JIS News

Governments in the region are being urged to seriously tackle the issue of land degradation to ensure food security and prevent deaths from natural disasters such as flooding.
Dr. Richard Cox, Secretariat to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification and Drought (UNCCD), put forth this challenge at the opening of a three-day conference on Sustainable Land Management today at the Jamaica Conference Centre downtown Kingston.
“The land degradation issue in the Caribbean is one which has been ignored for many years,” he said, adding that the Caribbean needed to see land as a natural and key developmental resource. “We have to see it in an environmental sense, an economical sense and in a social sense,” he stated.
Pointing to the extent of land degradation in the region, Dr. Cox said that water levels were constantly falling and soil was being washed away at every rainfall. He mentioned Haiti as the classic case where deforestation had caused thousands to die each year from flooding.
In addition, he said that the lack of adequate soil for planting has resulted in government spending billions to import food each year. “These are serious issues, which we must address and I hope that this beginning will let us understand these facts and put them into perspective,” said Dr. Cox. He expressed the hope that the conference would signal the beginning of a partnership, whereby organisations such as the Global Environment Facility (GEF) UNCCD, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) could work with leaders in the region to effect the necessary changes.
He urged the region to plan accordingly to ensure the preservation of this important resource. “If we don’t, the country would be neglecting its responsibility, not only to the land and economic and social development, but we are neglecting our responsibility to the future,” he pointed out.
Over the three days, participants are expected to look at a number of issues pertaining to the funding of projects under the Global Environmental Facility’s Operational Programme 15, which relates to land degradation and deforestation.
The Government of Jamaica, through the Ministry of Land and Environment, is collaborating with the United Nations Environment Programme, Nairobi Office, to organise the conference.

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