UNCCD Executive Secretary Highlights Initiatives to Combat Desertification

18 April 2012: In a recent opinion piece, Luc Gnacadja, Executive Secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), calls for action at the local, national and global levels "to give farmers the lead, and promote sustainable land use and re-greening initiatives." He also suggests that the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20) should make this a top priority.

Gnacadja indicates that such action is "essential to averting the next food crisis in Africa, and meeting the global challenge of feeding nine billion people by 2050." At the local level, he notes that farmers in the Maradi and Zinder regions of Niger have protected trees on farmland, which improve soil fertility and provide about a million households with fodder, fruit and firewood. He cites sources indicating that "farmers who preserve trees are able to cope better with drought than other farmers in the same area," and he suggests that this experience should be disseminated and scaled up to national and regional levels, beginning with empowering local communities, fostering farmer-to-farmer communication, and communicating success stories to local, national and international media, especially radio.

He also emphasizes that each drought-prone country should have a national drought policy, "based on the principles of early warning, preparedness, risk management and response." He indicates that such an effort is being led by the UNCCD and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), and that such policies should embrace insurance schemes. He suggests that, "most importantly, we should empower smallholder farmers to become 'champions' in the race against the disastrous effects of climate change," including through recognition of farmers' rights in forestry and agriculture laws. [UNCCD Press Release]