Plant forestry

CLIMATE CHANGE: HOW FARMING FUELS ECOSYSTEM DEGRADATION IN AFRICA

Amidst concerns over the intensification of Africa’s ecosystem degradation driven by development activities of the rapidly expanding population, advocates championing Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) courses have identified common agricultural practices driving land degradation in the continent.

The environmentalists shared their thoughts and experiences while speaking on how small-scale farmers and local communities can get involved in drylands restoration campaigns at the ongoing first-ever digital Global Landscape Forum (GLF) conference on Wednesday.

The conference, which spans two days, June 2 and 3, features speakers, the latest science, concerts, film screenings, virtual tours, networking, and unexpected discoveries. It is focused on Africa’s drylands and how integrative restoration practices can see them flourish once again.

During her presentation, Agnes Kalibata, president, Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), said the biggest driver of land degradation in the continent from the agriculture perspective is “tillage”.

The official mentioned that other factors such as overgrazing, poor access to alternative livelihoods and agro ecological challenges are also significant drivers of and degradation.

“All these are becoming detrimental to biodiversity, driving about 80 per cent of biodiversity loss leading to climate change and malnutrition,” she said.

Mrs Kalibata highlights that essential nutrients such as zinc, calcium and iron are increasingly becoming less available from plants due to impacts of land degradation and that they have to be supplemented in meals we consume.

Mrs Kalibata highlights that essential nutrients such as zinc, calcium and iron are increasingly becoming less available from plants due to impacts of land degradation and that they have to be supplemented in meals we consume.

Proactive measures

In her remarks, Inger Anderson, Under-Secretary-General, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), explained that in order to reverse the damages that humanity has caused to the natural world, there is an urgent need to mobilise and make a social movement.

The UNEP official called for a mass movement, a youth movement, a finance movement and a science movement to speed up Africa’s dryland restoration efforts.

“It is a great opportunity to start delivering on sustainable development goals so that we can create that world of prosperity, equality and of peace,” she said.

She described Africa’s drylands as ‘critical ecosystems’ that harbours one-third of the world’s biodiversity hotspots, a third of the world’s livestock, and produces 44 per cent of the crops in the world. The land is home to about 40 per cent of the world’s population.

Healthy dryland is not an option, they’re a must, Mrs Anderson added, continuing that restoring dryland will help slow climate change, bring back biodiversity and produce productive jobs.

She explained that restoration can help vulnerable communities adapt to climate change, noting that when dryland is restored, it will build peace and reduce false migration.

When asked what private sectors are doing to make land restoration viable for local communities, Sahel Consulting managing partner, Ndidi Nwuneli, a Nigerian agriculture and nutrition expert, said they have been promoting land restoration through dairy development in Nigeria’s northern region.

She said they are advancing local dairy development using a Nigerian private project driven approach to engage processors who source for milk in the region.

“It makes business sense to source locally. It makes business sense to invest in communities and to respect and restore the environment,” she said.

According to her, historically, many of these processors used to import milk powder from Europe, now they are actually sourcing milk locally.

“By investing and supporting rural communities and pastoralists, teaching them how to milk hygienically, providing a whole feed and fodder industries and ensuring that they have solar powered bore holes, not only would they be milking, but their livelihood will improve, while respecting and restoring the environment,” she said.

Key recommendations

Mrs Anderson explained further that about 115 countries have put forward restoration targets covering 1 billion hectares and that African forest landscape for green initiative is aiming to restore 100 million hectares of drylands by 2030.

  “These commitments are welcome. But like I say to everyone who signed the Paris agreement; land degradation promises don’t put trees and grasses in the ground, promises don’t build ecosystems, action does,” she said.

While it is important to act with speed and purpose, Mrs Anderson said “we need to get the finance flowing, we need to get the incentives right; investment and nature based solutions needs to triple by 2030 and increase five times by 2050, in order to meet our goals for climate, for biodiversity and for land.”

According to her, there are many ways to make the money move and make shifts, she said “we can adopt inclusive wealth models that value nature and prompt investment, ” “We can legislate to change prevailing agricultural practices that favours ecosystem destruction and allocate funds to restoration in the COVID-19 recovery funds,” she recommended.

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *