Land degradation is the result of human-induced actions which exploit land, causing its utility, biodiversity, soil fertility, and overall health to decline.
Land is being degraded rapidly worldwide. Ensuring food security for a growing global population requires healthy land resources and flourishing ecosystems. Yet our current agricultural practices are causing soils worldwide to be eroded up to 100 times faster than natural processes replenish them.
We have already altered 70 percent of all ice-free land, impacting over 3.2 billion people. At current rates, 90 percent of land will bear our imprint by 2050. The impacts of land degradation will be felt by most of the world’s population. Land degradation also changes and disrupts rainfall patterns, exacerbates extreme weather like droughts or floods, and drives further climate change. It results in social and political instability, which drives poverty, conflict, and migration.
The UNCCD’s goal of land degradation neutrality (LDN) can halt, and then reverse, this alarming picture of the future. We are already helping 129 of the world’s 196 countries that have pledged (or are aiming) to arrest land degradation by 2030. More than 100 countries participate in the Changwon Initiative, which supports national voluntary target setting processes to achieve land degradation neutrality (LDN). We define LDN as “a state whereby the amount and quality of land resources necessary to support ecosystem functions and services to enhance food security remain stable, or increase, within specified temporal and spatial scales and ecosystems.”
Achieving LDN requires three concurrent actions:
- firstly, avoiding new degradation of land by maintaining existing healthy land;
- secondly, reducing existing degradation by adopting sustainable land management practices that can slow degradation while increasing biodiversity, soil health, and food production; and
- thirdly, ramping up efforts to restore and return degraded lands to a natural or more productive state.
The UNCCD’s objectives for LDN include:
- maintaining or improving the sustainable delivery of ecosystem services
- maintaining or improving land productivity to enhance global food security
- Increasing the resilience of land and the populations dependent on it
- seeking synergies with other social, economic, and environmental objectives
- reinforcing and promoting responsible and inclusive land governance