Desertification is the persistent degradation of dryland ecosystems by human activities and climatic variations. Because of its toll on human well-being and on the environment, it ranks among the greatest development challenges of our times.
The World Day to Combat Desertification focuses international attention on this growing problem. It has been observed each 17 June since 1995, the same year the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) was implemented. By 2005, 191 governments around the world had signed the UNCCD, which promotes effective action through innovative programmes and supportive international partnerships.
This year’s slogan, “Enhancing soils anywhere enhances life everywhere”, reflects the theme of the 2010 International Year of Biodiversity. The UNCCD aims to sensitize the public to the fact that desertification, land degradation and drought dramatically affect biodiversity resident in the soil.
IFAD’s commitment to combating desertification
For the millions of people who live in arid, semi-arid and dry sub‑humid areas, the cost of desertification is high, and not just in economic terms. Desertification is a threat to biodiversity. It can also lead to prolonged episodes of famine in countries that are already impoverished and cannot sustain large agricultural losses. Poor rural people who depend on the land for survival are often forced to migrate or face starvation.
Combating desertification, including land degradation, is central to IFAD’s goal of enabling poor rural people to overcome poverty. It is reflected in our investment programmes, grants and policy initiatives. We work with subsistence farmers, nomadic herders, day labourers and others whose survival depends on ecologically fragile or marginal lands. Through our work over the past 30 years, it has become clear that, in order to eliminate rural poverty, we must apply measures that seek to promote sustainable management of land and natural resources.
FAD was selected as an executing agency of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) because of our expertise in addressing land degradation, our recognition of the links between poverty and the environment, and our crucial role in the UNCCD. The GEF is an independent financial organization established in 1991 to provide grants to developing countries for projects that have global environmental benefits and contribute to sustainable livelihoods.
IFAD is an active partner in the UNCCD, which strongly emphasizes the roles of participation, gender-equity, partnerships, integrated sustainable development, community empowerment, local expertise and traditional knowledge in combating desertification.
FAD also hosts the Global Mechanism and the secretariat of the International Land Coalition. The Global Mechanism is a subsidiary of the UNCCD, with a mandate to increase financing for sustainable land management. It is hosted at IFAD in recognition of our focus on rural development, agriculture and sustainable land management. The International Land Coalition is a global alliance of organizations dedicated to working with poor rural people to increase their secure access to natural resources, particularly land. It does this by building alliances with development partners, including NGOs, intergovernmental, governmental and civil society organizations.
As an agency of GEF and host of the Global Mechanism, IFAD has an important role in advancing the UNCCD agenda.