Sustainable Food and Agriculture

Promoting Sustainable Land Management across the Mediterranean

New programme to counter land degradation, enhance resilience and food security in the Mediterranean region through the promotion of Sustainable Land Management
25 June 2020

Just 14 percent of the Mediterranean region’s 850 million hectares are suitable for agricultural production. And yet, the livelihoods of millions depend on these pockets of land for the production of staple products such as cereals, vegetables, citrus fruits, olives and grapes, and the connected agrifood chains.

Despite its essential role in the economies of the 22 countries in the region and beyond, agriculture is threatened by a variety of issues related to unsustainable land management practices and climate change and variability. These factors are further degrading the quality of land which, all too often, is inherently relatively poor: drylands cover 32 percent of land in Southern Europe and 68 percent in the Near East and North Africa (NENA) region, where soils are fragile and drought endemic.

Natural resources under threat

Unsustainable land management is the main driver of land degradation and desertification (LDD) across all Mediterranean countries, with drought and climate change further exacerbating the situation. 

The NENA region is particularly threatened by LDD, where soil erosion and desertification are resulting in an alarming decline of soil nutrients, soil organic carbon and declined productivity, causing losses of about USD 13 billion in countries’ Gross Domestic Product every year.

The status quo is untenable and has already caused concerning impacts, including:

  • 30 percent of semi-arid Mediterranean drylands are now affected by desertification;
  • 8.3 million hectares of arable land lost in the Mediterranean since 1961, due to land degradation and urbanization; 
  • between 2.1 and 7.4 percent of GDP lost due to environmental degradation in the NENA; and
  • 40 percent loss in cereal production in Syria and Jordan and 35 percent loss in animal production in Morocco and Tunisia due to drought.

The initiative

The LandMedNet inter-regional initiative, bringing together FAO, CIHEAM, WOCAT, and partners at the international, country and local levels, seeks to counter the effects of LDD by promoting Sustainable Land Management (SLM) systems across the Mediterranean.’

What is SLM?

SLM includes a set of practices that enable farmers to sustainably increase production and productivity, through techniques that safeguard the natural resource base, while being economically viable and socially acceptable across a variety of contexts.

SLM is a knowledge-based procedure that helps integrate land, water, biodiversity and environmental management to meet multiple claims on land. Applying SLM can counter land degradation, enhance resilience of the land and people towards climate change and disasters and promote sustainable production landscapes. 

Driving positive change

The goal of the programme is to enable coordinated action and knowledge-sharing at national and regional levels, while facilitating informed decision-making through a number of proposed initiatives, including:

Promoting regional collaboration to establish decision-support processes and tools and foster regional collaboration to address LDD and climate change;

  • enhancing the sustainable management of transboundary watersheds and grazing areas;
  • enhancing adaptation to drought by boosting the prediction and early warning systems; 
  • promoting sustainable management of natural resources to bolster livelihoods and curb migration;
  • supporting greater civil society and private sector engagement; and
  • encouraging south-south cooperation to share experiences and expertise, exchange data, enhance capacity building and consulting, and address challenges and threats by finding effective solutions.

‘This important initiative is contributing to SDG 2 (Zero Hunger) and SDG 15 (Life on Land), and promoting partnerships to share knowledge across NENA and beyond, that will also provide concrete solutions in support of the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration’ said Kakoli Ghosh, of the Sustainable Agriculture Team.

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