united struggle against desertification

“Everyone to defeat the drought” – the 28th World Day for the Fight against Desertification and Drought, which will be celebrated on June 17, launches the call. According to the UN, 12 million hectares of land become dust every year. Even more alarmingly, droughts could affect more than three-quarters of the world’s population by 2050.

Desertification and drought are global problems that cause various symptoms and side effects: poverty, famine, inequality, even armed conflict. During COP15 against desertification, held last month in Abidjan, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in his speech called on the international community to work together to “close the vicious circle between poverty and desertification” and “achieve sustainable development for a cleaner and more beautiful world “.

(Photo / Xinhua)

Africa is one of the regions hardest hit by desertification and drought: up to 65% of the continent’s productive soil has deteriorated. The Chinese, like the Africans, are at the forefront of this scourge. In China, desert areas occupy 27.2% of the country’s national land area. The fight against desertification was declared the day after the founding of New China in 1949. Through several generations of great efforts, the expansion of desertification was effectively stopped, making China the first country to achieve soil degradation neutrality. Proof that this “Disease of the Earth” is not irreversible. The achievements and experiences in the field offer a “3C” means: foresighted concept, constant struggle, concrete cooperation.

clairvoyant concept

China’s successes would not have been possible without a clear strategic vision. “We must protect nature as we do for our own eyes,” Chinese President Xi Jinping said, adding that “a good environment is the most equitable public good and the well-being that benefits the people the most.” Ecology remains a constant priority for the Chinese government. To achieve innovative, coordinated, green, open and common development, to reach the peak of emissions before 2030, to achieve CO2 neutrality before 2060. These ambitious goals are difficult to achieve, but China is on the right track. Through solid actions, it translates ecological civilization into all aspects and all stages of its economic and social development.

Better global environmental governance must also be guided by a clear strategic vision: to build a community of all life on Earth, to build a common future for man and nature. This is the Chinese contribution. Last year, President Xi launched the UN Global Development Initiative, which advocated, among other things, harmonious coexistence between man and nature in evolution. These ideas share many common features with the African Union’s Agenda 2063, which calls for “building a prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth and sustainable development”, and welcomes African countries.

Constant struggle

Stopping desertification is a long-term task. Shi Guangyin, called “the uncle of the desert” by the inhabitants of Maowusu (a desert area in northern China), still remembers the sandstorm that took him more than 15 km from his home when he was eight years old. This painful episode made him act. As an 18-year-old, he went on to learn how to plant in the desert and then replanted more than 900 acres in three years with his team. In 1984, he left the civil service and signed a contract to manage a 230-hectare sand area: unheard of in China. Wherever Shi and his bushes advanced, the desert retreated. But this mission was not without difficulty. Selling his business, falling into debt, moving often … His son even succumbed to a traffic accident while transporting young trees. The lawsuits would have deterred a less determined mind, but Shi held on. After four decades of effort, he has radically changed the local landscape. But that is not the end of the story. After his retirement, his grandson took over in this green adventure.

To roll the desert back, yes, it is possible. It is a struggle of decades, even of several generations. The forest protection program in the three regions of northern China was established in 1979 for a period of 73 years. In this context, the inhabitants of the Kubuqi Desert (northern China) have spent more than 30 years making this “Dead Sea” an oasis of prosperity. Aware of the importance of perseverance and perseverance, Africans launched the Great Green Wall for the Sahara and the Sahel Initiative in 2007, which takes shape through five-year plans and a ten-year priority investment plan 2021-2030. As a proverb from the Sahara says, “what does it mean if the road is long, as long as there is a well at the end”. We must all persevere again and again to ensure a greener and brighter future for future generations.

Concrete cooperation

Planetary challenge, collective reaction. China’s green initiatives in its cooperation with Africa are numerous, especially within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative and the China-Africa Cooperation Forum. At the last FOCAC conference in November 2021, greater emphasis was placed on green development with ten collaborative projects. China and Africa have for the first time adopted a declaration on cooperation on climate change. Initiatives were rapid to set up remote sensing satellites for climate observation purposes for Africa, send 500 agronomists to African countries and carry out agricultural and poverty reduction projects for them. The latest example goes back to the symposium China held in April last year for African forestry experts to support the development of the Great Green Wall. Chinese wisdom advocates teaching others to fish instead of offering them fish.

Green collaboration will only be effective with partners who make demands on themselves. In recent years, African countries have doubled their efforts to combat desertification and drought. Côte d’Ivoire, host country for COP15 against desertification, has set itself the goal of restoring forest cover to at least 20% of the national territory by 2030. To achieve this, a new forest code was adopted in 2019, and “1 day 50 million trees” replanting operation was officially launched last year.Good practice has also emerged under the Great Green Wall Initiative.In Burkina Faso, Senegal and Niger, the Vallerani system, a technology inspired by traditional practice, has restored more than 50,000 hectares of agro-sylvo-pastoral systems. Mali and Ethiopia have supported farmers’ natural regeneration, low-cost land reclamation techniques, played a fundamental role in creating more livelihoods and local environmental benefits, and China supports and will steadfastly support these efforts by African countries towards sustainable land management, which are so crucial to Africa’s development and restoration. .

Desertification coupled with climate change and biodiversity loss were identified as the biggest challenges for sustainable development at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. While COP15 against desertification closed in Côte d’Ivoire, another COP15, on biodiversity, is preparing its second session in China. The fight against desertification and the conservation of biodiversity are closely linked and mutually reinforcing in building a better world. China will work for the new session of COP15 to make a greater contribution to achieving the goals of sustainable development.

(By Yi Da, International Issues Observer)

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