The 2008 theme of the Day is “Combating Land Degradation for Sustainable Agriculture” and because the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements representing over 700 members in more than 100 countries is convinced that Organic Agriculture can contribute significantly to mitigate and even reverse the negative impacts of unsustainable land use and to stem further desertification it joins the international community to mark 17 June World Day to Combat Desertification.
Desertification refers to land degradation in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas resulting from various factors, including climatic variations and human activities like conventional agriculture. Desertification is caused mainly by overcultivation, overgrazing, deforestation and poor irrigation practices, which result in organic matter loss, soil contamination, erosion, soil compaction and sealing, salinization and long-term loss of natural vegetation.
he international community has long recognized that desertification is a major economic, social and environmental problem of concern to many countries in all regions of the world. As early as 1977, the United Nations Conference on Desertification (UNCOD) adopted a Plan of Action to Combat Desertification (PACD). Unfortunately, despite this and other efforts, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) concluded in 1991 that the problem of land degradation in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas had intensified, although there were “local examples of success”.
Desertification is a worldwide problem that directly affects over 250 million people and a third of the earth’s land surface. It is especially concentrated in developing countries. Since 1990, about 6 million hectares of productive land have been lost each year around the world. Desertification causes food insecurity, famine, poverty, and human displacement that can give rise to social, economic and political tensions. Thus, the vicious circle of further poverty and further land degradation continues.
Combating desertification requires an integrated approach. Organic Agriculture , including techniques such as windbreaks, shelterbelts and reforestation, should be promoted and strengthened with socio-economic measures that address insecure land tenure systems and promote sustainable human settlements.
Organic Agriculture helps to improve soil fertility, prevent wind and water erosion, improve water infiltration and retention capacity and reduce surface and ground water consumption and contamination – all measures contributing to bringing land back to life.
Gerald A. Hermann, IFOAM’s President, emphasizes that “Farm practices that do not take care of the soil and its organic and living content undermine the very resource agriculture depends on – the land.”
Angela B. Caudle de Freitas, Executive Director of IFOAM, strongly advises that “Governments, development agencies and donors should promote Organic Agriculture in their agricultural development efforts to reverse desertification where it has occurred and to prevent it from expanding. The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) should encourage governments to adopt Organic Agriculture as a tool to combat desertification.”
 Organic Agriculture is a production system that sustains the health of soils, ecosystems and people. It relies on ecological processes, biodiversity and cycles adapted to local conditions, rather than the use of inputs with adverse effects. Organic agriculture combines tradition, innovation and science to benefit the shared environment and promote fair relationships and a good quality of live for all involved.