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531. Food Systems, Climate Change and Land Degradation

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On May 5, it was announced that the 2022 World Food Prize will be awarded to NASA climatologist Dr. Cynthia Rosenzweig.
Dr. Rosenzweig is known for her pioneering work in modeling the impact of climate change on food production. This award recognizes, among other things, her contributions to providing the evidence needed for food system transformation by establishing a global interdisciplinary network to study models of the relationship between climate and food systems and by improving projections of the future performance of agriculture and food systems under climate change.

On April 27, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) released the second edition of Global Land Outlook (GLO2), Land Restoration for Recovery and Resilience. The report warned that human activities are placing an unprecedented burden on the land.

According to the report, human activities have altered 70% of the land surface and degraded 20-40% of it. The report warned that if the status quo continues, 16 million square kilometers of land, the equivalent of the area of South America, could be degraded by 2050. In contrast, if the world makes land conservation and restoration a top priority, it will lead to the creation of 4 million square kilometers of new protected areas as well as solutions to climate change and biodiversity loss. The report urges world leaders to use this crisis as a stepping stone to solving land degradation, as humanity has never been more at risk than it is today.

The report calls for the need to reverse degradation and restore land by improving incomes for all stakeholders —young and old, small-scale farmers, indigenous peoples and local communities, businesses and entrepreneurs, strengthening food and water security, overcoming individual and community vulnerabilities, and creating sustainable livelihood opportunities. Top-down solutions without the involvement of local stakeholders will not succeed, and all capital must be mobilized to link restoration of land health and job creation through trust-based networks. The report goes on to describe the practice of the land conservation approach as follows:

Land restoration, in terms of its scale, may range from the application of various conservation technologies at the field level, to biodiversity and watershed conservation at the landscape level from a few hectares to thousands of square kilometers. It is not enough to simply reduce greenhouse gas emissions; land conservation needs to be integrated consistently with food and energy security goals, along with a shift to more sustainable production and consumption.

Agriculture is an important economic sector, but there is a need to transition to regenerative, nature-positive food production that does not deplete or destroy natural resources. Agroecological approaches and regenerative practices are set to enrich soils, improve the water cycle, and improve biodiversity. Many of these inclusive approaches are based on traditional, field-based knowledge and seek to incorporate the social, economic, and environmental aspects of sustainable development into food production. To be effective, regenerative agriculture must be based on evidence, knowledge and science, and must take into account local needs and contexts. More specifically, it requires understanding and consideration of local biological (climate, soil, slope, pest infestation etc.) and socioeconomic (farm size, land tenure patterns, markets, capital availability etc.) conditions. Practice will involve various combinations of regenerative measures for each region, farmer, and field level. For many small producers, especially in areas under conditions of soil degradation, arable-livestock linkages and diversification will improve resilience and productivity while reducing environmental risks.

United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, 2022. The Global Land Outlook, 
second edition. UNCCD, Bonn. https://www.unccd.int/resources/global-land-outlook/global-land-outlook…

Contributor: IIYAMA Miyuki (Director, Information Program)


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