Speakers demonstrated that on-the-ground activities to support sustainable land management are well recognized and established. Mr Clérici described the approaches to address soil degradation, including crop rotation, no-till farming and reduction in the use of pasture. Mr Gonzalez also described concrete actions such as soil restoration, disaster management, the appropriate application of agro-chemicals, agro-forestry, and optimized use of water. Soil restoration and sustainable water use was also recognized as important actions by Mr Andre Leu, President, International Foundation for Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) who also highlighted the potential of organic farming and the contribution of traditional agricultural practices.
Taking action at the highest level, Mr Acosta explained that Peru has established a national programme to combat desertification and soil degradation. In Uruguay, Mr Clérici described national legislation aimed at ensuring sustainable agricultural development within the framework of the full and effective consideration of the environment. The legislation specifically mandates the development and adoption of plans for responsible soil use and management to achieve sustainable production. Thus far, 30 such plans have been developed based on science and taking into account the needs and views of land-holders. Legislation with a similar purpose is also in place in Chile. Mr Gonzalez described a number of laws intended to manage soil as a rare commodity including interim laws on sustainability as well as a law to subsidize investments in sustainable land management and a law to subsidize the planting of trees.
Overall, all panelists and discussants agreed that soil is an important and often undervalued asset. Mr Leu referred to soil, Earth and land as Pachamama (our mother). During the discussions the suggestion was made that soil should not be considered as a natural resource, which implies that it should be used, but rather as natural capital, implying that it should be preserved.
Moving forward, additional work is needed to disseminate scientific information, including traditional knowledge, innovations and practices. A wide variety of technologies exist and a number of initiatives are in place. As emphasized by Dr Luca Montanarella, European Commission-Joint Research Centre, it is important to ensure that existing projects and programs are developed an implemented in synergy with each other and within the range of complementary international policies in place, including the three Rio Conventions.
He said since South Africa became a Party of the UNCCD in 1995, the UNCCD has framed all of South Africa’s interventions on land. For instance, South Africa has successfully implemented a programme on landcare, which includes measures in the fields of encroachment, agriculture, livestock and fostering sustainable land use and management. Landcare means supporting sustainable land use. He said the Land Bank, which has been established in South Africa, needs to focus more on land itself. Currently the bank is mainly seen as an agricultural bank. Drawing attention to the September 2011 UN General Assembly High Level Meeting on desertification and UNCCD COP10, Mr Manale said he sees some movement in the international community when it comes to land and soil. Therefore, it is even more important that Rio+20 becomes a success for the Rio Conventions and the outcome document takes into account land productivity and soil health as an important issue of sustainable development and the green economy. Target setting and the creation of market mechanisms are important parts of this agreement, which needs to set the framework for sufficient financing, quick money and indicators development in order to allow for land to provide sustainable income.
Mr Ibrahim Thiaw, Director Division of Environmental Policy Implementation at UNEP
, introduced the Economics of Land Degradation (ELD) Initiative and started his intervention by admitting that economics do in many cases come with a negative connotation. In general, communities who live in drylands are happy to live there, even though it is not an easy life, for example, due to drought and poverty. However, drylands are productive if managed in a sustainable way, especially if dryland pastoralists adapted integrated ecosystem approaches that take into account the carrying capacity of the land. However, in some cases the use of land in drylands is unsustainable. For instance, intensive farming is not adapted to dryland ecosystems because it uses up the available water resources. The latter case clearly shows the negative aspects of economies and investments. Nevertheless, economics of land degradation in arid areas is an important issue. Among the existing challenges are that land is not valued and wrong investment incentives are degrading land. Many countries invest in irrigated agriculture instead of pastoralism in the drylands. Apart from halting land degradation, it is possible to restore one billion hectare of degraded land around the world and at the same time create jobs, sequester carbon and increase access to water. Land restoration also contributes to climate change adaption. It is important to note that long-term investments are needed, and that national capital and investments in turn need to take into account the ecological capacity of drylands. Opportunities for synergies in funding, e.g. for energy production in drylands (solar) should be looked at more closely. In the operationalization of ELD, he urged taking into consideration initiatives like The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB), which has already developed a methodology that can also be used in valuing land.
Dr. Luca Montanarella, SOIL Action Leader, Joint Research Centre, European Commission, presented on the economic implications of protecting soil functions. Soil functions provide services for ecosystems and people. These functions include the production of biomass, especially in agriculture, provision of clean drinking water, an intact biodiversity pool that needs to be valued and protected, infrastructure and housing and a carbon pool as well as a memory of our history to protect. Soil functions provide soil ecosystem services that are in competition with each other. Therefore, we have to make choices as we cannot use all services at the same time.But what is the economic benefit of improving soil protection in the EU? One measure is to cost the loss of 115 million ha of land to water erosion and 42 million ha to wind erosion
Lastly, he announced that a new version of the World Atlas of Desertification will be launched next year.
Mr Kook-Hyun Moon, Chair, Sustainable Land Management Business Forum
, addressed how the business community can respond to ELD. He said existing problems cannot be solved by governments and civil society alone; the involvement of the business community is necessary. In Korea, the business community has successfully initiated several campaigns on sustainable land and forest management. At the UNCCD COP 10, Korean companies invited other international business leaders and launched a new business forum: The UNCCD SLM business forum.
