MESSAGE OF MR LUC GNACADJA
UNITED NATIONS CONVENTION TO COMBAT DESERTIFICATION
On the Occasion of International Day for the Eradication of Poverty
Wednesday, 17 October 2012
Improving populations livelihoods and grounding peace through ecosystem restoration in the drylands of the world
Drylands are the world's global hotspots of extreme poverty. Nowhere else are extreme poverty and human insecurity so compounded or even driven by ecosystem degradation. In many countries, drylands have had a long history of neglect by investors and sustainable development interventions. Often, they are marginalized in both development processes and political discourse.
It is not surprising then that while drylands are the most conflict-prone on account of resources, this connection is largely unexplored. Eight of the ten violent conflicts that occurred in the world during the last decade were in the drylands.
Around Lake Turkana in Northern Kenya and Lake Chad, conflicts have emerged, recurred or persisted with dwindling water resources. In Pakistan, Afghanistan and Guatemala conflicts have followed decreasing economic and livelihood opportunities.
In observing this year’s theme to end the violence of extreme poverty, our concern should turn first and fast to those suffering or facing the prospect of resource-based conflict.
Soil is at its most fragile in the drylands, that is why its degradation should matter to us too because it threatens our food security. Drylands make up 44% of all cultivated systems, and 50% of the world’s livestock are located here.
But every year, we lose12 million hectares of land to desertification and drought alone, and with it the opportunity to grow 20 million tons of grain. Desertification is exacerbated by climatic shocks such as escalating droughts, flush floods and sand storms. Globally, 1.5 billion are affected by land degradation, and 74% are either poor or extremely poor. Productive land and water availability depend on soil quality. Poor soils result in poor and hungry people. So soil security cannot be divorced from human security.
If we are to ground peace and security we must also secure the ground – the land and soil.
During the last decade, many least developed countries, on average, had a 4-6% gross domestic product growth. But it neither alleviated poverty nor ensured food security because it was neither inclusive nor was it generated using assets of the poor.
And yet, many success stories and best practices show that it is possible to sustainably double or even triple yields from degraded land, thus alleviating both poverty and food insecurity. Many of the required innovations are occurring at grassroots level but with little recognition.
The target year for eradicating extreme poverty, 2015, is very close. A lot of battles on the poverty front have been won, but winning the war is sure only if the poorest people are empowered to make the best out of their assets.
We must enable populations affected by desertification and climatic drought more effectively to improve their livelihoods and restore their degraded ecosystem.
The policies must be sound and cognizant of the full complexity and dynamics of dryland ecosystems. They must emphasize the value of dryland ecosystem services and the investment opportunities they offer.
These policy options must be part of mainstreaming drylands issues into national and international development frameworks. Then, the Millennium Development Goals will have great benefits for drylands communities and societies everywhere.
It is time to scale up and disseminate ecosystems restoration schemes in the drylands. The world leaders got it quite right at the Rio+20 Summit last June. They resolved to achieve a land-degradation neutral world by improving policies
and institutions and increasing investments to restore degraded land.
We can end the violence of extreme poverty. The question is, what are you doing about it? Are you part of the solution?