Sustainable agriculture will help stop desertification, UN agency says

17 June 2008 – Poor farmers and herders in countries bearing the brunt of desertification and land degradation can help stop or reverse those processes by engaging in sustainable agriculture, the United Nations International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) says.

Marking World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, which is observed on 17 June, IFAD said in a statement that poor farmers and herders can form part of the solution with the assistance of international agencies.

“Ill-conceived agricultural practices, traditional or intensified, only make things worse as their poor populations have no choice but to adopt short-term survival methods, putting more pressure on increasingly scarce local resources,” IFAD said. “Climate change is increasing that pressure, and exacerbating droughts.”

This year’s theme for the Day is combating land degradation for sustainable agriculture.

The agency called for more efficient water use, improved cropping systems and better forest management, adding that hardier seeds will also help poor farmers withstand droughts and floods.

IFAD, which is tasked with reducing rural poverty, said more than two thirds of its projects are now located in ecologically fragile and marginal areas, where nearly half the world’s poor live.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in a separate message marking the Day, said it was time to recognize that drylands and marginal lands are not waste lands and could be devoted to biofuel production or other uses.

“Rather, they are potential areas for agricultural intensification for both food and energy needs. Let us renew our commitment to reversing land degradation and desertification,” he said, adding that the UN Convention to Combat Desertification “could offer a long-term solution to producing more food for more people” and should be fully implemented.


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