SA Calls for Concerted and Co-ordinated Efforts to address Land Degradation and Drought at the CoP11 to the UNCCD

sa cop11The Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs,  Edna Molewa has called for the community of nations to arrive at an agreement that recognises that desertification, land degradation and drought (DLDD) is a reality which has impacted negatively on the livelihoods of humanity in a manner that cannot be ignored anymore.

 Minister Molewa was addressing a High Level Segment of the eleventh session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 11) to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) which was held from the 16th to the 27th of September in Windhoek, Namibia. South Africa is a signatory to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification which it ratified in 1997.

The objective of the Convention is to combat desertification and mitigate the effects of drought in countries experiencing serious drought and/or desertification, particularly in Africa, through effective action at all levels, supported by international cooperation and partnership arrangements, in the framework of an integrated approach, with a view to contributing to the achievement of sustainable development in affected areas.

COP11 is considering an extensive agenda that includes the Ten Year Strategic Plan and Framework within the context of the report of the Committee for the Review of the Implementation of the Convention (CRIC) and the report of the Committee on Science and Technology (CST).

With climate change and a global population set to reach 9 billion by 2050, land and soil experts are getting alarmed that the land resource may come under excessive pressure to meet growing food, water, energy and other demands. In the context of the outcomes of Rio+20, the global community is expect to deliberate and take policy decisions that affirms why it is more economical for countries and the international community to put the measures needed to avert land over-exploitation sooner rather than later.

“It is better to deal with the root causes of land and ecosystem degradation rather than the symptoms, in other words, if you can put in place appropriate policies and practices that lead to the prevention of degradation, this will be the most efficient option than attempting rehabilitation. We need to draw parallels between the effects of climate change and the resultant land degradation and drought,”added Minster Molewa in her address.

Desertification is predictable, avoidable and often reversible through the restoration of degraded lands where feasible. There are many strategies that can be adopted to help save lives and livelihoods in drought‐affected communities. By reframing policies in terms of drought preparedness and risk management, as opposed to disaster response, investments can be made that are much more cost‐effective and lifesaving than sending compassionate aid after a crisis has occurred.

Through social and economic interventions among vulnerable communities, capacity and resilience to withstand the effects of drought can be strengthened by encouraging sustainable land management, establishing early warning systems leading to early actions, alternative livelihoods to agriculture and pastoralism. The effects of drought, especially among the world’s poor, need not be so devastating.

“While biodiversity and healthy ecosystems provide wide-ranging benefits to society on the whole, many communities globally, and especially in Africa, depend directly on the products from local ecosystems for the majority of their food, energy, water and medicinal requirements. The degradation of ecosystems affects their ability to deliver ecosystem services, which in turn has a direct negative impact on human well-being as well as socio-economic conditions, especially for the poor”, added Minister Molewa.

The three principal environmental conventions, the UNCCD, United Nations Convention on Biodiversity (UNCBD) and the UN Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC) recognise that climate change is one of the main challenges that require adjustments on ecological, social, or economic systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli and their effects or impacts.  They all call for scaled-up overall mitigation and adaptation efforts and therefore, it is of paramount importance that developing countries affected by land degradation are able to confer the required priority in the adaptation and mitigation actions at national and regional levels.

The Minister was  accompanied by Deputy Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Rejoice Mabudafhasi, the South African High Commissioner to Namibia, Her Excellency,. Mavivi Myakayaka-Manzini, the Director-General of the Department of Environmental Affairs Nosipho Ngcaba and other senior officials from national and provincial governments.

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