MINISTER of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change Robert Pickersgill has described sustainable land management as an integral component of the Government's efforts to reduce land degradation.
Speaking at a sustainable land management (SLM) stakeholders' workshop at the Terra Nova All-Suite Hotel, Kingston, on Friday, Minister Pickersgill said some of the benefits to be derived nationally include: enhanced agricultural productivity; improved rural development strategies; protection of watersheds; conservation of biodiversity; reduced risks of natural disasters; and reduced urban migration.
But he said failure to address land degradation reduces the farmers' capacity to produce food, increases the island's vulnerability to natural hazards, limits the availability of fresh water for people, and undermines the tourism, agriculture and fisheries sectors.
In addition, research has shown that 60 per cent of greenhouse gases produced in tropical countries occur as a result of land degradation. He also said land degradation significantly reduces the nation's ability to adapt to climate change.
Highlighting the importance of the SLM project, Pickersgill said it acknowledges the country's land degradation issues and provides the avenues through which the problem can be mitigated or managed.
The minister added that the project assisted in establishing priorities and strategies, while addressing the underlying causes of land degradation in rural communities. The demonstration projects were initiated in Mocho, Upper Rio Minho, Clarendon; Lititz, St Elizabeth; and Flanker, St James, with each addressing various aspects of land degradation.
"The demonstration projects will directly contribute to global benefits through improved forest cover, which will increase carbon sequestration, and improve integrated management of land resources to prevent land degradation," Pickersgill said.
Some of the causes or contributors to land degradation in the island include: deforestation; soil erosion by wind or water; weather/climate conditions; pollution; drought conditions; unsustainable agricultural practices; bauxite mining and limestone quarrying; and the expansion of urban development.
The three-year sustainable land management project seeks to minimise and prevent land degradation by mainstreaming SLM practices by strengthening the institutional framework. The project also seeks to develop a coherent policy and legal structure that will incorporate SLM mainstream principles and practices in the country's medium-term economic planning strategies.
The project is funded by the Global Environment Facility, executed by the United Nations Development Programme. It is being implemented by the Forestry Department.