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Fact Sheet 2: Land Degradation Mitigation and Prevention including Local and Global Environment Benefits The Challenge

and Issues

Population growth and increased demands of urban and rural populations are influencing land use, the status of land and water resources and their potential to sustain the livelihoods and well-being of present and future generations. Global trends and key factors of land use change in terrestrial ecosystems include deforestation and fragmentation of forests, intensification of agriculture and its expansion into marginal areas and fragile ecosystems, as well as urban expansion and infrastructure development. Land degradation seriously affects land resources in many tropical, subtropical and dryland regions of the world, with severe impacts on much of the worlds population whose livelihoods depend on agriculture and land as well as on urban and rural food security. The magnitude of these trends is inducing changes in global systems and cycles that underpin the functioning of ecosystems and represent major environmental threats. Such changes include global warming from the build-up of greenhouse gases and its potential impacts; emissions that cause acid rain and threaten watersheds, as well as disruption of the global nitrogen and carbon cycles through burning of fossil fuels, logging and land degradation and extensive use of chemicals. Processes of land degradation include soil and water erosion, soil compaction, decline in soil biodiversity, organic matter and fertility, salinity and other physical and chemical alterations due to poor drainage and misuse of soils. In many drier and/or hotter areas the associated loss of soil moisture is the trigger to spiralling productivity decline. The resulting loss of productivity, reduced capacity to support animal and plant life and genetic erosion directly affect the food security and welfare of local populations, especially the poor, who rely on diversity to alleviate risk and meet their multiple needs. Impacts include degradation of watersheds and freshwater resources, and increasing vulnerability in regard to food and livelihood security, as well as to natural disasters. Humaninduced land degradation has been assessed at global level through GLASOD (UNEP/FAO 1990) Land degradation affects approximately 70% of the worlds rangelands, 40% of rainfed agricultural lands and 30% of irrigated lands. Salinity affects some 30% of currently irrigated lands. Over 1/4 of the worlds land area is affected by desertification - it is a potential threat to half of the worlds poor people that live in dryland regions with fragile soils and unreliable rain, especially in Africa. Declining soil fertility has a severe impact globally and, in Africa, average yield losses are estimated at 8%, with up to 50% loss of productivity in certain areas. Land degradation affects water resources, reducing water availability and quality and altering the regimes of rivers and streams. Potential impacts include flooding, silting of 1

reservoirs and estuaries, groundwater depletion, salt water intrusion into aquifers, pollution of water and salinization. Unsustainable rates of freshwater use and contamination of water and soils by urban and industrial wastes are increasing problems with environment, food safety and health implications. Land degradation has major impacts on biodiversity through reducing land quality and its capacity to support animal, plant and microbial life and through impacts on natural ecosystems, especially fragile wetlands, montane systems and extensive grazing systems in dryland areas. Many inland water ecosystems and their fishery resources and biodiversity on which large populations rely, are seriously threatened by urban and industrial growth, deforestation, agrochemicals and sediments from runoff. Some 26% of the worlds wetlands have already been lost, due largely to conversion to agriculture or diversion of water for agriculture and aquaculture. Increasing land degradation, desertification and deforestation are caused by poverty, population pressure, unsuitable land use and unsustainable agriculture, grazing and forestry practices, insecure land tenure, lack or misuse of technology, inefficient markets and other institutional, policy and legal factors. Poverty is both a consequence of land degradation and one of the causes. Poor people deplete their resources through lack of capacity and opportunities to meet their daily needs. Efforts to increase production and improve food security and wellbeing, through intensification and new technologies have, in some cases, resulted in negative environmental and health impacts . It has been shown that economic long-term viability of technologies must be guaranteed for land users including small holders as they will only envisage involvement and investments in sustainable land use systems and better land husbandry practices if the resulting benefits will be fully appreciated and internalised. Thus land use options must be viable and socioeconomic benefits must be emphasised in the promotion of good practice (income, equity, livelihood, community cohesion, environmental). In addition, to promoting good practices, satisfactory trade-offs need to be identified between the objectives of farmers and other local resource users and those of the nation. Externalities such as degradation, resource depletion, pollution and health impacts need to be identified and, as appropriate, addressed through supportive trade, financial and fiscal policies in order to encourage local management activities that also contribute to national goals, such as watershed and water resources management and biodiversity conservation.
Progress and Experiences in Preventing & Mitigating Land Degradation

International Processes and National Action Plans : The Convention to Combat

Desertification (CCD) aims to redress land degradation and includes the promotion of ILRPM. Likewise in the implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which is applying the ecosystem approach and hinges on the sustainable use of biodiversity. Sustainable management of ecosystems and natural resources also contribute to targets set by the Framework Convention for Combating Climate Change (UNFCCC) through increasing carbon sequestration and reducing emissions. In addition, the Ramsar Convention is catalysing coordinated efforts to protect and manage wetlands. Through National Action Plans, integrated land resources management options that contribute to these multiple objectives, are being identified and developed for a range of environmental and socioeconomic contexts. The Global Environment Facility has a large portfolio of programmes that it supports to address land degradation Freshwater management is recognised as an increasingly important aspect of land resources planning and has led to significant improvement in water quality in rivers and lakes in many countries through improved management, catchment protection and waste water

