Remarks by the UN Resident Coordinator at the Desertification and Drought Day Commemoration.
Master of Ceremony, please allow me to pass my respects to,
The Head of State, His Majesty King Letsie III
The Right Honourable The Prime Minister
Honourable President of Senate
Honourable Speaker of the National Assembly
Her Ladyship the Chief Justice
His Lordship the President of the Court of Appeal
Honourable Deputy Prime Minister
Their Excellencies, Heads of Diplomatic Missions UN Agencies, and Development Partners
Senior Government Officials
Dear Friends of Planet Earth,
On behalf of the United Nations in Lesotho, it is a great honour for me to welcome you all to the commemoration of the 2021 World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought .
Let me start with reading out the UN Secretary General’s message
“Humanity is waging a relentless, self-destructive war on nature.
Biodiversity is declining, greenhouse gas concentrations are rising, and our pollution can be found from the remotest islands to the highest peaks.
We must make peace with nature.
The land can be our greatest ally. But the land is suffering.
Land degradation from climate change and the expansion of agriculture, cities and infrastructure undermines the well-being of 3.2 billion people.
It harms biodiversity and enables the emergence of infectious diseases, such as COVID-19.
Restoring degraded land would remove carbon from the atmosphere.
It would help vulnerable communities adapt to climate change.
And it could generate an extra $1.4 trillion dollars in agricultural production each year.
The best part is that land restoration is simple, inexpensive and accessible to all.
It is one of the most democratic and pro-poor ways of accelerating progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.
This year marks the start of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.
On this International Day, let us make healthy land central to all our planning.”
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Desertification will erode farmers livelihoods as their farms become less productive and more effort is needed to produce smaller yields. Smallholder farmers are mostly affected by climate change as they have less buffers to survive a hard season.
Food security will deteriorate as harvests fail and arable land deteriorates. Between October 2020 and March 2021, 40% of the population of Lesotho, equivalent to 582,000 people, are projected to experience acute food insecurity while every year a significant (20%) number of Basotho are food insecure. Although the COVID-19 pandemic has played a factor through reduced incomes and increased food prices, drought and land degradation is a significant contributor to rising food insecurity.
There are many human effects of climate change in Lesotho, but ultimately climate change poses a serious risk of increased poverty, vulnerability and food insecurity to the Kingdom of Lesotho.
This year, the theme of the Desertification and Drought Day is “Restoration Land Recovery, We Build Back Better With Healthy Land”, focusing on restoring degraded land into healthy land. The restoration of degraded land will recover lost natural resources, allow more land to be productive, and ultimately contribute to economic growth, improved agricultural productivity and food security, higher household incomes and improved ecosystems and household resilience to shocks.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of household resilience, so that households can support themselves through shocks, without being subject to vulnerability. Expanding and improving productive land is one way that households can increase their resilience, protect their food security, and improve their living situation.
Land cannot be restored, just to be degraded again. Land restoration must be accompanied with techniques to preserve the land for future generations and to ensure that all can benefit from productive land that provides incomes and food security.
In Qibing and Metsi-Maholo Community Councils the Ministry of Forestry, Range and Soil Conservation, FAO and other partners implemented a four-year climate change adaption project aimed to reduce vulnerability and to build resilience to climate change and variability of both ecosystems and livelihoods. This Global Environment Facility (GEF)-funded project has strengthened implementation of sustainable land management practices and resource conservation measures such as rangeland rehabilitation, conservation measures, vegetative cover improvement, water harvesting and wetland protection. On the other hand, to reduce pressure on the rangelands the project has encouraged communities to produce fodder, rear short cycle livestock which are non-grazers like pigs, dual purpose poultry, grow horticultural crops (fruits and vegetables) and implement community savings and lending scheme initiatives.
The United Nations in Lesotho has also supported households to both withstand the negative economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and to restore productive land, through providing cash for work and assets to individuals for land rehabilitation.
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
One of our key targets at the United Nations in Lesotho, is to ensure that “by 2023, the people of Lesotho have access to, and use, natural resources in a more sustainable manner, and the marginalized and most vulnerable are increasingly resilient”.
I am delighted that by focusing on land rehabilitation, we are also focusing on sustainable natural resources management and the resilience of the most vulnerable.
Indeed, land rehabilitation, if sustainably implemented, has the potential to contribute towards 7 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals which are SDG 1 – No Poverty, SDG 2 – Zero Hunger, SDG 6 – Clean Water and Sanitation, SDG 8 – Decent Work and Economic Growth, SDG 13 – Climate Action, SDG 15 – Life on Land, and SDG 17 – Partnerships for the Goals. Land rehabilitation efforts also have potential to address conflicts around access and untilization of natural resources such water sources and rangelands observed in some places in Lesotho including the Mafeteng district.
To conclude, please let me thank the Ministry of Forestry, Range and Soil Conservation for inviting me here today, and for all of their hard work to protect Lesotho’s invaluable natural resources. Please let me implore every one of you here today to look after our planet, it is the only one we have!