Author: Dr. Lili Ilieva, Ecosystem based Adaptation Specialist
Land and soil degradation is widespread, especially in dry and semi-dry areas across the world. Land degradation leads to ecosystems services degradation because it causes the depletion and loss of several soil functions, such as nitrogen retention, carbon storage, etc. It contributes to biodiversity loss, food and water insecurity, drought, and other social and environmental challenges. Latin America is already affected by desertification which costs between 8% and 14% of gross agricultural product in many Central and South American countries (IPCC, 2019). The example from Gran Chaco region (part of Argentina, Bolivia and Paraguay) already demonstrates widespread degradation over the last century (IPCC, 2019).
The key driving factors for land degradation are well-known and include deforestation, agricultural land expansion, land overexploitation and overgrazing, among others. Climate change is also a major driving factor. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on the Climate Change and Land report, published in August 2019, highlights that by increasing stresses on land, climate change worsens existing risks to livelihoods, biodiversity, human and ecosystem health, infrastructure and food systems (IPCC, 2019). Key messages for Latin America include (CDKN, 2019):
Dryland areas are expected to become more vulnerable to desertification in Latin America.
Community and policy responses can combat land degradation.
Managing land, value chains and climate risks can deliver climate adaptation, mitigation and development benefits.
Insecure property rights and lack of access to credit and agricultural advisory services hamper progress – especially for women.
The skills and knowledge of women and marginalised groups are not yet sufficiently recognised.
Integrated governance is needed to maximise the benefits of land and water.
Emission reductions in other sectors are vital to relieve pressure on land.
There is an urgent need for innovative and transformational solutions to address climate change challenges and reduce the pressure on land. Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA) has demonstrated a high potential for building resilience in landscapes through agroforestry, reforestation and restoration measures. The report does not explicitly refer to EbA; however, it highlights specific EbA solutions with the potential to provide adaptation benefits and reduce land degradation. Promoted EbA solutions include agroforestry, conservation of coastal wetlands, soil and water conservation practices (CDKN, 2019).
Yet, barriers are hampering the adoption of such solutions including land tenure insecurity, lack of property rights, lack of access to markets and agricultural advisory services, lack of technical knowledge and skills, and lack of agricultural support and subsidies (IPCC, 2019). The lack of access to these services is especially problematic for women. To resolve these barriers and create an enabling environment for the effective adoption of EbA solutions, ambitious policy responses are required.
CDKN, 2019. The IPCC’s Special Report on Climate Change and Land: What’s in it for Latin America?
IPCC, 2019. Climate Change and Land: An IPCC Special Report on climate change, desertification, land degradation, sustainable land management, food security, and greenhouse gas fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems