On this Desertification and Drought Day, we reflect upon our relationship with land which is essential to our health and well-being. Yet as the global populations surge and dependency grows, we place increasing demand on land to provide food and shelter. Land provides both sustenance and income. More than 70% of people living in poverty depend – at least partially- on natural resources to earn their livelihood.
Yet, millions of hectares are lost each year; resulting in approximately 10% loss to global GDP. More importantly, people face tremendous hardship, with an estimated 3.2 billion people directly impacted by the diminution of land.
As land degrades, resources deplete. Thus, the most vulnerable people are further exposed to poverty and hunger; with women, smallholder farmers, indigenous communities and children being disproportionately affected.
The resulting extreme poverty and hunger are among the root causes of both conflict and migration. Thus, begins the difficult degrade-abandon-migrate cycle.
On this Desertification and Drought Day, I call on policymakers everywhere to promote an alternative: protection- sustainability-restoration. This three-pronged approach has the potential to achieve land degradation neutrality by 2030.
As of today, 75% of the earth’s land has already been degraded. We need an urgent paradigm shift in consumption patterns, underpinned by balance and equity. We must choose long term sustainability over short-term gains. We must choose solidarity over wastefulness; and compassion over greed
I call on all stakeholders to focus on the key threats to land, namely: the overuse of fertilizers and pesticides, deforestation, over-cropping, and overgrazing. The urgent solution is particularly required in drought-prone regions where soil fertility has been devastated.
As we build back better in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, let us work together with farmers to promote sustainable land management.
We must support smallholder farmers, the vast number of whom are women, to make evidence-based decisions in regard to crop selection, inputs usage, and land resilience, in the face of climate change and loss of biodiversity.
Furthermore, by investing in scientific research and farmer education, we can promote innovation and entrepreneurship among those who till the land.
At the outset of the Decade of Action and Delivery to implement the Sustainable Development Goals, we must work together to evade famine, widespread hunger, and extreme poverty.
On this Desertification and Drought Day, let us re-commit to protecting the Earth for our present and future generations.
I thank you.