Germany promotes sustainable land management, from the ground up
Extreme meteorological events are reported on regularly by major news outlets – from devastation caused by landslides on slopes unable to support human settlements, to widespread starvation caused by unprecedented flooding. What does not make headlines is the slow creeping of land degradation which leads to such tragedies and threatens global food security and rural livelihoods.
In an increasingly crowded world, not enough has been done to plan and manage the use of natural resources. Land degradation has accelerated over 36 times its historical rate after decades of underinvestment even though the cost of global land degradation is about US$490 billion per year, much higher than the cost of action to prevent it.
Germany has taken a much needed leadership role in raising awareness about the importance of halting land degradation, as demonstrated by their strategic investments and the hosting of annual conferences on the issue.
Dedicated to confronting this issue, GIZ, with oversight from BMZ, has contributed 1.2 million euro to the ‘AGORA: Acting Together Now for Pro-poor Strategies against Soil and Land Degradation’ project, led by CIAT in partnership with local institutions and the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS).
“It is not a matter of expecting the unexpected. We know that land degradation is happening here and now,” said CIAT soils program director Deborah Bossio. “Land degradation wipes out an area three times the size of Switzerland on annual basis, but few take notice.”
“The silver lining is that we already have proven methods to mitigate and reverse land degradation,” explained Bossio. Still, adoption rates remain low. Initiatives to address land degradation often fail to address social, economic, and political issues which are essential to achieve long-term impact.
Named after the ancient Greek gathering place, the agora, the 3-year-long collaborative project will use an innovative transdisciplinary approach involving all stakeholders to transform knowledge on sustainable land management into action.
The project will target its interventions in the Lushoto district of Tanzania and in the Shire River Basin of Malawi. These ecosystems have been severely damaged – under pressure from population, agriculture, and livestock – and services which these natural resources provide have been lost.
In Africa alone, up to 12% of agricultural GDP is lost due to deteriorating environmental conditions, contributing to high levels of poverty and chronic hunger. Urgent steps must be taken to reverse trends in degradation, while maintaining land’s integrity and productivity.
Germany is a pioneer for giving credence to the importance of protecting our ecosystems and land arability. In order to meet the food needs of a booming global population, others must follow Germany’s lead.