REHOBOTH, 29 JUN – Careless use of land worldwide is threatening food and water supply, biodiversity and human security, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Deputy Resident Representative in Namibia, Izumi Morota-Alakija said on Wednesday.
Land is being used as if it were an unlimited resource, Morota-Alakija said during the belated commemoration of World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought at Rehoboth.
“Short-sighted economic gains such as urban sprawl, unsustainable agriculture and over-consumption lead to unsustainable land use, which eventually causes degradation and loss of critical ecosystem services. Despite these challenges, the United Nations strongly believes that jointly as consumers, producers, corporations, or government, desertification and drought can be tackled,” she said.
Morota-Alakija said it is possible to turn land degradation into land restoration.
“Healthy and productive land can bring not only environmental, but also significant economic, achievements,” she said.
Morota-Alakija noted that the UN’s Sustainable Development Agenda prioritises people, planet and prosperity.
“Sustainable Development Goal 13 calls for the strengthening of resilience to climate change and SDG 15 speaks to combating desertification, halting and reversing land degradation and halting biodiversity loss,” she noted.
She said education and capacity building on these issues are therefore needed and would have to be integrated into national planning and policies, with early warning systems strengthened if desertification and climate change are to be addressed.
“The world is radically affected by climate change and soil is the second largest carbon storage next to the oceans. Soil carbon accounts for one third of global carbon stock. The ongoing degradation of land reduces the soil’s capacity and carbon stock, desertification and drought are of particular concern on the African continent.”
According to Morota-Alakija, soil degradation not only affects the environment, but also food consumption and security.
“Twelve million hectares of soil are lost each year through desertification and drought alone, whereas 20 million tonnes of grain could have grown instead,” she said.
UNDP statistics show that Namibia has experienced four consecutive years of below-normal rainfall, with the 2015/16 season described as one of the worst seasons in decades.