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FAO demands new approach to combat 2bn ha land degradation globally

The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) has called for new approach to stop soil loss as a way to combat more than two billion hectares (ha) of once productive land  now being degraded globally.

Qu Dongyu
Director-General of FAO, Qu Dongyu

Director-General of FAO, Qu Dongyu, said on Thursday, June 18, 2020 in Rome, while speaking at Recarbonisation of Global Soils (RECSOIL), a virtual event convened by FAO as part of activities to mark the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought.

The World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought is a UN observance on June 17 annually to raise awareness of the presence of desertification and drought, highlighting methods of preventing desertification and recovering from drought.

He said this at the event with the theme: “Food.Feed.Fibre. Sustainable consumption and production” to mark the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought 2020.

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“A new approach is needed to combat soil degradation, desertification and drought; if we are to meet the growing demand for food to feed the world’s population,’’ the D-G said.

Dongyu said that agricultural production, food transportation, distribution and trade were facing new challenges, particularly with the COVID-19 pandemic, and urgent action was needed to stop land and soil damage and decline.

He warned that business as usual was not an option rather new approaches for land use to increase productivity while avoiding soil degradation, pollution, protecting ecosystems and biodiversity were much needed.

He noted that as demand increased for food, animal feed and fibre for paper, energy, clothing, and other uses, the health and productivity of existing arable land was declining and greatly worsened by climate change.

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“More than two billion hectares of previously productive land is now degraded and drought and water scarcity have amplified the problem.

“Up to 44 per cent of the world’s cultivated systems lands are in drylands, and dryland areas are home to 30 per cent of the global population, spanning more than 100 countries,’’ he said.

Dongyu disclosed that FAO and its Global Soil Partnership have established RECSOIL, an initiative to support farmers to incentivise sustainable soil management and enhance soil organic carbon stocks.

“Recarbonised soils can be a climate solution as healthy soils are essential to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and building resilience to climate change by maintaining or increasing their carbon content.

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“FAO is also preparing a specific programme on drylands and water scarcity to prevent soil erosion and promote sustainable soil and rangeland management as well as crop diversification,’’ he said.

He stressed the necessity of supporting farmers through the provision of innovative tools as well as financial incentives to implement best practices.

Dongyu said that the upcoming International Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021 to 2030 that will be co-led by FAO and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), would provide a vehicle to accelerate action aimed at restoring the world ecosystems and sustainably providing goods and services from natural resources.

By Hawa Lawal

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