AGRA joins forces with The Nature Conservancy to fight environmental degradation

September 5, 2019

Environmental
degradation is a major global issue since the 1970s, when the international
community became aware of the negative consequences of over-exploitation of
land and related resources.

Worldwide,
agriculture contributes 80 percent of land degradation through deforestation,
loss of biodiversity, loss of soil fertility, soil leaching, land and water
pollution, leading to desertification, floods, drought and erosion.

In Africa, almost 65 percent of cropland, which produces more than 70 percent of the food, has for half a century been affected by land degradation driven by poor farming practices.

It is against
this backdrop that the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) has
entered into an MoU with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) for the development of
resilient agricultural systems that are based on sustainable environmental
practices.

Michael Doane,
the Managing Director for Food and Agriculture at TNC, says that the
partnership will scale up sustainable land management and agro-biodiversity
conservation in the continent, with the intention of supporting agricultural
growth.

“We already
know that the best way to increase agricultural productivity is to use good
seed genetics and improved fertilisers. But soil health is coming up as new
knowledge all over the world and it is upon us to ensure that we help manage
the biological functions of soil for the benefit of African agriculture,”
Mr. Doane said. 

AGRA President Dr. Agnes Kalibata recognized the expansion of farm lands as a major precursor of degradation.

“We are
still seeing a lot of people moving to new land and this must stop because the
land that currently under production is enough to feed a lot of people, except
that it is not being optimised,” she said.

Following the
MoU, a $964,000 budget was set aside to fund an Integrated Approach Pilot
program (IAP) that fosters sustainability and resilience for food security in
Africa.

The project will
pursue investments in the integrated management of natural resources in
smallholder agriculture to help farmers improve soil health, increase access to
drought-tolerant seeds, maintain or increase diversity on their farms, and link
them to functional markets.

Dr. Kalibata
promised to support the training of farmers to pursue environmentally-conscious
agricultural practices.

“We are
happy to help in the perspective of intensification, encouraging farmers to
plant trees on their land.”

Ultimately, Dr.
Kalibata concluded, the failure to protect the environment will impact farmers
the most, especially because agricultural enterprises in the continent depend
heavily on natural resources like land and rain.

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