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Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire

Plans to Reclaim One Billion Hectares of Waste Land

The 15th Conference of Parties (COP15) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) held in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, drew nearly 7,000 participants, including Heads of State, Ministers, Delegates from the UNCCD’s 196 parties and the European Union, as well as members of the private sector, civil society, women, youth leaders and media.

Among the key highlights of the meeting was acceleration of the pledge by global leaders to restore 1 billion hectares of degraded land by 2030.

The leaders said “each dollar invested in restoring degraded land is estimated to return between $7 and $30 (Sh812-3,480) economic benefits”.

They also agreed to boost drought resilience, establish an intergovernmental working group on drought, and address forced migration and displacement driven by desertification and land degradation.

The leaders pledged to improve women’s involvement in land management, address sand and dust storms and other escalating disaster risks, and promote decent land-based jobs for youth and land-based youth entrepreneurship.

Speaking at the closing ceremony of the UNCCD COP15, UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw said countries had sent a united call about the importance of healthy and productive land for securing future prosperity for all. “We held the meeting against the backdrop of multiple global challenges, including the worst-in-40-years drought in Eastern Africa, as well as food and economic crises fueled by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and conflicts,” he said.

The meeting witnessed the launching of landmark reports that will help the world deal with land degradation.

One of the reports is “Drought in Numbers”, which has indicated a 29% rise in droughts since 2000, and projects that three-quarters of the world’s population will be affected by drought by 2050 unless urgent action is taken.

The other one is “Global Land Outlook 2”, which says humans have transformed more than 70 per cent of the Earth’s land area from its natural state, causing unparalleled environmental degradation and contributing significantly to global warming.

“If current land degradation trends continue this century, scientists predict severe climate-induced disturbances will increase. These include disruptions to food supplies, forced migration and continued biodiversity loss and extinction. Collectively, these trends increase the risk of declining human health, more zoonotic diseases, and greater conflict over land resources,” says the report.

This story was produced as part of the 2022 UNCCD Virtual Reporting Fellowship, a journalism fellowship organized by Internews' Earth Journalism Network and the Robert Bosch Stiftung. It was originally published in The Standard on May 23, 2022. It has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Banner image: An oasis at Chalbi desert / Credit: The Standard.