Project Launch of “ Implementation of Sustainable Land Management Practices to Address Land Degradation and Mitigate Effects of Drought”

Aug 26, 2015

Titon Mitra, UNDP Philippines Country Director

I am very pleased to participate in the launching of this much-awaited Project of the Department of Agriculture, through the Bureau of Soils and Water Management. 

I say long awaited not just because it takes some time for GEF projects to go from concept to fund flow but also because of the important need for building the capacities of local government units and farmers on sustainable land management in a more systematic and institutionalized manner.

We all know how important land is to economic development and human well-being.

It is among the most precious resources to humans because healthy land and soil means higher agricultural productivity and good ecosystems balance, factors which translate to food security and over-all wellbeing of humans and the planet.

However, the world is faced with rapid and widespread land degradation. Half of the topsoil on the planet has been lost in the last 150 years due to various reasons, including agricultural expansion and deforestation.

Closer to home, Asia is estimated to have 717 million hectares of degraded land. Estimates of total annual losses from soil degradation range from 1 to 7% of agricultural gross domestic product in South and Southeast Asia.

The Philippines, in particular, has not been spared this problem. In fact, according to the Global Assessment of Land Degradation and Improvement Study, total degraded lands in the Philippines is estimated at 132,275 square kilometers affecting 33 million Filipinos.

More specifically, 5.2 million hectares of the country’s arable land are severely eroded, while 8.5 million hectares are considered moderately eroded.

As far back as 1989, the World Bank has estimated the annual value of on-site fertility losses due to unsustainable upland agriculture in the Philippines at around US$100 million, equal to 1% of the Philippines GDP at that time. 

Deforestation, which is also a chronic problem in the Philippines, is significantly contributing to land degradation through excessive soil erosion.

The country, is estimated to have 7.3 million hectares of forests  which is approximately one fourth of the total land area. This is very much below the threshold for the ideal minimum forest cover based on slope – it should be 50% cover to total land area. 

While the figures do not paint a good picture, efforts are being exerted to achieve this standard on forest to total land area ratio.

Reforestation efforts and reforms in forestry policies will have to be coupled with sustainable land management in the uplands. Policies relating to agriculture, forestry and land-use should be integrated and holistic. 

Given the increasing pressure on land from agriculture, forestry, pasture, energy production and urbanization, urgent action is needed to halt land degradation.

I know that the Philippine government is mindful of the need to address land degradation in the country’s lowlands and the uplands, given that Agriculture and Forestry are two of its key sectors.

This is well articulated in the updated National Action Plan on Sustainable Land Management (NAP-SLM 2010-2020).  

We hope that this newly approved GEF Project can contribute in the implementation of that Plan in a significant way, even with modest resources.

I should add that sustainable land management is not just the responsibility of the national government, but of everybody relying on land as a basic resource. 

The national government cannot do it alone, it needs the support of the local governments and local communities, especially the farmers who directly till the land.  

The Project is designed, therefore, to not only develop the capacities of local government units in mainstreaming sustainable land management in their planning instruments like the Comprehensive Land Use Plans (CLUPs) and Comprehensive Development Plans (CDPs), but also to enhance the knowledge and competencies of farmers, through more enhanced training modules on sustainable land management, primarily through the Farmers Field Schools.

This project is also well positioned to make a contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals which will be adopted in September.  Priority is being given to combating desertification, restoring degraded land and soil, and setting the ambitious target of achieving a land-degradation neutral world by 2020.

Let me end this message by congratulating the Department of Agriculture, more specifically its Bureau of Soils and Water Management, and its key partners – the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB), in pursuing this Project. 

I wish you success in its implementation and rest assured that UNDP will continue to support the Philippine Government in ensuring effective integrated ecosystem management which importantly includes sustainable land management.

Thank you and good day!