The challenge of desertification, already big, is becoming even more significant as a growing global population places increasing pressure on productive land. If we have any chance of delivering more nutritious food to people in the Global South we need to recover degraded land and enhance the health and fertility of our soils.
In the dry areas, where ICARDA works, this challenge is likely to be more difficult – these marginal environments are on the frontline in the fight against desertification and are predicted to be worst affected by climate change.
In fact, rising temperatures and increasing water scarcity and salinization are already a major constraint to agricultural production, threatening to consign many rural communities to chronic poverty and food insecurity.
Today, on World Day to Combat Desertification , we present important lessons from some of our recent initiatives that promote sustainable development across the dry areas and fight the effects of desertification.
We reflect on the progress of ICARDA’s new decentralized genebank architecture. A response to conflict in Syria, this approach is now strengthening the conservation of plant genetic material and enhancing the development of improved climate-resilient crops.
In Jordan, to cope with water scarcity, we have developed practical mechanized water harvesting techniques that support the revegetation of degraded rangeland ecosystems.
In response to recurrent drought in Eritrea in recent years, we are working with national partners to develop high-yielding climate-resilient wheat varieties that are generating yields way above those achieved by conventional varieties.
Finally, An ICARDA initiative that promotes cactus production in Tunisia has introduced a practical and cost-effective technology to cut cactus cladodes that is enhancing rural livelihoods and reducing the drudgery faced by many women producers.
Cactus plants are well adapted to the climate, provide valuable supplementary feed during feed gap periods, and are a reliable source of water, containing up to 90% of this precious natural resource. The wider and improved use of cactus provides a sustainable solution for small and medium scale farmers in dry areas - reducing pressure on vegetation and helping to reverse desertification.