Land under pressure

22 Dec 2017

We stand on it. We stamp on it. We call it dirt. Or worse.

We treat this fundamental resource like it is infinite. What we do not realize is that fertile soil, which took hundreds of years to develop, could be washed away with just one heavy downpour.

Monique Barbut, Executive Secretary of United Nation Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), spoke in her speech at the Global Landscapes Forum in Bonn, Germany about how “We have lost 20 percent of our ecosystems to degradation”. As unimpacted soil is a massive carbon storage, degradation of it leads to emissions of Green House Gases (GHG).

In this context bad agricultural management of soil has resulted in a significant decline in land productivity. Sectors, such as crops and livestock, are impacting the global economy with losses of more than 350 billion USD each year.

Since more than 90 percent of the food is provided by land-based agriculture, the importance of soil cannot be understated. Food security relies on the small-scale farmers who are the backbone of food production in the developing countries.

As soil is their only productive resource, already 1.3 billion people are affected by being trapped on degraded land. This land has low resilience to environmental stress. This vulnerability limits the peoples’ options for alternative cropping or livestock production and will leave them excluded from development.

But instead of surrendering we should focus on the fact that about two billion hectares of degraded land have the potential to be restored. “No-one is left behind” says Stefan Schmitz, Deputy Director of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), Germany.

As a matter of fact, we will have to expand our farmland due to our increasing global population. Therefore, the Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) has been defined by the participating parties in 2015. The agenda of LDN has implemented the goal of no net-loss of fertile soil by 2030.

Within the Target Setting Program national baselines, associated measures and targets were defined and will be implemented in the countries’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

The goal is to combat desertification, restore degraded soil and achieve a land degradation-neutral world. With 114 countries engaging and 75 countries already establishing their national baselines a huge step towards sustainable land management and land restoration has been taken.

Maybe we should not call it dirt any longer – what about calling it “foundation of life”?

Blogpost by Sebastian Kägler – #GLFBonn2017 Social Reporter – sebastian.kaegler(at)
Picture courtesy United Soybean Board (on Flickr)

This post is part of the live coverage during the GLF Bonn 2017 Global event. This post is written by one of our social reporters, and represents the author’s views only.

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