OUR LAND. OUR HOME. OUR FUTURE MESSAGE from the Ministry of Agriculture on the Occasion of WORLD DAY TO COMBAT DESERTIFICATION, 17 JUNE 2017

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According to a message released by Monique Barbut, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) on the occasion of World Day to Combat Desertification, 17 June 2017, more than 1.3 billion people, mostly in the rural areas of developing countries, are directly affected by the land degradation. In this situation, no matter how hard they work, their land no longer provides them either sustenance or economic opportunity.

According to a message released by Monique Barbut, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) on the occasion of World Day to Combat Desertification, 17 June 2017, more than 1.3 billion people, mostly in the rural areas of developing countries, are directly affected by the land degradation. In this situation, no matter how hard they work, their land no longer provides them either sustenance or economic opportunity. They are missing out on the opportunity to benefit from increasing global demand and wider sustained economic growth. In fact, the economic losses they suffer and the growing inequalities means many people feel they are being left behind.

They look for a route out. Migration is a well-trodden path. People have always migrated, on a temporary basis, to survive when times are tough. The ambitious often chose to move for a better job and a brighter future. One in every five youth aged 15-24 years, for example, is willing to migrate to another country. Youth in poorer countries are even more willing to migrate for a chance to lift themselves out of poverty. It is becoming clear though that the element of hope and choice in migration is increasingly missing. Once migration was temporary or ambitious. Now, it is often permanent and distressed. Over the next few decades, worldwide, close to 135 million people are at risk of being permanently displaced by desertification and land degradation. If they don’t migrate, the young and unemployed are also at more risk of falling victim to extremist groups that exploit the situation and recruit the disillusioned and vulnerable.

Based on the statement this year, the UNCCD is calling for a focus on making the land and life in rural communities viable for young people. As the global population edges towards at least 9 billion, in Africa alone 200 million of the 300 million young people entering the job market over the next 15 years will be living in rural areas.
Moreover, the UNCCD executive secretary said “Let’s give young, rural populations better choices and options. We need policies that enable young people to own and rehabilitate degraded land. There are nearly 500 million hectares of once fertile agricultural land that have been abandoned. Let us give young people the chance to bring that natural capital back to life and into production. If we secure access to new technologies and to the knowledge they need, they can build resilience to extreme-weather elements like drought. With the right means at their disposal, they can feed a hungry planet and develop new green sectors of the economy. They can develop markets for rural products and revitalize communities.”

In her concluding message, Mrs. Monoque Barbut said, “with the right type of investments in land, rural infrastructure and skills development, the future can be bright. We have to send a clear message that if it is well managed, the land can provide not just enough to get by but a place where individuals and communities can build a future”.
Geographically, Eritrea is located in the Sahel region which is prone to drought and erratic rainfall. This situation is aggravated by climate change. Hence, sustainable land management issues assumes great importance for countries like Eritrea whose economy highly depends on agriculture.
Taking this reality into account, the Government of Eritrea, right after independence, massively invested in the agriculture sector in order to restore, sustain and enhance the productive functions of the country’s natural ecosystem resources. Community-based afforestation and soil and water conservation have become routine activities of the people, and the government aims at conserving and rehabilitating the land that has been degraded due to different causes like climatic conditions, deforestation, overgrazing, over cultivation, soil erosion and decline of soil fertility. Research shows that managing land more sustainably reduces the rate of degradation.
Students have been engaged for more than 20 years in afforestation and soil and water conservation programs in their summer break, and many students have been organized in green clubs to promote tree planting in their school premises.

To strengthen the land rehabilitation programs in a systematic and vigorous way, the Government of Eritrea declared a greening campaign on May 15 2006, at a national greening conference attended by H.E Isaias Afewerki, President of the State of Eritrea. As per the resolution of the conference, all Eritrean regions are involved in various land rehabilitation campaigns mainly in soil and water conservation as well as tree planting activities. During the national greening day, the campaign’s performance in all regions of the country is thoroughly assessed and awards are given to exemplary individuals and institutions.

Thanks to this campaign, so far more than 41 million trees have been planted on 16,000 hectares of land. More than 150,000 energy saving stoves have been distributed all over the country. Permanent and temporary enclosures are increasing in number; and farmers are benefiting by feeding their animals by cut and carry system. More than 300,000 hectares of land is under enclosure.

To address the negative effects of climate change, the government of Eritrea has been involved in soil and water conservation schemes and construction of dams and diversion structures. Over 600 different sized water reservoirs have been constructed in the past 26 years.
To minimize the utilization of harvested water and increase cycles of crop production, irrigation equipment producing factory has been built and started production.
Moreover, farmers are introducing contour farming and farmland levelling to conserve soil and water so as to enhance productivity of the land. Farmers, satisfied with the outcome of these activities, are now replicating these activities. Nationally about 100,000 hectares of farm land has been treated by various soil and water conservation schemes, which boosted production by 30- 40 percent.

Through endeavours undertaken all over the country the government and the people of Eritrea are demonstrating their commitment to achieve Land Degradation Neutrality by 2030. The government is also committed to involve all relevant sectors to meet the target. That’s why Eritrea signed the UNCCD in 1995 and ratified the convention in 1996.