Land-degradation neutral world is an aspirational goal, which was agreed at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in June 2012. To achieve this goal, land degradation should be avoided and for every hectare of degraded land a hectare of land should be restored preferably in the same ecosystem and landscape. A land-degradation neutral world is a prerequisite for assuring water, food and energy security, alleviating poverty and mitigating climate change.
At the Rio+20 Conference, world leaders recognized land degradation, desertification and drought as serious global challenges, impeding sustainable development globally and committed to “strive to achieve a land-degradation neutral world”. They also reaffirmed their resolve under the UNCCD to take coordinated action nationally, regionally and internationally, to monitor land degradation globally and further develop and implement scientifically based and socially inclusive indicators for monitoring and assessing the extent of desertification, land degradation and drought.
Over past decades land degradation accelerated over 36 times its historical rate, leading to poverty and hunger, climate change related shocks and loss of biodiversity. Due to the prevailing paradigm of "Degrade - Abandon - Migrate" today millions of square kilometers in the world bear the legacy of man-made barren lands.
At the Rio+20 last June, world leaders recognized the need for urgent action to reverse land degradation and agreed to "strive to achieve a land-degradation neutral world in the context of sustainable development". It is a call for a paradigm shift at all levels. Avoiding land degradation and restoring degraded land is a prerequisite for achieving food, water and energy security.
We have to make sure that this aspirational goal does not stay on the paper, but is operationalized into attainable targets. We need to learn from the MDG lessons and make sure that land preservation and restoration takes its deserved place in the post2015 global development agenda. I encourage governments, scientists, civil society and every single individual to join our call for a land-degradation neutral world. Luc Gnacadja, UNCCD Executive Secretary.
"The growing global population is increasing demand for food at a time when land availability and fertility is declining. Yet, there is little attention to land degradation and no global consensus on how to reverse this problem. To achieve global sustainable development, we must ensure that restoration of land equals or exceeds degradation: in other words we need "land degradation neutrality". Knowledge is not a barrier - abundant examples of community sustainable land management and land restoration are already out there. To go to scale we need governments to acknowledge the urgency of land degradation and place greater emphasis on ecologically-sensitive land management strategies." Jonathan Davies, Global Drylands Initiative Coordinator, IUCN.
The aspired land degradation neutrality at the global scale will be attained by a concerted effort to attain zero net land degradation at the local, national and regional scales. The pre-requisite for this is awareness of land users that their practices are degrading land productivity and awareness of land owners, whose land already lost its productivity and requires restoration investments.
Once awareness is there and practices for arresting ongoing degradation are used and measures of restoration of already degraded land are taken, it will be necessary to monitor and evaluate the effect of these practices. These are challenges for the scientific community and for land users, which should and can be met, thus leading the way for making the required decisions, policies, investments and actions that would make a land-degradation neutral world a tangible reality. Prof. Uriel Safriel, Ben-Gurion University, Israel.