Thursday, June 18, 2015

World Day to Combat Desertification observed at Expo Milano

Land degradation is a growing threat to global security which needs the attention of the global community, officials and experts said here on Wednesday at the global observance of the World Day to Combat Desertification.

According to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), when land degradation reaches a level where it seriously threatens people's livelihoods, it can turn into a security issue.

Data from 2007 show that 80 percent of major armed conflicts affecting society occurred in vulnerable dry ecosystems, according to UNCCD.

Globally, only 7.8 billion hectares of land are suitable for food production, but some 2 billion hectares are already degraded, and of these 500 million hectares have been totally abandoned. These lands could be restored to fertility for future use.

Sustainable land management practices show in fact that the challenges related to land degradation and desertification are not insurmountable, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Deputy Director General Maria Helena Semedo told Xinhua in an interview at the Expo site.

"To produce food, we need soils, and not only we need soils, but we need healthy soils with biodiversity," she said.

In her view, bold action and investment in sustainable land management can boost food security, improve livelihoods and help people adapt to climate change.

For example, according to FAO, a mechanized technology inspired from traditional practices has helped to restore more than 50,000 hectares of Acacia-based agro-sylvopastoral systems in Burkina Faso, Senegal and Niger, where crop, gum, resin and fodder produce have increased.

The government of Niger has also developed Pastoral Modernization Zones. As a result, pastoral areas have been utilized in a more balanced manner and overgrazing has fallen by 30-45 percent since 1990. Neither of these high-impact land projects came at a high cost.

The rehabilitation of China's Loess Plateau is one of the World Bank's most celebrated projects. It lifted 2.5 million people out of poverty and restored over 50,000 hectares of degraded land.

"Awareness raising on the importance of soils is fundamental. We need to start from a political will as well as appropriate commitment and investments in order to reach our goal of zero land degradation," Semedo went on saying.

Giampaolo Cantini, Director-General for Development Cooperation of Italy, said he has experienced an increase in awareness about desertification. "The issue is part of the global agenda, in particular the agenda for sustainable development which is being negotiated and that will be approved at the summit in New York next September," he said in an interview with Xinhua.

"There is also a very close interconnection between the desertification and climate change which will be the object of the conference in Paris in December," he added, underlining that Italy is very much attached to this issue because is part of the UNCCD as an affected country.

Cantini said the Expo Milano 2015, which is dedicated to sustainable nutrition and healthy food, was a great opportunity to sensitize the international audience on the issue of desertification by encouraging, supporting and promoting activities on land management.

For example individual visitors as well as associations or private businesses, he told Xinhua, can sign a document at the Expo, the Milan Charter, addressed to international organizations, world leaders and governments to address the issues of food, security and nutrition.

World Day to Combat Desertification is a UN day observed in all countries of the world since 1995 to raise awareness about the problems and solutions to land degradation, termed desertification when it occurs in the world's vulnerable dry areas.

  Xinhua -

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