United Nations Development Programme - Keynote speech at HLPF side event on “Landscape Restoration for Food Security & Climate Adaptation”.


As prepared for delivery.

There is perhaps no societal problem more wicked, more intractable and more tangled than the nexus of land and forest degradation, food security, water security and climate. As the recent TEEB for Agriculture and Food report notes, these issues are inordinately complex and interlinked.

Several global publications released in the past two years paint a picture of just how intertwined and vexing these challenges are, and together they paint an alarming portrait for our world’s future.

First, we have already degraded a major portion of the earth’s surface. The Global Land Outlook, published last year by the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, and FAO’s State of the World’s Forests, released last week, highlight key issues in land and forest degradation.

•    The Land report concluded that a significant proportion of land has already been degraded, especially in the last two decades. At least 1 out of every 5 hectares of the Earth’s vegetated surface already shows declining trends in productivity.  
•    But that’s not all. Loss of biodiversity, coupled with intensified impacts from climate change, only exacerbate the health and productivity of land, in the form of unpredictable seasonal rainfall, increased water scarcity and floods, and extreme temperatures.
•    These trends have profound implications for the 2.5 billion people who depend on agriculture for their livelihoods,  more than 80% of whom farm on parcels of 2 hectares or smaller.  Roughly half of these farmers - 1.3 billion people - are trapped on ever-degrading agricultural land that is increasingly marginal, requiring more financial and chemical inputs, for diminishing returns.  
•    These trends also have broader regional and global implications. Degraded land leads to decreased resilience of the world’s most vulnerable people, hundreds of millions of whom live on less than $2 a day, as well as to decreased food security for the world’s most food insecure regions.