By Noel Oettle
From 10 to 13 June 2015, over 300 participants from 57 countries participated in the Desertif’actions 2015 conference that was hosted in Montpellier, France. This event, dedicated to addressing land degradation and desertification in a climate challenged world, created a discussion platform focused on how environment, development and international stability are dependent on sustainable land use, especially in the context of the current and future impacts of global warming.
The disappearance of 75% of crop genetic diversity since the beginning of the 20th century, and the moderate to severe degradation of 52% of global farmland are very disturbing realities. At the same time, the large-scale acquisition of agricultural land by international investors (reaching 37 million hectares in 2011), has eroded the rights of farmers and local land users. Increases in temperatures and the frequency of extreme weather events are particularly destructive in areas subject to drought and aridity. Already 1,5 billion people in arid areas suffer from land degradation, and this includes 65% of Africa’s population. The impact of global warming on land and conversely the contribution of land degradation to climate change, results in a negative spiral of effects on ecosystem services and the livelihoods of people who depend on them.
Desertif’actions participants agreed that policies should protect and encourage family farming by guaranteeing the right to food as defined by the United Nations. They decided that any climate change agreement adopted by the UNFCCC COP 21 must include funding for family farming and community based adaptation, and should not provide resources for false or untested solutions.
Delegates were in full agreement that the concepts of Climate Smart Agriculture and Land Degradation Neutrality should primarily be at the service of local communities. However, they were concerned that these concepts could be used as Trojan horses to undermine some of the elements of sustainable management of natural resources and lead to the wider dissemination of agricultural chemicals and genetically modified crops, or as a vehicle to advance land grabbing.
Participants further called for the urgent rehabilitation of 500 million hectares of degraded land globally. However, good governance of land was considered to be essential for minimising conflict over land-based resources. In this context, the guidelines developed by the United Nations Committee on World Food Security were adopted as the basis for action by governments, investors, donors, the private sector and civil society.
At the conclusion of the conference, the Montpellier Declaration was adopted to draw attention to the urgency and importance of advancing equity through the international agreements on climate change and sustainable land management.
To view the Montpellier Declaration, please click here