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FAO kicks off project aimed at tackling land degradation in Ukraine

The first National Coordination Council on land degradation and desertification, with up to 100 experts from the Government of Ukraine, regional state administrations and international organizations, opened here last week. All the participants agreed on a joint approach to contain runaway land degradation, which has been threatening national food and water supplies in the country.

FAO provides financial support to the National Coordination Council and is the technical performer of the Global Environment Facility-sponsored project, which is titled “Integrated Natural Resources Management in Degraded Landscapes in the Forest-Steppe and Steppe Zones of Ukraine.”

The area of degraded and unproductive arable land in Ukraine exceeds 20 percent (more than 6.5 million hectares) of the total arable land. Every year, 300 to 600 million tons of soil are lost due to erosion. Depending on the level of degradation, crop yields can be reduced by 50 percent, and losses from the lack of production amount to more than UAH 20 billion (approximately USD 759 million) per year. At the same time, Ukraine’s agricultural sector is estimated to cause 35 to 40 percent of all environmental degradation in the country.

Given this negative tendency, and following the signing of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, Ukraine has undertaken responsibilities to rebuild degraded land and soils by 2030 and seek to achieve a neutral level of land degradation in the world.

“There are more than 1.1 million hectares of degraded, unproductive and techno-contaminated lands that are subject to conservation in Ukraine,” said Ostap Semerak, Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources of Ukraine. “At the same time, measures for the reclamation of disrupted lands are not carried out satisfactorily."

A recently presented FAO project, sponsored by the Global Environment Facility, aims to help Ukraine achieve a balance between land degradation processes and its natural and artificial restoration. The three-year plan includes improving the legislative and institutional framework and introducing a practical approach to the integrated management of natural resources.

Moreover, the project is expected to address standards for planting linear-type shelterbelts based on types of soils and natural zones, considering climate-smart agriculture as an overarching principle.

One part of the project focuses on restoring the productivity and resilience of production landscapes, using a demonstration area of 7 500 hectares. Demonstration activities will be conducted in the Kyiv, Kharkiv and Mykolaiv oblasts – territories representing different natural and climatic zones. The Ukrainian State Center for Testing and Prognosing Technology for Agricultural Production named after L. Pogorilyi, the AgroGeneration agricultural company and local territorial communities will be responsible for implementation.

“Preservation and protection of arable land against land degradation and desertification is a national priority in Ukraine and is essential for ensuring the sustainable development of agricultural landscapes and the reduction of rural poverty,” said Mikhail Malkov, FAO development programme coordinator.

The eroded area is estimated to have increased by 70 000 to 100 000 hectares per year during the last decade, he said. To address this problem, the project will closely engage farmers, deliver training, and support the transfer of innovations such as modern monitoring systems, conservation agriculture and climate-smart agriculture, Malkov added.

The project is planned to be finalized by late 2021. Activities relate to broader global efforts as they contribute to achieving Sustainable Development Goal 15 for life on land.

10 May 2018, Kyiv, Ukraine

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