Each year an additional area of 12 million hectares of agricultural land get degraded.
Photo: Georgina Smith/CIAT

27.03.2018

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With the target on Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) the Sustainable Development Goals have created new political momentum to address land degradation. The UN Convention to Combat Desertification adopted LDN as its central objective and supports countries in defining national targets to avoid degradation and restore degraded land. This provides an opportunity to advance action against land and soil degradation on national agendas, reform respective policy instruments and mobilise additional funding.

Land degradation is an increasingly severe global environmental and development problem. Each year an additional area of 12 million hectares of agricultural land get degraded and soil erosion amounts to an estimated 24 billion tons (3 tons per capita). The manifestations of land degradation are diverse and context-specific, but are always characterised by the degradation of soil, vegetation and/or water resources – predominantly through unsustainable forms of land use. This results in a massive loss of ecosystem services, with the reduction in agricultural productivity being a main concern. The increasing degradation of land and soils is therefore a major threat to food security and the resilience of rural communities while contributing to climate change and biodiversity loss. In total, the estimated annual costs of land degradation world-wide amount to 400 billion US dollars.

A neglected problem

Irrespective of the fundamental challenge that land degradation poses to rural development in many parts of the world, awareness among the public and policy-makers is generally low.

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