Organic Agriculture Key to Combat Land Degradation
By Devinder Kumar
NEW DELHI (IDN) – In 2018, the first 100% organic state in the world, Sikkim in the North of India, received the Gold Award of the UN backed Future Policy Award, also known as ‘Oscar’ for best policies. The policy enhances soil fertility and increases biodiversity at field and landscape level. Further states in India and the Himalayas have adopted 100% organic farming goals or aim to adopt them.
A side event on September 6 during the 14th Conference of Parties (COP14) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) – UNCCD COP14 –in New Delhi highlighted innovative policies from India and the Himalayas, which help achieve the land degradation neutrality target and improve the living conditions of people affected by desertification, land degradation and drought. The session also launched the study “The Mainstreaming of Organic Agriculture and Agroecology in the Himalaya Region. Policy Contexts in Bhutan, India and Nepal”.
“The transition to sustainable food and agriculture systems is critical for a sustainable future. Both Sikkim and Bhutan show with their 100% organic goals that such a transition is possible. UNCCD is proud to showcase, along with the World Future Council and IFOAM – Organics International, their leadership and political will towards achieving land degradation neutrality. We can learn many lessons from their exemplary actions on policy making,” said UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw.
“By scaling up organic agriculture and agroecology, it is possible to tackle malnutrition, social injustice, climate change, and loss of biodiversity. Through effective, holistic policymaking, we can transform our food systems so that they respect people and the planet,” said Alexandra Wandel, Executive Director of the World Future Council.
Sikkim proves that it is feasible – and how. Sikkim, Bhutan and other Himalayan states are part of a growing movement pursuing organic farming and agroecology as an effective pathway for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and delivery on the entire 2030 Agenda, Wandel said. “They show that achieving land degradation neutrality is no longer a pipe dream but can become reality,” she added.
Louise Luttikholt, Executive Director, IFOAM – Organics International said: “The Indian state of Sikkim was chosen for the Future Policy Gold Award 2018, because it is the first state in the world to become fully organic. It set an ambitious vision and achieved it, reaching far beyond organic farming production and proving to be truly transformational for the state and its citizens. Sikkim sets an excellent example of how other Indian states and countries worldwide can successfully upscale agroecology.”
The importance of combating desertification and its consequences is underlined by the fact that families and communities are breaking up, losing their homes and sources of livelihoods, often from single instances of droughts, flashfloods and forest fires.
These negative impacts of unpredictable and extreme climatic conditions are now recurrent, more frequent and intense in many parts of the world. Today, over a million species are on the verge of extinction, threatening global food security, largely due to habitat loss and land degradation.
Three out of every 4 hectares of land have been altered from their natural states and the productivity of about 1 in every 4 hectares of land is declining. Poor land health is on the rise, and is impacting 3.2 billion people all over the world. Land degradation working in tandem with climate change and biodiversity loss may force up to 700 million people to migrate by 2050.
It was against this backdrop that over 3,000 participants from all over the world are participating in COP14 that concludes on September 13. The Parties to the Convention will agree on the actions each will take over the next two years and beyond to get us on a sustainable development path.
Ministers from 196 countries, scientists and representatives of national and local governments, non-governmental organizations, city leaders, the private sector, industry experts, women, youth, journalists, faith and community groups will share their expertise, and agree on the most viable solutions. New actions will be guided by an assessment of the outcomes of the decisions they took two years ago.
Contributing to the objectives of UNCCD COP14, the event showcased, in particular, innovative policies that support the much needed transformation of food systems in India and the Himalayas, and thereby help achieve the land degradation neutrality target and improve the living conditions of people affected by desertification. [IDN-InDepthNews – 07 September 2019]
Strong nexus between land use and drought: UNCCD report
By Shagun Kapil
There is a strong nexus between land use and drought and the management of both, land and drought, need to be fundamentally linked, a technical report published by the Science-Policy Interface of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), has said on September 4, 2019.
Stressing that an improved understanding of the relationship between land-based interventions and drought mitigation is urgently needed, the report proposed strengthening interlinkages between national land and national drought policies and even considering changing the policies to reflect the influence of land use and management and land degradation on water availability and scarcity. It also suggested that the government departments dedicated to drought management integrate land use change and land degradation as factors in drought and drought-risk management practices. “Investing into interventions that seek to simultaneously address both has high economic, social, and environmental returns,” it said.
The report also said there was a connection of the land-drought nexus to human activities which impacted water scarcity and stressed that policies needed to ensure that the “human factor” embodied in the land and water use decisions was integrated in drought-risk management programmes. “Management of both land and drought is fundamentally connected through water use and the significant capacity of human decisions in land and water management to alter, either positively or negatively, the resilience of communities and ecosystems,” it said.
The report recognised that there was no universally accepted definition of drought, which was one of the five ‘Strategic Objectives’ of the UNCCD for 2018-2030 and introduced the concept of ‘drought-smart land management’ (D-SLM) within the broader group of SLM (sustainable land management)-based interventions which are categorised under four major land use types — croplands, grazing lands, forests, and woodlands.
D-SLM practices such as understanding the socio-ecological system defining the landscape, geospatial analysis by allowing the monitoring and mapping of land surfaces including water bodies, and effective mobilisation of financial resources, etc will work as a framework for designing and implementing scientifically sound drought management and mitigation programmes.
Urbanisation to cause huge loss of prime farmland: UNCCD
By Shagun Kapil
Urbanisation is projected to cause the loss of between 1.6 and 3.3 million hectares of prime agricultural land per year in the period between 2000 and 2030, an upcoming report by the United Nations Convention to combat Desertification (UNCCD) has said.
The share of the global population expected to live in cities projected to grow by around 2.5 billion people by 2050. Such growth often results in urban sprawl, with built-in land spilling over in some cases onto fertile soils and farmland, resulting in a permanent loss of arable land, the soon-to-be released Global Land Outlook report said. The impact of these losses is more acute as expansion takes place on prime agricultural lands.
In 2000, a projected 30 million hectares of croplands globally were located in areas that are expected to be urbanised by 2030, representing in a total cropland loss of around two per cent, out of which Asia and Africa are projected to experience 80 per cent of the global cropland loss due to urban area expansion, the report said. The loss of these valuable croplands translates into a six per cent production loss in Asia and a nine per cent drop in Africa.
“Human settlements have historically developed in the most fertile areas, and on accessible lands. Their growing size is beginning to significantly displace fertile agricultural land. In one region of China, more than 70 per cent of the increase in urban land took place on previously cultivated land,” the report said. In that scenario, agriculture is then often then displaced to other, sometimes less productive locations.
According to the report, in 2014, 28 megacities were home to 453 million people; by 2030, 13 new megacities are expected to emerge in the less-developed regions.
It cautions that urbanisation will lead to an increase in global urban land cover in biodiversity hotspots by over 200 per cent between 2000 and 2030. “In total, the habitats of 139 amphibian species, 41 mammalian species, and 25 bird species that are on either the Critically Endangered or Endangered Lists of International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) could either be encroached on or devastated as a result of urbanisation,” it said.
The biodiversity loss due to expansion of urban land calculated by the report points out that large scale urbanisation in Eastern Afromontane, the Guinean Forests of West Africa, and the Western Ghats and Sri Lanka hotspots could, by 2030, increase urban areas by approximately 1,900 per cent, 920 per cent, and 900 per cent respectively over their 2000 levels.
Moreover, as far as water use is concerned, the demand for water is projected to outgrow extraction capacity by 40 per cent by 2030, and by 2050, up to one billion urban dwellers could experience water shortages.