24bn tonnes of fertile soil lost every year, says study

Soil degradation

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A United Nations-backed report says that fertile soil is being lost at a rate of 24 billion tonnes a year, while a third of the planet’s land is “severely degraded”.

A new publication, The Global Land Outlook (GLO), was recently launched at the 13th meeting of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) in Ordos, China.

Speaking at the launch, UNCCD Executive Secretary Monique Barbut said how land degradation and drought are global challenges “intimately linked” to food security, migration and employment, among others factors.

“As the ready supply of healthy and productive land dries up and the population grows, competition is intensifying for land within countries and globally,” she said.

“As the competition increases, there are winners and losers. To minimize the losses, The Outlook suggests it is in all our interests to step back and rethink how we are managing the pressures and the competition.

“The Outlook presents a vision for transforming the way in which we use and manage land because we are all decision-makers and our choices can make a difference – even small steps matter.” she added.

It says that more than 1.3 billion people are trapped on degrading agricultural land, drastically increasing competition for crucial ecosystem services such as food, water and energy.

The GLO draws on an analysis of recent land productivity trends and modelling of land demand scenarios up to the year 2050.

“Over 250 million people are directly affected by desertification, and about one billion people in over one hundred countries are at risk,” said Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Achim Steiner.

“They include many of the world‘s poorest and most marginalized people. Achieving land degradation neutrality can provide a healthy and productive life for all on Earth, including water and food security.

“The Global Land Outlook shows that each of us can in fact make a difference, and I hope that in the next edition we are able to tell even more stories of better land use and management.”

The first edition of the GLO was published by the UNCCD secretariat with the support of partners including, the European Commission, the Governments of Korea, Switzerland and the Netherlands as well as the UNDP.

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