By 2050, 9 billion people will depend on already scarce land, therefore, urgent action is needed to address imminent food security concerns. The private sector needs to be included in efforts to combat land degradation and to restore land and involved in the pursuit of the goal of a land degradation neutral world. We need a Public-Private-Partnership to combat desertification, land degradation and drought (DLDD) involving governments, the business community, the civil society and universities, with a focus on measures, technologies and research to create synergies. Synergy development in combating land degradation needs to be done across conventions and sectors.
Discussions and Q&A:
According to Mr Andre Leu, President, International Foundation for Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM)
, most agriculture in the world is rain fed. Improving rain fed agriculture is important to soils. In the light of climate change, it is even more important to know how to increase rain fed agriculture while avoiding irrigation. He said that organic agriculture can help in this regard, and land under organic agriculture can even provide higher yields and capture more water than conventional systems.
Best practice examples are available. He highlighted one country in Africa that has extensive drylands but is most vulnerable to irrigation. Thanks to organic agriculture, yields have increased 186% and inputs are appropriate to local soils. He also emphasized the need to increase soil restoration efforts.
Mr Julien Dominic Publio Dias, Cervejaria Grupo Petropolis Brazil
, the discussant for this session asked how pastoralists can produce more food for local communities and make grazing activities compatible. In response, Mr Thiaw emphasized that arid land ecosystems contain ecosystems with good grazing results. Pastoralists are very well adapted to dry areas and will even loose productivity if they stop moving the cattle. In contrast, intensive agriculture is not adapted to drylands. From an environmental point of view a combination of pastoralism with agricultural activities in a harmonized way is preferred to increase food production in drylands. Mr. Thiaw further explained that he meant to be provocative regarding the meaning of ELD, arguing he would prefer to name ELD the “Economics of land and desertification.”
Mr Dias further wondered how can we finance the valuing of land. Currently, many ecosystem services are still not valued and no real mechanism of compensating damages exists. He hoped the question would be addressed by the ELD Initiative and underlined the importance of involving all relevant stakeholders. In response, Dr Montanarella said when looking into and trying to define the value of land the first option is to look at prices achieved when selling and buying land and the how much can be related to its functions and services? He recalled that the first soil surveys in the EU were done for taxation purposes only. It becomes more difficult when we try to measure the costs of the various degradation processes in the EU as it is difficult to come up with accurate estimates. He agreed that we cannot just reduce everything to economics.
Furthermore, Mr Dias observed that when it comes to afforestation projects, business actors have more resources than governments, yet most businesses spend money without taking environmental concerns into account. If this money is spent taking social and environmental concerns into account, there would be a lot to invest in SLM. Mr Moon took this opportunity to further stress the importance of food security in preventing land degradation. In Republic of Korea, people devastated land due to a lack of energy and food security.
Mr John Soussan, OSLO Consortium, said in the valuation of land, engagement with the business community and national governments are necessary in order to get an investment fund established. Still, he urged keeping in mind that investing in land will compete with other potential areas of investments. We need to take these issues very seriously, not just the economics, but land more generally. He added that it is of upmost importance to move from land degradation to land and soil restoration practices. Civil society organizations are already promoting practices of restoration including reforestation, pro-poor investments and marketing. He called on the Convention to build on existing experiences, especially the ones from civil society organizations. He emphasized the importance of linking people to the land as they then care about it. In this regard he called for a move from “agriculture” to “agribusiness”.
A representative of each of the sessions presented the outcomes of their panel’s discussion. Mr. Luc Gnacadja, Executive Secretary, UNCCD, chaired this session.
Dr. Knut Ehlers
, on behalf of the President, UBA, reported that the round-table session basically focused on three questions:
• Why do we need to set a net degradation target? There is a need to fight climate change, reduce the loss of biodiversity and to stop the vicious cycle of poverty and land degradation in order to reach the MDG 1.
• When is this target reached? Speakers emphasized that the target will be realized when land degradation and land restoration are at least in balance. This calls for a strong set of indicators.
• How can the target be achieved? Most of all a greater effort to transfer readily available knowledge into action is needed.
The discussion made clear that we cannot afford to keep losing 12 million ha of land per year and that reaching the zero net land degradation target is possible.
Reporting on the outcomes of Session 2,Mr Luca Marmo, Environment Directorate-General, European Commission
, summarized the highlights on Global Soil Partnership:
• The role of soil and the global soil partnership: the ambition is to bring together the three Rio Conventions in so far as they relate to soil.
• With regards to soil, we know many actions that work, we just need to implement them to address soil degradation processes that are measurable and ongoing.
• We need to shift our awareness and understanding of soil especially among policy makers and those who see soil as a resource to be exploited.
• We need to address all soils not just biodiversity, soil carbon or drylands. Although this is where the resources are being focused these are not the only places where the problems lie.
Dr Sergio Zelaya, Coordinator, Policy Advocacy on Global and Emerging Issues, UNCCD
, presented the highlights of the last session. He said emphasis was placed on:
• Market-based mechanisms with targets and indicators to identify financing opportunities.
• The need to focus on opportunities for synergies in funding and benefits, including through looking at the economics of land and land degradation and associated opportunities such as job creation.
• The fact that a number of methodologies already exist, for example, TEEB.
• The benefits of focusing on soil functions and the costs of losing such functions.
• An overarching that enhancing soil anywhere enhances life everywhere. There is need for a clear decision from Rio + 20 to move the issue from lip service to concrete commitments and where soil is considered as natural capital that cannot be eroded.
The highlight of the evening programme was the announcement of the Land for Life Award winners. Please visit the Land for Life Award web-page
for the report of the reception.