Northern countries still see desertification as a local problem caused by population pressures rather than international trade patterns and market demands

-- UN CONVENTION TO COMBAT DESERTIFICATION
In force from December 1996, Ratified by 145 countries
The convention The persistence of countries from Africa, where two-thirds of the land area is either desert or dryland, led to the decision to adopt the Convention to Combat Desertification ( ccd ) at Rio in 1992. The main elements of the convention include

- establishment of a global legal framework

- creation of a system for exchanging information on ways to combat desertification

- principles that include a 'bottom-up' approach to ensure participation of local populations in combating desertification

- mobilisation of finances through bilateral and multilateral aid as well as the Global Environment Facility ( gef) .
Poor problem Northern countries were, and still are unwilling partners in ccd as they do not acknowledge the global roots of the problem. Instead of over-consumption by rich countries, they identify population pressures in poor countries as the cause of desertification. The eu and the us have, in particular, questioned any links between desertification, trade and poverty. Since 1992, they have opposed discussions that place any obligation on them to provide assistance to Southern countries. They have resisted the use of gef as a funding mechanism for ccd . Southern countries have had to fight for the establishment of a 'global mechanism' that serves as the funding mechanism for the convention. But lack of funds and interest on part of Northern governments could spell death for ccd .
Challenges ahead ccd has failed to

- tackle structural issues like international trade, which lead to desertification. Desertification demands proper pricing of primary commodities, taking into account ecological costs

- mobilise adequate funding for programmes to control desertification. Innovative approaches have to be developed to raise a global fund

- implement the 'bottom-up' approach for developing national action programmes to combat desertification. Local governance and community empowerment are yet to become important principles guiding anti-desertification programmes in Southern countries.

Problem
The misuse of land and water in many parts of the world due to deforestation, agriculture, mining and urbanisation have led to large-scale land degradation in many parts of the world.

Although desertification is a local phenomenon, its occurrence can be traced to global trade and economic practices. For example, governments in poor countries encourage farmers to grow cash crops such as coffee, which generate foreign exchange to pay back national debt. But such crops also put an enormous strain on soil and water resources. If export prices of primary commodities exported by poor countries drop, there is a greater need to exploit more land.

Caught in a cycle of debt and production, farmers tax the soil until it eventually loses all its nutrients and can no longer sustain agriculture.

Desertification affects 41 per cent of the total land area on earth. The world's poor are the worst hit. They depend on the soil for a livelihood but do not have the resources to reverse desertification. The livelihoods of more than 1 billion people in more than 110 countries are jeopardised. According to 1998 estimates, desertification costs the world US $42 billion a year.

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