Canada Taking Action to Combat Desertification


This op-ed was published in the Huffington Post Canada on April 22, 2017.

By the Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of International Development and La Francophonie and Monique Barbut, Executive Secretary, United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification

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 3 billion people live.

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

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 percent 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 percent of the world’s people.

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-Emmanuelle Cadieux
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of International Development and La Francophonie

Media Relations Office
Global Affairs Canada
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