The global loss of arable land increases - A creeping disaster.
Worldwide an area as large as Switzerland is lost annually caused by human induced land degradation. What doesn’t seem to amount much has huge implications for the affected population.
On occasion of the UN World Day to Combat Desertification, the Foundation GRF Davos invited to a film screening with subsequent discussion in Ella's Restaurant in Davos to raise awareness for the global problem of desertification.
The film "Losing Ground..." produced by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) shows dimensions, causes and consequences of land degradation and desertification in different areas around the globe. It illustrates the mechanisms of degradation in the African Sahel, the dramatic consequences of inappropriate land use in the former Soviet Union and in India. The film highlights that developed countries are also affected by describing the situation in Spain.
It has been estimated that some 10–20 per cent of drylands are already degraded, the total area affected by desertification being between 6 and 12 million square kilometers.. 250 million people in 110 countries are affected, and the number is rising. Yield losses of up to 50% are the result. Crop losses of up to 50% are the result. The annual global loss of 75 billion tons of soil sums up to an estimated global economic loss of $ 400 billion.
But the situation isn’t absolutely hopeless: An aid project in India's Maharashtra demonstrates that there are possibilities to stop and even reverse the on-going process of desertification.
Maria von Ballmoos, President of the Platform for Natural Sciences and Region of SCNAT, Anita Mazzetta, Managing Director WWF Grisons, Valentin Luzi, Head of Divison “Agricultural Measures” of the Department of Agriculture Grisons and Hans F. Schneider, Managing Director of Pro Natura Grisons took part in a vivid discussion on the situation in Switzerland, the canton of Grisons and the global problem described within the film.
Land degradation in Switzerland mainly means soil sealing by living space, streets, pavements and parking lots. The average Swiss person takes up about 400 m2 of soil in settlement and traffic area. The surface sealed through road and building construction in Switzerland is growing by about 72,000 m2 per day. This happens mostly at the expense of arable land. Three out of four square meters of lost arable land, happens due to the construction of roads and houses.
Switzerland's gross degree of self-sufficiency amounts up to 60%. But the Swiss agricultural sector is highly dependent on foreign imports. Without imported animal feed and fertilizers Swiss agriculture is only capable to feed 55% of the country’s population.
"There needs to be stronger responsibility and better protection of arable land." said Valentin Luzi.
But Switzerland is also indirectly affected by land degradation through economic losses and migration flows.
"Through our consumption, we deprive people in other regions of the world of their livelihood. We shouldn’t be surprised by refugee flows, as long as we use corn to produce biofuel to fill our shelves with cheap food imported from distant regions. In my view it doesn’t just come down to a lack of personal responsibility, but also to the absence of policy guidelines.“ Anita Mazzetta emphasizes. “It’s is an oxymoron, if a cucumber transported from Spain to Switzerland, costs less than a cucumber produced here under eco-friendly standards. It requires mandatory adjustments in the system to change consumer behaviour"
The panel agrees that the problem’s root is not primarily the increasing global population. There are enough resources to feed up to 10 billion people. The main cause is consumer behaviour of the industrialised world.
“The huge range of available products and the fact that every single product has to be available until store closing time leads to a vast overproduction and an incredible waste of food and other products,” Hans F. Schneider states.
We have to reconsider our standard of living, if we want to face the challenge of an increasing global population and the rapidly advancing loss of arable land.- Now is the time to act!
The movie is available online >>>here