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Integrating Land Management in Dry Areas |
The objective of this project is to assist the developing countries in dry areas to manage their land resources, while achieving sustainable utilization of water and biodiversity resources contained therein. Integrated management of natural resources and developing multidisciplinary approaches is the key to achieving these objectives.Background and Justification
Land Degradation as a Global Problem
Land degradation is defined as a process that leads to reduction the productivity of land for useful purposes and is typically a result of soil erosion, wind erosion, water erosion, soil salinization, waterlogging, chemical deterioration, or a combination of these factors. Land degradation is a global problem where marginal lands are turned into wastelands and natural ecosystems are destroyed. The immediate causes include deforestation, poor management of water resources, inappropriate land use practices, overuse of chemicals, fertilizers and pesticides, and disposal of domestic and industrial wastes. The underlying driving forces include rapidly increasing population, economic policies that over-exploit natural resources, and rapid and often poorly managed industrial and urban development. The impacts of land degradation are severe on both the human society and ecosystems.
The UN estimates that some 70 per cent of the 5.2 billion hectares of drylands used for agriculture around the world are already degraded. This impacts approximately 250 million people across the world - some estimates cite number of people at risk as being four times higher than this. As an example, the worldwide area of arable land per person has reduced by as much as 25% during the last quarter of the twentieth century. This has serious implications for food security and livelihood of people dependent on degraded lands. A bird's-eye view of the target region (Figure 1) shows the geographical extent of the problem. The impact of land degradation on ecosystems is apparent in destruction of biodiversity resources. According to UNEP estimates, about 65 million hectares of forest were lost globally during just five years (between 1990 and 1995). The resultant loss in biodiversity at genetic, species and community level is also severe. These projections demand the attention of the international community and a coordinated effort to overcome these challenges.Top
Integrated Land Management Approaches
The most vulnerable areas in any ecosystem are the ones at its periphery. Most of the land erosion, degradation of soil quality, loss of biodiversity, and eventual loss of productivity occurs in these marginal - but high-priority - lands. This is particularly true for "Dry Areas", those comprising arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid regions. Sustainable management strategies in these dry areas are needed for protection, preservation and reclamation or rehabilitation in these fragile systems and natural resources contained therein. Such strategies are closely linked to human development and quality of life in these marginal areas.
Development of integrated approaches is critical to minimizing land degradation and the related societal and economic impacts. There is a need to promote actions for building and strengthening existing institutional capacities for regional, national and basin-level agencies to effectively address and integrate cross-sectoral aspects. However, defining such integrated approaches is a complex job and the outcome would vary from region to region. In order to develop a general framework for such integrated approaches, the following four dimensions of the problem must be considered.A. Technical Dimensions:
With the view that this project is focused on developing countries in dry areas - particularly the region comprising Northern Africa, Central Asia, Middle East and China - the following objectives are identified:
The project will be implemented through a network of researchers and institutions. It will comprise various sub-projects implemented through the partners within the network.Project Priority Areas
The project seeks to develop integration across disciplines and vertically between governance and land management. To achieve integration at these various levels, a subset of priority areas have been identified:
Four elements are essential to ensure that the results and benefits of the project are fully transferred to the communities or target audience. These elements are in accordance with UNU's objectives and utilize its existing institutional strengths.