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Press Release

IAEA and UNCCD join forces to strengthen good soil management practices in dryland areas

Bonn, 18/04/13. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) today signed an agreement to collaborate in the nuclear technologies to strengthen the assessment of soil erosion and monitor improvements over time.

The Practical Arrangement, as it is known, was signed by Luc Gnacadja, Executive Secretary of UNCCD, and Ana Claudia Raffo-Caiado, Director of the IAEA’s Division of Technical Cooperation Programme Support and Coordination (TCPC), during the eleventh session of the Committee for the Review of the Implementation of the Convention under way in Bonn, Germany.

“Land degradation threatens over 1.5 billion people in over 168 countries,” Raffo-Caiado, Director of the IAEA’s Division for Technical Cooperation Programme Support and Coordination, said during the signing ceremony.
“IAEA builds country capacities to use radionuclide and stable isotopic techniques to study soil erosion and land degradation problems. These capacities are essential for soil conservation, land use planning and decision making,” she added.
Gnacadja said “this practical cooperation with IAEA will help Parties to the Convention to gain access to technical support on the application of isotopic and nuclear techniques to assess the soil and water status and identify hot spots of land degradation.”
“And it is a timely cooperation. Last week, scientists lamented the lack of bio-physical data on the status of soil and water. This week, representatives of the Parties have shared the capacity challenges they faced in measuring the impact of their activities on change in the land cover. This technology enables willing Parties to transcend such challenges,” he said.
The Practical Arrangement, which runs until 31 December 2017, aims to, at once, enhance conservation of land and soil resources for poverty reduction and environmental sustainability and support the health and productivity of drylands for the well-being of present and future generations.
Studies suggest that over 20 billion hectares of fertile soil is lost through the erosion of cropland every year and that every 10 years, in the drylands, an area the size of South Africa becomes unproductive just from desertification and drought.
Many of the 195 Parties to the UNCCD have elaborated their national action programmes in order to reverse these trends. Last year, world leaders agreed to strive for a land-degradation neutral world so that further land degradation is avoided. Where it is inevitable, degrading land would be offset by restoring an equivalent amount of degraded land, ideally in the same ecosystem and the same timeframe. The leaders also mandated the UNCCD to monitor, globally, land degradation and land restoration in the drylands.
“With the help of IAEA and these nuclear techniques, we can improve our understanding of and access to high quality data on land and soil dynamics. By preventing degradation and rehabilitating degraded land we are protecting one of the world’s most vital, almost non-renewable, natural resources, and building the resilience of populations and ecosystems,” Gnacadja said.
The Arrangement enables UNCCD Parties willing to participate in IAEA soil management projects to strengthen the scientific basis of the Convention and advocacy by applying the science of radionuclides in efforts to improve land productivity and minimize the impacts of drought.
“The IAEA technical cooperation programme in soil and water management uses radionuclides to assess the extent and amount of soil erosion, the effectiveness of soil and water conservation strategies in retaining water and applied nutrients for food production under both rainfed and irrigated agricultural systems,” Raffo-Caiado stated.
“IAEA projects also use environmentally friendly tracer elements to determine optimal placement and timing of fertilizers and water, to identify crop residue management practices and to determine how much nitrogen plants can capture from the atmosphere,” she added.
Cooperation is foreseen in the exchange and dissemination of information, participation in relevant scientific networks and activities, and in joint educational and training courses.
For further information, on the Arrangement contact:
International Atomic Energy Agency: Rick Kastens, Section Head, Strategic Partnerships, Department of Technical Cooperation, IAEA.
United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification:  Louise Baker, Senior Adviser – Partnerships UNCCD.
For media interviews, contact:
Komila Nabiyeva,



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