Science, market and political will must work together to successfully revive vulnerable soils and halt further land degradation

Members of the Women Farmers Advancement Network (WOFAN) in Nigeria being trained in groundnut processing

Dr William Dar as one of the panelists in the Caux Dialogue on Land and Security 2014. Photo: IofC

Earlier this month, I was a panelist at the Caux dialogue on land and security. This is an annual forum bringing together civil society, government and donor representatives, scientists and development practitioners from the North and South, to debate the critical issue of land degradation and desertification, which is a threat especially for the forgotten poor in the drylands.

We are rapidly heading “ towards a soil peak with possibly worse consequences than the oil peak” as Luc Gnacadja, the former UNCDD secretary general warned.  This soil peak is seen where the value of land is rising; doubling or even tripling in many parts of the world, and a land rush in some countries such as in Ethiopia. Alongside this we continue to witness wide-scale land degradation as not enough is being invested to prevent soil erosion, nutrient mining and other forms of land degradation.

How do we rethink development priorities from a dryland farmer’s perspective?

Members of the Women Farmers Advancement Network (WOFAN) in Nigeria being trained in groundnut processing

Members of the Women Farmers Advancement Network (WOFAN) in Nigeria being trained in groundnut processing
Photo: A Inua, ICRISAT

A European think tank has just sent out  a call to action to reshape global development highlighting “the three main challenges that will determine all our futures”: inclusiveness, sustainability and security.

This is crucial to work in the drylands. The core of ICRISAT’s strategy is about helping smallholder farmers to better manage the risks of farming in some of the harshest environments. For example, I would like to use the case of Nigeria to show how inclusive and sustainable rural development can happen when things are planned along the right principles.