12) ICRISAT’s science helps prevent desertification and land degradation
As events mark the World Day to Combat Desertification on 17 June, cutting edge scientific innovations of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) deliver impact towards conserving land and water hence sustaining and increasing productivity.
The World Day to Combat Desertification focuses international attention to combat desertification and land degradation. The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) has chosen the theme “Conserving land and water: Securing our common future” for the 2009 World Day to Combat Desertification.
Desertification is one of the world’s most serious contemporary challenges affecting more than one billion people. It reduces the ability of the land to support life, affecting animals, crops and rural people. The reduction in plant cover that accompanies desertification leads to accelerated soil erosion by wind and water. As vegetation cover and soil layer are reduced, soil fertility is lost causing land degradation.
According to Dr William Dar, Director General of ICRISAT, and the Chair of the Committee on Science and Technology of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), land degradation and desertification adversely affect small farmers of the semi-arid tropics. ICRISAT’s research products and scientific innovations help prevent land degradation and desertification, thereby providing livelihood and income security to these farmers.
“The health of our lands is the basis of our food chain and climate, and the livelihoods of our small farmers and poorest people. The positive impact on combating land degradation can come only with the development and application of good science,” Dr Dar said.
ICRISAT’s focus is on integrated genetic and natural resource management (IGNRM), which in essence aims at growing improved crops on soils conserved and enhanced through natural resource management with people empowerment as its core.
ICRISAT’s integrated watershed management strategy in India, China, Thailand and Vietnam has brought together improved agronomy and natural resource management practices for the benefit of dryland farmers.
In the nutrient-starved soils of sub-Saharan Africa, ICRISAT is increasing agricultural productivity through fertilizer microdosing, which ensures that the right quantity of scarce fertilizer is made available to the crop at the right time of its growth.
Similar blending has been achieved through conservation agriculture in eastern and southern Africa, and the Sahelian eco-farm in West and Central Africa. When land and water is conserved, and improved crop varieties are planted, farmers’ livelihood will be naturally protected and agricultural productivity is increased.
Worldwide, desertification is making about 12 million hectares useless for cultivation every year. Through cutting edge scientific innovations like those from ICRISAT, this global phenomenon could be prevented, benefiting most especially the poor people of the drylands.
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