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World Day to Combat Desertification 2016
This year, the world comes together to celebrate this day under the theme of “Protect Earth. Restore land. Engage people”.
Desertification, land degradation, drought and #climatechange are interconnected. As a result of land degradation and #climatechange, the severity and frequency of droughts have been increasing, along with floods and extreme temperatures. More than 50 per cent of agricultural land is moderately or severely degraded, with 12 million hectares lost to production each year.
Every June 17th, the global community celebrates World Day to Combat Desertification  (WDCD). In his annual message to mark the day, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki- Moon urged all actors to work together. “Without a long-term solution, desertification and land degradation will not only affect food supply but lead to increased migration and threaten the stability of many nations and regions. This is why world leaders made land degradation neutrality one of the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals. That means rehabilitating at least 12 million hectares of degraded land a year,” he said.
Last year, 193 countries pledged to strive to become land degradation neutral by 2030. This means that if one hectare of land is degraded, we should try to restore back to health an equal amount of degraded land.
“Ninety countries have already signed up to the challenge and are setting their national targets. This is admirable. But it is not enough when at least 169 countries are affected by land degradation or drought, and all countries are indirectly impacted by them,” said UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) Executive Secretary Monique Barbut. “Actions to avoid, halt and reverse land degradation must begin now with everyone fully engaged. The prospect of a land degradation neutral world grows dimmer if we procrastinate. But it shines brighter each time a person or country joins the campaign to restore degraded land or the battle against the degradation of new land.”
Addressing the UNCCD COP12 in Ankara, Turkey, last year, the GEF CEO Naoko Ishii announced a contribution of USD 3 million for countries to support their target setting under the Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) concept. Using set-aside resources of the 6th replenishment allocations for the Land Degradation Focal Area (LDFA), this enabling activity should enhance capacity of recipient countries to speed up target setting in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.
What are the common points between smallholder farmers from India, Mali, and Fiji?
They all depend on the quality of their land for production, livelihood, food security, and income generation. There are some 500 million smallholder farms worldwide and more than 2 billion people depend on them for their livelihoods. These small farms produce about 80 per cent of the food consumed in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Land degradation affects 1.5 billion people
globally and arable land loss is estimated at 30 to 35 times the historical rates. 74% of the poor are directly affected by land degradation. From each individual farmer experience, we have to connect the efforts to obtain results at scale.
The GEF is a financial mechanism for the UNCCD  and has Land Degradation as one of its focal areas , working around the world to combat desertification and deforestation. In this regard, the GEF supports countries with projects, programs, and pilot approaches to permanently scale up their efforts. “India has partnered with the GEF to promote sustainable land and ecosystem management based practices. About 69% of India is dryland and it is imperative to address issues related to land degradation” said Mr. Arun Kumar Mehta, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forest and #climatechange, Government of India. Another example comes from Mali, where the GEF CEO, Naoko Ishii, recently approved a GEF project to scale up and replicate Successful Sustainable Land Management and Agroforestry Practices in the Koulikoro Region.
In GEF6, the GEF launched an Integrated Approach Pilot to foster #sustainability and resilience of agroecosystems for food security in Sub-Saharan Africa (GEF $106 million; cofinancing $1 billion). This program works with twelve countries to safeguard and maintain agro-ecosystem services for the benefit of smallholder agriculture and food value chains. “The design of the IAP corresponds to the vision I wish for the GEF to catalyze partnerships and work at scale on global environmental problems,” says Naoko Ishii.
The GEF has invested close to $1 billion in projects on sustainable land management, and has leveraged more than $4 billion in co-financing for dryland regions in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and North Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
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