treatment. Several key watersheds have been designated as nature and biosphere reserves and areas of high sensitivity due to their fragility. Efforts include helping people to learn to live with drought and to make efficient use of water for rainfed and irrigated agriculture. Management systems developed by local and indigenous people through long term experience provide valuable lessons Country Experiences: There are many good experiences of preventing and mitigating degradation through concerted efforts and adapted land management systems and technologies that contribute to human health, land productivity and the protection of land resources. Some arable and grazing lands affected by drought, desertification and overexploitation have regenerated through natural processes over long periods of protection. Others have been rehabilitated and the natural resources restored to productive use through investment and focused efforts by local people, governments and other partners. Several countries are creating new protected areas , sometimes by converting suitable areas into national parks and reserves and encouraging their use for tourism and leisure. Some countries are cooperating in common structures or with inter-state agreements for the conservation and management of transboundary resources (as in the Aral Sea agreements, the Alps-Adriatic and the Danube Region Community Programme, Nile and Mekong River Basin Agreements and programmes). Monitoring and Valuation. Many countries have identified resources that need protection and may have relevant conservation laws and programmes, but few of them (EU, Thailand, Slovenia...) have established indicators and tools for monitoring and effective conservation of land and natural resources. Efforts are being made to value the impact of soil erosion and to appraise investments in soil conservation technologies; however, this is complex because of upstream-downstream and inter-generational issues. Some case studies have valued soil erosion through estimates of lost production and related costs to landowners and users, costs of the depleted resource (i.e. fertiliser costs to replace lost nutrients) and labour inputs. These show that many soil conservation measures are not viable, as they are too labour intensive and/or too costly for farmers. Thus associated benefits need to be identified, for example grass strips for conservation that also provide fodder for livestock. If any new land use measures are introduced it is important to ensure markets for the related inputs and outputs. Financial incentives such as subsidies, tax relief and other support measures may be needed to restore depleted natural resources and to enhance ecosystem services that benefit a wider community than the direct resource users Field projects and programmes, implemented by national institutions and supported by UN agencies, the CGIAR and NGOs, are using participatory and ecosystem approaches to address the interlinked problems of poverty alleviation, food security and environment in areas vulnerable to land degradation. However, the number and size of internationally supported projects has been reduced considerably due to the fall in international development assistance and diversion of resources to other activities. Ecoregional and ecosystem-based approaches of sustainable land use, that integrate biophysical and socio-economic factors, are being developed with local populations to assist in analysis of land use problems, guide natural resources management, identify research priorities, and to select, develop and disseminate technologies best adapted to local conditions. More attention is being paid to interactions among physical and biological resources and human management issues and to the ecological functions that characterise a stable and balanced ecosystem, such as nutrient and carbon cycling and the hydrological cycle.


and Regional integrated land resources management programmes in mountain areas, arid, and wetland ecologies, coastal zones and other vulnerable areas, are being implemented that include biodiversity conservation, sustainable agriculture, environmental rehabilitation and agro-tourism opportunities. Such actions build on the UNESCO World Network Biosphere Reserves (currently 357 in 90 countries) supported by the Man and Biosphere Programme.

Land Husbandry approaches and integrated plant nutrient management systems

(IPNS) are rapidly replacing outdated concepts of soil and water conservation that relied erroneously on minimising runoff without addressing the productivity and vitality of the land. They include conservation agriculture systems introduced, adapted and used by millions of farmers on tens of thousands of hectares in diverse country conditions. Such approaches enhance soil fertility, soil moisture retention and the activities of soil biota through the recycling of the nutrients and restoration of organic matter and biomass to replace those removed in arable, grassland and forestry production systems. The resulting balanced agroecological systems are more productive over the long term and more resilient to land degradation and natural disasters. Networking among scientists, technicians and resource users on thematic issues has proven extremely successful in identifying and promoting sustainable land use and management systems and best agricultural, grazing and forestry practices through case studies, information sharing and south-south cooperation. Information about legislation, good practices and incentive measures need to be readily available at all levels, through adequate support measures (technicians, leaders, brochures, films and handbooks in appropriate language and format, capacity building, discussion forums...).
Further International Cooperation

The above programmes and actions need to be further strengthened, and the following issues also addressed: Guidelines, a core set of indicators and systematic monitoring of land degradation and rehabilitation are required, to provide more precise information than that provided by GLASOD. Country and regional efforts should focus initially on identifying and targeting critical and fragile ecosystems and hot spots of land use pressures and actual/potential degradation (mountain areas, arid zones, upland forests, tourist areas and marginal agricultural land...), to assess the degree and rate of degradation, risk of further degradation, and options and costs of mitigating degradation and rehabilitation. Integrated land resources information systems should include appropriate technologies on land degradation and soil conservation measures and information tools should be userfriendly and widely accessible to all stakeholders. Early warning systems and appropriate land use systems and technologies are required to help countries to mitigate the impact of natural disasters. (floods, droughts and storms).

Capacity Building Programmes and Networking for farmers/resource users, technicians and policy makers on integrated land use systems and technologies need. Enhancement measures are important prerequisite for sustainable land management, increasing agricultural production and food security, conservation of biodiversity and preventing natural disasters. Incentives may be necessary, at least in the first steps, to facilitate the choice and adoption, by landowners and users, of sustainable, integrated land resources management systems and practices. Such incentives can be financial (as in Europe, USA), or technical through multiplying pilot projects, strengthening international cooperation for information exchange, capacity building and technology transfer. Incentives can also be provided by market opportunities, as in Ecuador, where access to the international markets has obliged farmers to take into account the environmental and sanitary quality of their production. Removal of disincentives is also essential such as those that subsidise increased production.