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UN chief raises urgency for neutralizing land degradation

By Catherine J. Teves

MANILA, June 17 (PNA) — UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon warned against further land degradation worldwide, noting this problem can fuel up to 12 percent reduction in global food productivity and raise international food prices by as much as 30 percent.

"I urge cooperation among all sectors to help achieve land degradation neutrality as part of a broader effort to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and build a future of dignity and opportunity for all," he said in his message for this year's World Day to Combat Desertification (WDCD) which countries observe annually on June 17.

Desertification is dryland ecosystems' persistent degradation due to climate change and human activities like unsustainable farming, mining, over-grazing and land clear-cutting.

"Some 50 million people may be displaced within the next 10 years as a result of desertification," UN warned.

Mr. Ban raised urgency to rehabilitate at least 12 million hectares of degraded land annually as he said latest available data show more than 50 percent of the world's agricultural land is already either moderately or severely degraded.

UN also reported estimated pace of arable land degradation at present is already about 30 to 35 times the historical rate.

Such extent of degradation is jeopardizing livelihood andwell-being of millions, Mr. Ban noted.

"Without a long-term solution, desertification and land degradation will not only affect food supply but lead to increased migration and threaten stability of many nations and regions," he said.

Land degradation, declining soil fertility, unsustainable water use, biodiversity loss and drought already collectively resulted in nearly 800 people being chronically undernourished, he continued.

Experts consider desertification as among the worst environmental challenges at present.

Aside from threatening sustainable development, they saiddesertification has adverse implications for biodiversity, eco-safety, poverty alleviation, socio-economic stability.

"Protect Earth. Restore land. Engage people" is WDCD 2016's theme.

"This year's WDCD advocates importance of inclusive cooperation to restore and rehabilitate degraded land and contribute towards achieving the overall SDGs," said UN.

Adopted by the international community last year as part of UN's sustainable development agenda, SDGs comprise the set of goals countries must meet over a 15-year period to end poverty, protect Earth and ensure prosperity for all.

Mr. Ban noted land degradation neutrality is among SDGs' targets.

"One important approach is sustainable climate-smart agriculture," he also said.

He said studies show such kind of agriculture will help promote food security and can generate by 2050 some 200 million jobs across the entire food production system.

Sustainable agriculture can also help build communities' resilience to climate change and sequester carbon from the atmosphere then deposit this to the soil, he added.

In 1994, UN General Assembly declared June 17 as WDCD to better promote public awareness and action on desertification and its adverse impacts.

Countries first observed the annual WDCD in 1995. (PNA)

LGI/CJT/PJN

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