The Silent, Invisible Crisis Destabilising Communities Could be a Subject of Hope

Zainab Samo, along with her son and daughter, planting a lemon
seedling on her farm in Oan village in Pakistan’s southern desert
district of Tharparkar, to fight desert’s advance. New data shows
that globally two billion hectares of land—roughly twice the size
of China—have been degraded. Credit: Saleem Shaikh/IPS

By Desmond Brown
GEORGETOWN, Jan 29 2019 (IPS)

New data show that globally two billion hectares of
land—roughly twice the size of China—have been degraded. And of
this amount, 500 million hectares are abandoned agricultural
lands. 

The
17th Session of the Committee for the Review of Implementation
(CRIC17)
of the United Nations
Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)
opened in the
Guyana capital on Monday, Jan. 28, with the release of this
staggering data in relation to land degradation and
desertification.

“We know also that every year we destroy totally, 12 million
hectares of land. So, clearly all those lands that we destroy we
have a potential for restoration,” UNCCD Executive Secretary
Monique Barbut told IPS. It’s for this reason that Barbut said
that land degradation and desertification is “a subject of
hope.”

Desertification is the process by which fertile land becomes
desert, typically as a result of drought, deforestation, or
inappropriate agriculture.

UNCCD says desertification is a silent, invisible crisis that is
destabilising communities on a global scale, and more should be
done to combat it, reverse land degradation and mitigate the
effects of drought.

But unlike the finality that comes with the loss of
biodiversity, Barbut said humans get second chances when it comes
to land degradation and desertification.

“When you have lost a species, you have lost a species. Land
does not work like that, and can be restored, everywhere, in every
single country,” she told IPS.

“So, it’s not just a subject of depression like many other
subjects on the environment. The more you restore land, the better
a number of things to come.”

United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)
Executive Secretary Monique Barbut says new data show that
globally, two billion hectares of land have been degraded. But
unlike the finality that comes with the loss of biodiversity,
Barbut said humans gets second chances when it comes to land
degradation and desertification. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

She pointed to China’s Loess Plateau—the biggest programme
of land restoration in the word that can be referred to as an
example of what is possible.

“They restored in one go, 400 million hectares of land and
transformed it into an agroforestry programme,” Barbut said.

“This programme has helped [uplift] out of poverty, 6.7
million people. Secondly, we have seen now that the rain patterns
have changed. Where there was no rain before, rain is coming back,
so there are many positive impacts of land restoration.”

The new data also show that there is a direct link between land
restoration and the reduction in the number of people living in
poverty in rural areas.

Barbut said the data show a 27 percent decline in the number of
people in rural communities living in poverty.

“This is a positive signal,” she said, while noting that at
the same time urban poverty is increasing.

“That’s something interesting to note, that instead of
sending people to cities, you better restore the land, make sure
they can live on the land.”

Barbut said the data show that the main human causes of land
degradation are deforestation, overgrazing and improper soil
management.

There are also other indirect human causes like population
pressure, land tenure, bad governance and lack of education.

The Caribbean has its own example of desertification with one
scientist telling IPS that Haiti is the Caribbean’s desert.

Dr. Richard Byron-Cox, action programme alignment and capacity
building officer at UNCCD, said more than 100 years ago, Haiti had
the best soils and was also the Caribbean’s leading producer
sugarcane.

“As you know, Haiti is one of two countries on the island of
Hispaniola. When you fly over Hispaniola, one part is green, and
the other part is brown. Why? Because one has desertification,
that’s Haiti,” Byron-Cox told IPS.

“That same country, 150 years ago, had the best soils in the
entire Caribbean. Today it is a desert. Desertification has nothing
to do with natural deserts. So, when you talk about combatting
desertification, this does not include natural deserts, it’s good
land becoming bad.”

In addition to deforestation, devastating floods and landslides
have left bare many areas in Haiti which were once covered with
forests.

In 2013, World Vision Australia carried out a scoping mission to
examine the potential for natural regeneration of forests through
Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR). This was inspired by
the success of a similar programme in Ethiopia, developed under the
Kyoto
Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM)
.

The CDM allows for reforestation projects to earn credits
(Certified Emission Reductions or CER’s) for each tonne of carbon
dioxide equivalent sequestered or absorbed by the forest.

Joseph Harmon, Minister of State in the Ministry of the
Presidency in Guyana says when it comes to sustainable use of land
and other resources, Guyana aspires to be a success story and
example for fellow countries and parties. Credit: Desmond
Brown/IPS

Desertification was also on the mind of Guyana’s Minister of
State Joseph Harmon, as he welcomed representatives from 135
countries to the capital for CRIC 17.

In his speech at the opening, he told a packed hall at the
Arthur Chung Conference Centre that in its implementation of the
UNCCD Guyana aspires to be a success story and example for fellow
countries and parties.

“While Guyana’s context may not be seen as extreme to be
considered ‘desertification,’ the impact of land degradation is
being taken into consideration as we plan and strategise for the
sustainable use of our land resources.”

He later told IPS that Guyana is deeply conscious land
represents a link between people and the environment and that it
connects economic, social, cultural and geographical spheres.

“Guyana is fully committed to the protection and conservation
of its natural patrimony, including its land resources. Our record
of environmental protection and conservation of land and its
resources provides a global model for good practice,” Harmon told
IPS.

“Guyana endorses and fully support UNCCD’s vision which is
to support the development and implementation of national and
regional policies, programmes and measures to prevent, control and
reverse desertification and land degradation and mitigate the
effects of drought.”

Guyana has finalised its Land Degradation Neutrality Target
Setting Programme and its aligned national plan to combat land
degradation.

Harmon said they have also operationalised the Sustainable Land
Development and Management project, which seeks to establish an
enabling environment for promoting sustainable and
climate-resilient land development, management and reclamation in
support of Guyana’s Green State trajectory.

The post
The Silent, Invisible Crisis Destabilising Communities Could be a
Subject of Hope
appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Source: FS – All – Ecology – News
The Silent, Invisible Crisis Destabilising Communities Could be a Subject of Hope