Blog / 18 May 2009



The UNCCD has been recognised and confirmed as the main framework for the implementation of sustainable development in drylands. But 12 years after being entered in force, this convention is still poorly supported and as a consequence national action plans (NAPs) are poorly implemented. Agriculture and pastoralism in drylands consist of small-scale activities, but feed the people living in these drylands. The reality is that most poor countries cannot afford to implement all the UNCCD policies. What is needed are concrete commitments and actions through cooperation, both South-South and South-North cooperation.


With regard to small-scale farmers, governments have done little to enable any real improvement in their livelihoods. The zealous call for public private partnership will remain an illusion as long as public policies are not able to guarantee a stable environment for these investments.


Keys to food security and food sovereignty are small-scale farmers, a greater focus on people living in drylands, and sustainable agriculture. It is likely, that without any concrete commitment by governments to actions and support, it will remain a general and generous declaration. To paraphrase the Namibian Minister Mrs. Nandi-Ndaitwah: 'when there are no resources, we keep the same implementation of decisions as in the past...'


Not all parties have the same notion or interpretation of certain concepts in terms of content, range and scope. 'Desertification', 'sustainable' or 'double' Green Revolution lack a shared definition which leads to false expectations.


The same story applies to protectionism and subsidies for agriculture. Recent history teaches us that Europe and the USA have developed their strong competitive position in agriculture behind trade barriers which today would be considered as 'protectionist' by themselves! Let us remind ourselves that in 1948, the USA struggled to keep agriculture out of the GATT. But what is the legitimacy of these countries to deny small-scale farmers in other parts of the world their own recipe of training, technical support, credit, appropriate technology and the guarantee that the agricultural produce will be bought at a fair price?

As for the negotiations, roundtables and dialogues, it was difficult to observe concrete steps for a paradigm shift towards a people-centred green society. Parties reverted constantly to their own topics. There seems no concrete action plan, nor ways of financing these ambitious aspirations: old wine in new bottles; it is far from the anticipated steps forward.

Patrice Burger (CARI - France), Nathalie van Haren (Both ENDS - The Netherlands) Lauren Naville Gisnås (The Drylands Coordination Group - Norway)

Picture: 'Drought' by RRI Images @ FLICKR

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