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How Canada Is Taking Action To Combat Desertification

04/21/2017 04:01 EDT | Updated 04/21/2017 04:17 EDT

This Earth Day, we invite you to take your children outside, into nature, to strengthen their connection with the environment. It is the best way to motivate them to protect it.

The effects of climate change are not always obvious to us. Yet, they are undeniable. It is easier to see the harmful effects in parts of the world with very different geography from Canada: the arid lands, where three billion people live.

Such areas are extremely vulnerable to desertification, land degradation and drought--phenomena exacerbated by climate change.

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A community in Senegal at work, restoring land and cultivating nurseries along the country's section of the Great Green Wall (GGW) - a pan- African rural development initiative. Since the GGW was launched a decade ago Senegal has restored 25,000 hectares of land and planted 12 million trees - helping to transform community livelihoods in rural areas. (Photo: UNCCD)

Too often the people who live in these areas, particularly small-scale farmers, are seeing their means of subsistence threatened and their families overwhelmed by water, food and energy shortages. When these shortages go on long enough, they escalate into greater crises: famines, armed conflicts and forced migrations.

In sub-Saharan Africa, an estimated 75 per cent of the land is degraded and 10 million hectares becomes so every year. For farmers, this represents lost income of more than $4 billion annually. For woman farmers it's even worse, because women often have access only to less fertile land. They also receive less training and financial aid.

Like poverty, desertification affects women and girls disproportionately. Twice as many women and girls suffer from malnutrition as men and boys. Women and girls spend an enormous amount of time providing their families with water: in sub-Saharan Africa, 40 million hours every day. And when conflicts break out, they are more affected by violence and lack of security.

In the next few decades, desertification could create as many as 135 million climate refugees. By 2050, water shortages will affect 52 per cent of the world's people.

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(Photo: UNCCD)

More than ever, arid-land populations -- particularly women -- need to prevent the degradation of their land, restore it and make it productive.

On this Earth Day, Canada is proud to re-establish its support for the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification. It is key to our commitment to the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

We want to help affected communities develop resilience in the face of the effects of climate change. We want to improve their food security and stabilize their incomes. We want to enhance the economic power of women and girls and to help build inclusive, stronger and more prosperous economies.

We also want to share our expertise in green technologies with developing countries, particularly with regard to sustainable management of natural resources, climate-smart agriculture and the response to natural disasters.

We join in celebrating Canada's commitment to the fight against desertification, one of our time's major causes of instability.

Marie-Claude Bibeau

Minister of International Development and La Francophonie

Monique Barbut

Executive Secretary

United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification

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