Jordan’s reconstruction efforts push back land degradation

OMAR AKUR and WANJOHI KABUCURU

SABHA, Jordan (AP) — Efforts to restore damaged but once fertile land in the Jordanian desert are giving hope to one of the world’s most water-stressed countries, as a land assessment report on Wednesday warned of growing global degradation.

Local organizations believe that projects to restore native plants and introduce smart water harvesting systems will mitigate the effects of climate change and desertification, which, according to a United Nations report, will only get worse.

The UN Desertification Agency claims that 40% of the world’s land is now degraded, blaming land degradation on unsustainable land and water management, poor agricultural practices, mining, urbanization and infrastructure development.

Mira Haddad of the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Drylands said that several other factors, including “overexploitation of land cover, overgrazing and … new land use practices” as well as climate change, are also contributing to land degradation in Jordan.

But environmentalists are already looking for ways to prevent further damage. One of the initiatives led by the Watershed and Development Initiative is planting four native plants on 10,000 acres (41 square kilometers) of desert in the Sabha Game Reserve, about 56 miles (90 km) east of the Jordanian capital Amman.

“We work on water, we work on green cover, and also on the habitat of creatures, from insects to animals and all living parts of this ecosystem,” Deyala Tarauna, WADI Founding Member. , said. “These plants have a success rate of 85%, which is considered a very high percentage, and they only need to be watered once, which also reduces the amount of water needed to irrigate green spaces.”

But despite the success of the WADI greening initiative, land restoration in Jordan still faces a number of challenges: there is not enough land available for restoration, and the willingness of local people to leave land for at least one or two rainy seasons without grazing as well. hinders efforts, said ICARDA’s Haddad.

Jordan is one of several countries already grappling with the effects of degradation, with more than 2.3 billion people now living in water-stressed countries, according to a UN report. He warned that further disruptions to food supplies, forced migration and increased stress on species survival are also expected as climate change intensifies and inefficient land management practices continue. By 2030, he warns that 700 million people could be forced out of their homes by drought.

“The situation we have now is unhealthy and definitely unacceptable,” Ibrahim Thiau, executive secretary of the UN desertification agency, told The Associated Press. “The more you destroy the earth, the more carbon you emit and the more you contribute to climate change.”

The report calls for financial support for conservation and restoration in developing countries. It states that the expansion of protected areas and protected areas, better water resource management, smart agriculture and biodiversity restoration can be accelerated through appropriate funding.

If such measures are implemented on a larger scale, the UN agency’s recovery scenario predicts a reduction in biodiversity loss and improved soil health, with benefits particularly felt in North and Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and Latin America.

But it also notes that inaction will result in 16 million square kilometers (6 million square miles) of land degradation – nearly the entire South American continent – by 2050.

The report also recommends expanding land rights for indigenous peoples and local communities, urging farmers to learn enough lessons about land restoration, crop adaptation and livestock production from established customs and traditional knowledge.

“We welcome new allies in this battle, including economic actors who are increasingly interested in preventing climate risks, but we must make it clear that we will not be used for greenwashing” – Jose Gregorio Diaz Mirabal, leader of the Congress Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin,” the statement said. “Partnering with Indigenous Peoples Requires Transformational Change.”

Thiau of the UN agreed that support for recovery projects should be stepped up.

“The point of the report is that land degradation should not be taken as a fatal outcome. It can be solved and is the cheapest solution to the climate crisis and biodiversity loss. This can be done by 2050, that is, in just one generation,” Thiau said. “It does not require high technology or a doctoral degree. Land restoration is affordable and democratic.”

Some countries, such as Jordan, are already addressing their own land challenges, from drought preparedness programs in Mexico, the US and Brazil, to the Great Green Wall in 11 countries in Africa aimed at restoring 100 million hectares (390,000 square miles) of degraded landscapes. along the Sahel.

“Land restoration is a win for the environment, economy, society and biodiversity,” Thiau said. “What we are now calling for is the acceleration of such programs.”

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Wanjohi Kabukuru reported from Mombasa, Kenya.

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