to look at reduction
and prevention of displacement.

“We need to look at where this is actually happening and why
it is happening. Before you even start to talk about border
control, you need to look at how you can try to reduce
displacement,” she said.

This includes investments into projects in developing countries,
especially with climate change or environmental degradation-induced
displacement in mind, and increased protections for those who are
forced or choose to leave. 

While it is an enormous challenge, Reij highlighted the need for
donors and governments to focus action on improving livelihoods and
economic well-being as well as supporting land restoration.

“If you look at the most extreme scenario, unless the economic
perspectives of young people can be improved in the next decade,
what choice do they have? They can migrate to cities and maybe
continue subsequently to Europe, or they can join Boko Haram and
similar groups,” he told IPS.

“I think donors and governments have an interest in supporting
the scaling of existing restoration success so that millions of
smallholders will be able to improve their lives and livelihoods,
and that will help reduce migration….we know what to do, we know
how to do it. We now need to do it,” Reij concluded.

The post
Bringing Greener Pastures Back Home
appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Source: FS – All – Ecology – News
Bringing Greener Pastures Back Home