Today is Africa Environment Day and this year the regional host for celebrations is Maseru in the Kingdom of Lesotho. The theme this year is Combating Desertification in Africa: Enhancing Agricultural Productivity and Food Security. The focus of Africa Environment Day echoes the theme of the January 2014 African Union Summit, and demonstrates a coordinated effort on the part of African leaders to emphasize the detrimental effects of land degradation to Africa’s food security aspirations. 2014 is the Year of Agriculture and Food Security in Africa.
The UN Population Division estimates that Africa’s population will reach 2.4 billion by 2050, and to feed this population the ecosystems that support agriculture will have to be kept healthy.However, statistics from the International Fund for Agricultural Development show that Africa has lost 65 per cent of its agricultural land since 1950 due to land degradation. According to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), 4 to 12 per cent of agricultural Gross Domestic Product in Africa is lost due to deteriorating environmental conditions and 135 million people are at risk of having to move from their land due to desertification by 2020.
While pan-African programmes such as the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) and the Sahel Green Wall Initiative are examples of concerted efforts to stem the tide of land degradation, Africa Environment Day aims to prompt a move to a more sustainable pathway, taking into consideration the post-2015 sustainable development agenda and Africa’s transformational Agenda 2063. In this respect, African leaders are recommending that land degradation, desertification and drought be placed at the centre of the debate on the post-2015 development agenda and be recognized as one the sustainable development goals.
Ecosystem-based approaches as part of a wider transition to a Green Economy can also assist in providing food security, and late last year the first African Food Security and Adaptation conference backed these tools. The conference resulted in the adoption of a declaration calling for ecosystem-based approaches to be funded and scaled up by governments and development partners to build resilient food systems and adaptation to climate change in Africa.