Confronting Land Degradation - Key to Environment and Sustainable Development: Says UN IFAD President Bage

Press release number: IFAD 43/02

Beijing, China - 18 October 2002: A new basis for partnership towards sustainable development has been set in place with the adoption of land degradation as a focal area of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) said the President of IFAD, Mr. Lennart Bage during the Second Global Environmental Facility Assembly taking place in the Chinese capital. Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Bage emphasized that ''The campaigns against poverty, hunger and environmental degradation are not separate efforts. Rather, they are mutually reinforcing processes that must advance as one if they are to have a lasting and meaningful impact. Poor people do not have the luxury of the longer term view when they are struggling to survive from one day to the next.''

IFAD is actively involved in combating land degradation and has been working with the Global Mechanism of the Convention to Combat Desertification and is developing partnerships for the land degradation focal area. In his statement Mr. Bage highlighted the importance of IFAD-GEF collaboration in identifying countries of priority focus and added that ''We have mainstreamed GEF funding potentials in the project cycle. IFAD has initiated 10 projects for GEF funding...The success of this partnership will depend on the full participation of the rural poor.'' These partnerships are essential for translating local efforts into global environmental benefits to respond to the problem of poverty and hunger. These partnerships also hold the key to sustainable use of the land, water, forests and other resources upon which depends the future of the rural poor.

Land degradation threatens the livelihoods of nearly 1 billion people. Three quarters of the 1.2 billion people living in extreme poverty - some 900 million people - are found in the rural areas, making their living from agriculture, forestry, fisheries and related activities.

Degradation caused by overcultivation, overgrazing and deforestation affects nearly 20% of the world’s drylands, an area as large as China. With global population projected to increase by 1.1 billion people by the year 2015, largely in the developing world where agriculture plays a central role for economic growth and employment, urgent action against land degradation is needed to meet the needs of development and food security.

IFAD is a specialized agency of the United Nations with the specific mandate of combating hunger and poverty in the most disadvantaged regions of the world. Since 1978 IFAD has financed 603 projects in 115 recipient countries and in the West Bank and Gaza for a total commitment of approximately USD 7.3 billion in loans and grants. Through these projects, about 250 million rural people have had a chance to move out of poverty. IFAD makes the greater part of its resources available to low-income countries on very favorable terms, with up to 40 years for repayment and including a grace period of up to ten years and a service charge of 0.75% per year.