Barbados will join the rest of the world on Sunday, June 17, to celebrate World Day to Combat Desertification.

Under this year’s theme: Healthy Soil Sustains Your Life: Let’s Go Land-Degradation Neutral, the Ministry of the Environment and Drainage will seek to assist people in understanding that they can create a healthy future through best practices which would lead to sustainability.

Environmental Officer with the Ministry, Kim Downes Agard, said next week would be used to raise the awareness of the significance of healthy soil and human life, its advantages and threats to increase practical action in selected primary schools across the island.

She explained that students of the Wesley Hall Infants School, Holy Innocents, St. Christopher and St. Bartholomew’s Primary School will be attending the Olympus Theatres to watch the movie The Lorax on Monday, June 18, at 10:30 a.m.

"The movie is a practical example of the relationship between biodiversity, particularly our trees and a healthy environment. Children can take away the important environmental message of the conservation of trees," she said.

This year, the internationally recognised event will also fall three days before the start of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, also referred to as the Rio+20 Conference.

In his address to mark the significance of the day, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), Luc Gnacadja, said world leaders needed to adopt a stand-alone goal on sustainable land use for all and by all.

"To achieve this goal, we need to avoid land degradation in the non-degraded areas and restore soil fertility in the already upgraded lands. We also need to avoid deforestation and adopt drought preparedness policies in all drought-prone countries and regions," he said.

Mr. Gnacadja warned that productive land was under pressure from agriculture, and pastoral use as well as infrastructure growth, urbanisation and extraction of minerals.

He added that the demand for food was likely to claim an additional 120 million hectares of productive land, and cautioned that unless degraded land was rehabilitated, forests and other lands would have to make way for the required food production.

"Land degradation is called desertification here because it often creates desert-like conditions. Each year, due to desertification and drought, 12 million hectares of land – the area equal to half the size of the UK – are lost," the Executive Secretary noted.

On a positive note, Mr. Gnacadja said there were practical solutions to problems of desertification which could be employed by local communities around the world.

For starters he noted that two billion hectares of land worldwide were suitable for rehabilitation through agro-forestry and landscape restoration, while about 1.5 billion hectares were suitable for mosaic restoration through agroforestry and small holder agriculture.

He stressed that there was a need to promote sustainable land and water management techniques, agroforestry and re-greening initiatives and support them at the political level.

"To make it happen, we need your support. Governments should introduce sustainable land use into their policies, make it their priority and set up national targets to halt land degradation.

"Businesses should invest in practices that increase efficiency in land use. Scientists, media and civil society should help us spread the word that this goal is crucial. Together we can make this paradigm shift," Mr. Gnacadja said.


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