Bonn, 7 October 2022 – The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) welcomes a major step taken by India in using the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) to fund work to reverse land degradation in all its states.
“India’s announcement to mobilize its massive social security scheme to fund land restoration is an extremely positive development which could be a game-changer not just for India but for other nations. It is also a major boost to the G20 Global Initiative on land restoration, just ahead of India’s G20 Presidency. UNCCD hopes to work with the Government of India to promote this initiative as an international best practice,” said UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw.
MGNREGS is one of the largest social security schemes in the world that aims to guarantee the right to work. Passed in 2005, this labour law aims to enhance livelihood security in rural areas by providing at least 100 days of wage employment in a financial year to at least one member of every household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work.
In a recent advisory, the Government of India urged state governments to use MGNREGS for activities such as ridge area treatment, drainage line treatment, soil and moisture conservation, rainwater harvesting, nursery raising, afforestation, horticulture and pasture development.
Mobilizing social security funds for land restoration provides both short-term and long-term benefits to the community, improving livelihoods and creating decent land-based jobs.
At least 30% of India’s total land area is considered degraded, according to the Desertification and Land Degradation Atlas of India, with several states exceeding 50% of their land undergoing desertification and degradation.
In 2019, the Government of India raised its land restoration target from 21 million hectares to 26 million hectares by 2030, following a commitment made by the country’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the UNCCD COP14.
The new initiative to use MGNREGS, which has an annual budget of USD 9 billion, in tandem with ongoing land restoration efforts is expected to significantly scale up land area to be restored across India thus generating income for communities.
The G20 Global Initiative on Reducing Land Degradation and Enhancing Conservation of Terrestrial Habitats, launched during the Saudi Arabia Presidency of the G20 in 2020, is aimed at promoting international best practices on land restoration and habitat conservation. The ambition of this Global Initiative is to prevent, halt and reverse land degradation and reduce degraded land by 50% by 2040. India will take on Presidency of the G20 in December 2022.
Photo: Familial Forestry Initiative led by Professor ShyamSunder Jyani
For more information, please contact:
Dr Muralee Thummarukudy, Director, G20 Global Initiative Coordination Office, G20ICO [at] unccd.int (G20ICOatunccddotint)
For media-related inquiries, please contact the UNCCD Press Office, press [at] unccd.int (pressatunccddotint)