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    17 Jun, 2018

    Statement by the Executive Secretary on the Occasion of World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought

    Theme: Land Degradation and Migration

    Today, 17th June, 2018, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) joins the international community in commemorating the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought under the theme; Land Degradation and Migration. This day is set aside to promote public awareness of international efforts to combat desertification.

    We are witnessing unprecedented land degradation, and the loss of arable land at 30 to 35 times the historical rate. Drought and desertification are also on the rise each year, amounting to the loss of 12 million hectares, affecting poor communities globally. As a result of this, of the 8,300 animal breeds known, 8 percent are extinct and 22 percent are at risk of extinction. Land degradation and drought are challenges that are intimately linked to food insecurity, migration and unemployment.  In just 15 years, the number of international migrants worldwide has risen from 173 million in 2000 to 244 million in 2015, some of which are a result of environmental challenges. Rapid population growth and changing consumption patterns have generated excessive pressure on our finite land resources, leading to land degradation around the world. Globally, thirty percent of all land has lost its true value due to degradation.

    As we commemorate this day, the SADC Region can draw lessons from a number of continental initiatives, designed to reverse worrisome trends of land degradation and desertification. Some countries, like Namibia, have set national targets under the Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) programme which seeks to ensure that the amount and quality of land resources, necessary to support ecosystem and enhance food security, remain stable or increase within specified temporal and spatial scales and ecosystems. Namibia provides a number of lessons for other SADC Member States, as we commend Namibia, we call upon other countries to learn from these best practices.

    The Great Green Wall for the Sahara and the Sahel Initiative is one of the programmes that is aimed at restoring Africa’s degraded landscapes and in the process, transform millions of lives in one of the world’s poorest regions. The initiative is already boosting food security and resilience to climate change, whilst creating thousands of jobs for many communities living along its path, especially women and young people. Moreover, it promises to be a compelling solution to the many urgent threats that plague the people of this region – notably drought, famine, conflict and migration.  Inspired by the Great Green wall of the Sahel and Sahara Region, the SADC Ministers responsible for Environment and Natural Resources, at their meeting in November 2015 in Botswana, approved the establishment of the Great Green Wall Initiative (GGWI) of Southern Africa.

    Also under the African Forest Restoration Initiative (AFR100), a project targets to rehabilitate 100 million hectares of degraded and deforested land by 2030, some SADC Member States have committed to rehabilitate millions of hectares of degraded and deforested land by 2030.

    As we commemorate this day, we also need to reflect on commitment made in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDGs) adopted in 2015. SDG 15 Life on Land, which calls for a resolve to halt and reverse land degradation, with a target to combat desertification, restore degraded land and soil, including land affected by desertification, drought and floods, and strive to achieve a land degradation-neutral world by 2030. It is worth noting that halting deforestation is vital to mitigating the impact of climate change-one of the biggest challenges of our time. We call on SADC Member States to take all necessary measures to address desertification, through active participation in initiatives that aim to address the challenge.

    Dr. Stergomena Lawrence Tax

    SADC Executive Secretary

    17 June, 2018, Gaborone, Botswana

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