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A land degradation neutral world

Sem Shikong, Director of Tourism in the Ministry of Environment and Tourism.

Sem Shikong, Director of Tourism in the Ministry of Environment and Tourism.

Over 96% of Namibians depend on only 55% of land for sustanance and food security, however, most of the land in the country is arid and only 8% is suitable for crop production. Furthermore, it is estimated that about 26 million hectares of land is bush encroached, posing a long-term threat to water and soil resources Land degradation directly affects 1.5 billion people globally and a total of 24 billion tons of fertile soil is lost every year becasue of crop land erosion while another 12 million hectares fall prey to drought and desertification. Following the end of the Millenium Development Goals in 2015, the Post 2015 Development Agenda focuses on the Sustainable Development Goal, established at the Rio+20 on Zero Nett Land Degradation. One of the three targets of the goal is the so-called Zero Nett Land Degradation (ZNLD) by the year 2030. The goal of ZNLD, in which dry areas would reduce the rate of desertification and increase the rate of restoration of desertified land, has been proposed as an intermediate step towards halting desertification completely. The aim of ZNLD is to sustain land management where there will be positive trends in the value of land ecosystems, including the monetary nett present value of longer-term future benefits or ecosystem services. A critical means to achieve this goal is to strengthen resilience of the land ecosystems.  The theme for the 11th Conference of Parties (COP11) to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) currently taking place in Windhoek is “A stronger UNCCD for a Land-Degradation Neutral World ” and delegates are expected to reach a global agreement on a UNCCD Protocol regarding the ZNLD. According to Director of Tourism in the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Sem Shikongo, the ZNLD tool may take time to implement but is not impossible to achieve.” Maintaining a world in which the amount of already degraded land remains constant has challenges. The produtivity of global vegetation declined between 1981 and 2003, in spite of the many actions taken to address land degradation and desertification,” he said. According to Shikongo, the food of today lacks many of the  nutrients that our bodies require, adding that 20 years from now, producing food will become very difficult. He said because of the already small portion of arable land available, fully halting the process of land degradation might seem impossible to achieve. Shikongo argues that reducing land degradation requires a set of targets. “We cannot just say reduce land degradation if one does not have a target, make it clear that we are all in this together, set targets to address global significant issues. “According to Shikongo, the main issue lies in food security. If men are hungry wars will start. We need to maintain global food security through a reduced land degradation rate and increase the restoration rate,” he noted. Shikongo maintains for restoring already degraded land, monitoring and assessment of farmers are crucial factors especially when experiencing drought. He said indigenous knowledge systems coupled with awareness, motivation and empowerment can also help farmers. “Capacity building and transfer of knowledge from old generation to the new generation is vital. We must look at the comparative and competitive advantages which are both important tools for developing successfull sustainable development strategies.” He said a pilot testing of ZNLD at local community level is in the pipeline. “But can Namibia be known as the country that implemented the ZNLD? Yes of course, we just need to find ways of living within the limitations of our environment and bring in appropriate technologies based on comparative and competitive advantages,” said Shikongo, adding that an upscale and joint bottom-up and top-down approach is necessary to implement the ZNLD tool because the crisis is too serious to use just one approach.

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