Deputy Minister Thomson calls for sustainable land use practices as South Africa celebrates World Day to Combat Desertification (WDCD)

17 June 2018

On the occasion of the celebration of the World Day to Combat Desertification, the Deputy Minister of Environmental Affairs, Ms Barbara Thomson has urged South Africans to move away from unsustainable land use practices and make a difference by investing in the future of land.

Land is often being used as infinite resource and ignoring its role in our everyday lives. This negligence threatens food and water supply, biodiversity and even human security itself. Short-sighted economic gains such as land grabbing, unplanned urban sprawl, unsustainable agriculture and over-consumption lead to unsustainable land use, which eventually causes degradation and loss of critical ecosystem services. As a result, consumption of the Earth´s natural reserves has doubled in the last 30 years, with a third of the planet´s land already severely degraded. This simply means that, the choices we made today about the land will determine future developments for sustainable growth while a wise investment in land will supports our future.

The World Day to Combat Desertification is celebrated annually on the 17th of June. The day is aimed at promoting public awareness on issues related to Desertification, Land Degradation and the effects of Drought (DLDD). The WDCD is a unique occasion to remind everyone that DLDD can be effectively tackled and solutions are possible to mitigate the impacts.

This year, the 2018 WDCD will be celebrated under the theme “Land has true Value, Invest in it”. This theme calls upon producers, consumers, communities and policy makers amongst others to utilise land in a sustainable manner while acknowledging its role in our everyday lives. The 2018 WDCD is a day that focuses on raising public awareness on the importance of investing on land, its benefits and the role it plays in our livelihoods as well as reminding the world that land is a tangible asset with measurable value beyond just cash.

Addressing Parliament recently during the Department of Environmental Affairs’ Budget Vote Speech, Deputy Minister Thomson reiterated the country’s commitment to meeting our goals for Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) as agreed by parties to the United Nations to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)

“Through the LDN targets, South Africa aims to achieve a balance between anticipated land degradation (losses) and planned positive actions (gains), in order to achieve, at least, a position of no net loss of healthy and productive land while Neutrality is the minimum objective,” added the Deputy Minister.

It will require an integrated landscape approach which will contribute to food security, water security and maintenance of carbon sinks.

We will therefore work with our scientific institutions and partners to clarify the links between land degradation and migration versus land degradation and instability/security.

“Equally important is our preparedness to confirm the goal on land degradation neutrality in relation to other Sustainable Development Goals on water, food and poverty,” reiterated the Deputy Minister.

The Economics of Land Degradation report which was launched in 2015 indicates that, the annual loss of 75 billion tons of soil from arable land will cost USD 400 billion per year globally while taking action against soil erosion over 105 million hectares will save up to USD 62.4 billion in net present value over the next 15 years. Enhancing carbon stocks through agricultural soils alone can create potential value on the carbon market from USD 96-480 billion annually. Healthy and productive land can bring not only environmental and social solutions, but also significant economic gains.

Sustainable Land Management (SLM) practices, measures or initiatives is a wise investment for economic growth that does not compromise resilient livelihoods. It is also a key to safeguarding and managing the quality of the land by balancing its biological and economic potential. Moreover, land plays a vital role in linking multiple Sustainable Development Goals by harnessing synergies while minimizing potential conflicts and trade-offs. SLM can give tremendous momentum to positive change.

Key messages for the 2018 WDCD event include the following amongst others:

  • Policy makers and land managers should support bio-economy by investing in new and traditional Sustainable Land Management technologies and processes;
  • Farmers should be encouraged to invest in smart agriculture that leads to higher yields and a reduction in inputs;
  • Consumers should spend their money on organic and fairly traded products to avoid land degradation;
  • Changes in behaviour and adoption of more efficient planning and practices can provide us with sufficient land resources and sustainable livelihoods; and
  • Call for the inclusion of land and soil and their significance in food security into national climate change adaptation policies.

By safeguarding life on land, we deliver for all life on Earth and this is the true value of land.

Drought is another major phenomenon that affects South Africa as seen recently in the Western Cape, Northern Cape and Kwa-Zulu Natal provinces. The department is part of the Inter-Ministerial Task Team on drought chaired by Cogta, to ensure that the environmental sector is part of the response measures to this important challenge.

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