26/03/2012, New York – Executive Secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification Luc Gnacadja and Miss Universe 2011 Leila Lopes have called on the heads of state and government that will attend the June 2011 global conference on sustainable development to agree on a target that will bring land degradation to a halt.
“Every year, 75 billion tons of fertile soil is lost forever. And every year, due to land degradation and drought in the drylands of the world about 12 million hectares of productive land is lost, on which 20 billion tons of grain could grow,” said Mr. Gnacadja, the UN’s top advisor on issues of land degradation and drought.
He said the Earth’s fertile land while essential, is also finite, and proposed two mechanisms to halt land degradation. “One is to manage currently non-degraded fertile lands in ways that do not cause degradation, thus halting further loss. The other is to restore already degraded land.”
Presenting Miss Universe Leila Lopes and Professor Jeffrey Sachs with certificates designating them UNCCD Drylands Ambassadors, Mr. Gnacadja said the ambassadors play the crucial role of spreading a message that is rarely heard, often not well understood and that concerns the populations most affected but that lack a voice.
Accepting her appointment as UNCCD Drylands Ambassador, Miss Universe 2011 Leila Lopes said, she was born in Angola in a town that is affected by land degradation. Miss Universe added she was inspired to take up the cause because 1.5 million people are affected by land degradation and because “we can do something about it.” She said to become a society that is ‘free of land degradation’ a goal that will help to rehabilitate more land than is degraded should be agreed on.
Mr. Gnacadja described the ‘future we want for the land’ and how to prevent land degradation. “Sustainable land management is the vaccine to land degradation and desertification,” he said, adding that the successful methods already employed by communities should be adopted, scaled-up and scaled-out, and an ambitious target to halt land degradation set.
Miss Universe 2011 said she will attend the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro this June to speak about the issue.
Mr. Gnacadja and Miss Lopes made the comments at the start of the 3rd Intersessional Meeting of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD), popularly known as Rio+20, taking place in New York this week. The UNCSD will take place on 20-22 June 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
About the UNCCD:
Desertification, along with climate change and the loss of biodiversity were identified as the greatest challenges to sustainable development during the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. Established in 1994, UNCCD is the sole legally binding international agreement linking environment, development and the promotion of healthy soils. The Convention’s 194 signatory Parties work to alleviate poverty in the drylands, maintain and restore the land’s productivity, and mitigate the effects of drought.