THE Minister of Environment and Tourism, Uahekua Herunga, said land degradation is a significant threat to our developmental efforts and it is a threat we are committed to address.
In his key-note address delivered to more than 200 delegates at the official opening of the 11th United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) Conference of the Parties (COP11) in Windhoek yesterday, Herunga also urged the UNCCD to deal with some of the most pertinent issues humankind faces in the decades to come.
The conference, which is being held under the theme 'A Stronger UNCCD for a Land Degradation Neutral World' will run until 27 September 2013. It is being held in Africa for the third time.
Herunga, who took over the presidency of the COP for the next two years, said it is Namibia's conviction that delegates will experience COP11 in a country whose interventions against the threat of desertification, land degradation and drought.
"Drought, land degradation, unsustainable management of natural resources and climate change negatively impact on the livelihood of our people," he said.
He said land degradation directly affects 1.5 billion people globally, a total of 24 billion tonnes of fertile soil is lost every year because of crop-land erosion, while another 12 million hectares is affected by drought and desertification. Herunga also said that about 27 000 species of flora and fauna are lost each year because of land degradation.
He further said climate changes occurring globally have increased the frequency and severity of droughts, particularly in the arid regions of Africa and southern Africa and Namibia in particular.
"Communities the world over will suffer and be further marginalised. The rural-urban divide, already so apparent in many countries in the Global South and more especially in Africa, will widen further, as people leave their barren homesteads for already overcrowded cities," he said.
Secretary of the UNCCD, Luc Gnacandja, said although Namibia is known as the driest country in sub-Saharan Africa, it has often been cited as a model because of its ability to adapt to an eco-system which is prone to drought.
"Over the years, Namibia has won many battles for the dignity and the well-being of its people in the face of harsh conditions," said Gnacadja.
The conference is being attended by delegates from over 195 parties to the UNCCD, including UN organisations, inter-governmental and civil society organisations, scientists and affected communities.
The parties will debate and brainstorm on solutions to improve the living conditions of people in dry-lands. Talks on maintaining and restoring land and soil productivity and mitigating the effects of drought will also be high on the the agenda.
The COP11 takes place when Namibia is experiencing its most severe drought in 30 years.