By Serge R. Nakouzi

Achieving land degradation neutrality in Iran

June 22, 2016 - 11:35

This week, following the commemoration of the World Day to Combat Desertification 2016 held on Saturday 18 June 2016 as a joint ceremony organized by the FAO Representation in Iran and the Forest, Rangeland and Watershed Management Organization (FRWO) of the Ministry of Jihad-e Agriculture, the urgency of the issue of land degradation and its effects on ecosystems and the livelihoods of rural populations was brought to the forefront of public discourse. 

This year’s slogan of “Protect the Earth, Restore Land, Engage People” highlights the significance of comprehensive strategic frameworks as well as all-inclusive participation and cooperation in achieving Land Degradation Neutrality in Iran.

Land preservation is central to our ongoing efforts to embed sustainable development. Effective land management is a fundamental component of the food, water, energy and environmental health “nexus”, which is critical in embedding an integrated approach to secure both a viable and sustainable development paradigm in the light of the vast challenges being faced by nations in safeguarding their natural resources. These challenges are envisaged to become increasingly acute as the pressures on such resources progressively intensify.   

At the global level, continued land degradation over the next 25 years could reduce global food production by up to 12% and potentially result in an increase of up to 30% in world food prices. Global trends such as population dynamics and the increasing demand for energy, food, and water are expected to dramatically increase pressure on the land. By 2030, the demand for food, energy, and water is expected to increase by at least 50%, 45% and 30% respectively. 

Meeting these demands will require 175-220 million hectares of additional cropland. These needs will not be met sustainably unless we preserve and restore the productivity of our land. Business as usual will lead to more deforestation.

If we are to overcome hunger and food insecurity in the world, we would need to raise our agricultural productivity by an estimated 60% globally, including by 100% in developing countries, by the year 2050.

However, the world’s ecosystems, biodiversity and associated goods and services are also under increasing pressure from the loss of crop diversity, deforestation, degradation and losses of arable land, growing competition for increasingly scarce water and the adverse impact of climate change. 

The sustainable use and management of terrestrial ecosystems, forests, mountains, land and soils and their related biodiversity has been at the very heart of the global community’s deliberations as it grapples with the impacts of climate change and the ever more challenging environmental problems. The Sustainable Development Goals adopted last year articulated the need for member nations to address these issues and articulated the related targets under SDG 15.  The collective capabilities of the various funds, programmes and specialized agencies of the UN system have been committed to align their efforts within the framework of their respective mandates and fields of expertise in support member states in attaining these goals.

For the past several decades, FAO has been providing, at the request of its Member Nations, technical expertise, advice and assistance with various aspects of the agricultural improvement and rural development of arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid zones ravaged by drought and desertification.  

FAO has been actively engaged with key local as well as international institutions and partners in undertaking successfully drought mitigation, land restoration and rehabilitation initiatives in a broad spectrum of the world’s drylands.  

The immense knowledge derived by the Organization in combatting serious desertification challenges in various continents of the world has enabled member states to attain notable impacts in redressing the issues pertaining to soil erosion and degradation. 

In arid and semi-arid regions of the world, such as Iran, these challenges and pressures on natural resources are and will be even more severe. Throughout the past five decades, the United Nations has been working closely with the Government of Iran to support the sustainable management of its natural resources through a number of projects and initiatives. 

The safeguarding of the environment has been a central focus of our development programmes and will continue to be a key pillar of our interventions over the upcoming five years under the new UN Development Assistance Framework which will commence in 2017.

FAO for its part has also sought, since the establishment of its presence in the country, to lend its specialised technical expertise and its substantive experience and knowledge in land management, as well as in the related disciplines of water management, forestry, drought mitigation etc. with a view to combatting the challenges of desertification faced in Iran. 

I am delighted to share a specific example of the measures that have been effectively realized here in Iran over the past five years through the partnership that had been forged by the FAO Land & Water Division and its Forestry Department with the Forest, Range and Watershed Management Organization (FRWO), together with the support of the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), in Rehabilitating Forest Landscapes and Degraded Lands (RFLDL) in the arid and semi-arid areas of Kerman and South Khorasan Provinces. 

The tangible results that have been attained through this successful project to date in terms of desertification control, restoration of ecosystems, enhancing biodiversity, reinforcing food security and generating sustainable livelihoods for local communities, evidence not only the effectiveness of the approach applied, but also reaffirm the viability of the technical methodologies implemented within the framework of this project in confronting the complexities of similar adversities in the country.

Through the RFLDL project, the capabilities of local communities are being reinforced to embrace sustainable forest and land management practices in safeguarding of the forests, as well as promoting alternative livelihood practices through socio-economic initiatives to embed these sustainable practices in the national and local provincial policies. These activities are closely aligned to the national policies on combatting desertification, on the protection of biodiversity and on the mitigating the impact of climate change. 

To this effect the impact on the local communities and the sustainable practices has evidenced a notable progress in the areas where this project is being implemented. 

As we move forward, FAO intends to be actively engaged in lending its technical global expertise as a specialized UN agency with a lead mandate in these areas to support the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, together with other agencies of the UN system and other partners, in mobilizing the required efforts and implementing viable, holistic and integrated measures that would enable the country to meet the new development targets of the post-2015 agenda in securing effective and sustainable land use, land and soil management and land governance.

As highlighted by SDG 15, soil is non-renewable – its loss is not recoverable within a human lifespan. It is therefore vital that we join hands and work collectively to safeguard our lands and, by doing so, safeguard the future of humanity.

Leave a Comment

4 + 1 =