Deserts threaten to wipe out two-thirds of African agriculture

A UN Convention aims to reduce the amount of land being turned into desert, with a billion dollar fund to finance anti-desertification programmes. If the erosion of land is left unchecked, Africa could lose two-thirds of its arable land.

A meeting of 400 government representatives pledged their support for the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, calling for more research and co-operation to help regions that are rapidly being eroded.

“The conference enabled governments to identify and share best practices that can successfully tackle the problem of both desertification and poverty,” said Hama Arba Diallo, Executive Secretary of the Convention, adding that multi-billion dollar Global Environment Facility would fund a number of programmes struggling from a lack of finances.

The conference emphasized the link between desertification, food security and poverty, highlighting success stories such as the introduction of gum arabica plants in Niger to rebuild ecosystems and rehabilitate degraded land.

Delegates urged governments to include anti-desertification programmes into their development strategies.

Desertification affects 110 countries worldwide and threatens the livelihood of over 1.2 billion people. If left unchecked, arable land is expected to shrink by one-third in Asia, two-thirds in Africa and one-fifth in South America, exacerbating food insecurity and mass migration from dryland rural areas where the world’s poorest reside.

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