Let’s up Lift Efforts to Restore Our Pacific Lands as We Mark Desertification and Drought Day

Degraded land in Labasa, Fiji

By Jamie Kemsey and Jalesi Mateboto
SUVA, Fiji, Jun 17 2021 (IPS-Partners)

As the UN and communities worldwide mark Desertification and Drought Day, the Pacific Community’s Land Resources Division (LRD) is strengthening its support for the sustainable restoration and management of Pacific countries’ landscapes, keeping in line with this year’s theme “turning degraded land into healthy land”.

This year’s Desertification and Drought Day takes on increasing significance as the region and countries worldwide recover from COVID-19. The goal is to demonstrate that investing in healthy land as part of a green recovery is a smart economic decision – not just in terms of creating jobs and rebuilding livelihoods, but also for insulating economies against future crises caused by health pandemics such as COVID-19, as well as climate change and nature loss. Healthy land initiatives can act to accelerate progress on all 17 Sustainable Development Goals as well.

In the Pacific, Desertification Day is an opportunity to promote awareness on efforts to tackle land degradation. We must remind everyone that reversing land degradation is achievable. It will require landscape approaches that recognise the importance of sustainable systems and practices, community engagement and the participation and cooperation of all those that work the land and depend on it for ecosystem services such as food, medicine and climate regulation.

Soil erosion and sedimentation are major problems in the Pacific. The steep land topography on most islands, in addition to highly erosive rainfall, contribute to high natural erosion rates. The past 30-50 years have seen substantial areas of sloping land converted to agricultural production. This extension of agriculture, as well as increased logging of rainforests, has caused considerable erosion.

The effects of this erosion are destructive, including land degradation and decreased productivity, sediment deposition in rivers with a subsequent increase in flooding, and damage to coastal ecosystems by transported sediment. The land tenure system, increasing demands for cash income, and the lack of awareness and commitment to protection and conservation contribute to the continuing problems of soil erosion and sedimentation.

The Land Resources Division, in collaboration with development partners including the Australian Centre for International Agriculture Research (ACIAR), the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), German International Co-operation (GIZ), European Union (EU), Land Care NZ and Land care Australia, Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT), has worked with other regional organisations such as the University of the South Pacific’s (USP) Institute of Applied Sciences (IAS), the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) to assist member countries and territories to restore their landscapes. LRD provides support through technical expertise and research assistance in the agriculture, livestock and forestry sectors.

As LRD advances its focus on this year’s Desertification and Drought Day theme, we should keep in mind the statement from the UN Convention to Combat Desertification that success in this arena will bring economic resilience, create jobs, raise incomes, and increase food security. It will also help biodiversity to recover and lock away atmospheric carbon warming the Earth, slowing climate change.

In launching the 2021 theme, UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw said “Land restoration can contribute greatly to post-COVID19 economic recovery. Investing in land restoration creates jobs and generates economic benefits and could provide livelihoods at a time when hundreds of millions of jobs are being lost.” Desertification and Drought Day is important for the Pacific as well, as land restoration is essential to building thriving societies for all in the region. Let’s increase our respect and stewardship for our amazing, yet fragile, land. It is the key to our future.

Jamie Kemsey, Information Communications and Knowledge Management Adviser, Land Resources Division (LRD) at SPC

Jalesi Mateboto, Natural Resource Management Adviser, Land Resources Division (LRD), SPC

Source: The Pacific Community (SPC)

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