Desertification, Land Degradation and Drought (DLDD) are hardly recognized as a global challenge with economic impact. It is a creeping disaster perceived as a problem mainly concerning the African continent and some other drylands.
But there is no way we can ignore the importance of sustainable (dry)land management anymore. Worldwide an area three times as large as Switzerland of fertile soil is lost annually caused by human induced land degradation with huge implications for the affected population.
Hundreds of millions of people in over 100 countries are affected in all continents, and the number is rising. Crop losses of up to 50% in some countries are the result. The annual global loss of 75 billion tons of soil sums up to an estimated global economic loss of $ 400 billion. 42% of the world’s poorest people live in degraded areas. During a drought the poorest households experience crop-income losses that are proportionally higher than the wealthiest.
DLDD is not only threatening the 1/3 of the global population living in drylands, it has direct impacts on every one of us and poses future generations at risk to suffer from the consequences of land degradation: hunger and poverty, loss in biodiversity, loss of carbon storage capacity, etc.. Today 80% of armed conflicts occur in arid lands caused by resource scarcity. The growing number of economic migrants and environmental refugees are exacerbating problems and tensions in host communities, and are further degrading land.
DLDD ruins ecosystems and their goods and services thus bearing enormous risks for sustainable development, economic prosperity, and social stability.
What is desperately needed is a global awareness that we are currently cutting off the branch we are sitting on! Fertile soil is our most valuable non-renewable resource. It lays the foundation for life, feeding the billions populating our Planet.
As President of the Global Risk Forum GRF Davos, I see DLDD at the core of climate change triggering poverty, hunger and hindering sustainable development. What we urgently need is an Integrative Risk Management approach to combatting DLDD considering all phases of the Risk Cycle and integrating all stakeholders and decision makers. Only an integrative and holistic approach will lead to sustainable land management.
Sustainable Land Management ensures healthy soils with positive impacts on economic growth, food security and laying the foundation for sustainable development.
Healthy soil is essential to the survival of humanity. We need to move from Thoughts to Action now! The UNCCD 2nd Scientific Conference is an important step. The conference will assess the economics of desertification, sustainable land management and resilience of arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas and will raise the awareness that the cost of inactivity is much higher than the cost of actively combatting DLDD.
Walter Ammann is President and CEO of the Global Risk Forum GRF Davos, selected lead institution to organize the UNCCD 2nd Scientific Conference under the guidance of the CST Bureau.