Global Environment

National Action Plan for Agenda 21 -Chap. 12

[Agenda 21] National Action Plan for Agenda 21

Chapter 12 MANAGING FRAGILE ECOSYSTEMS: COMBATING DESERTIFICATION AND DROUGHT

A) Strengthening the Knowledge Base and Developing Information and Monitoring Systems for Regions Prone to Desertification and Drought, Including the Economic and Social Aspects of These Ecosystems

Desertification is land degradation in ecologically fragile arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas, resulting from various factors including climatic variations and human activities. Against this background, the socio-economic conditions of these areas are declining. And the recurrent drought is further hastening the progress of desertification.

In combating desertification, before measures are launched, it is necessary to get an adequate understanding of the actual circumstances of desertification and to clarify its causes and mechanisms sufficiently, including socio-economic factors in the affected areas. On that basis, effective anti-desertification programs, considering the local communities' living conditions, customs, traditional techniques etc., should be developed and implemented. Accordingly, in order to develop methods by which to understand the actual circumstances of desertification, strengthening the knowledge base of the local people and Japan in the affected areas, it is necessary to develop information and monitoring systems.

Taking the above into account, Japan attaches importance to the implementation of the following activities:

(1)
Japan will conduct surveys to clarify the mechanisms of desertification, as well as surveys to clarify the soil characteristics and the water movement of regions in which there is the danger of desertification. These surveys will cover such areas as the atmosphere, the hydrosphere, the geosphere and the biosphere, as regards desertification and the environment of deserts and surrounding areas.
(2)
By conducting research and development using remote sensing methods with aircraft or artificial satellites, and by accumulating data obtained from this research and development, Japan is conducting ground-truth surveys, and is making continuing efforts to grasp the distribution of vegetation and of land use through the analysis of these surveys.
(3)
Based on data thus obtainedregarding the effects of human activities believed to be major causes of desertification, Japan is conducting research on the assessment of the effect of human activities and land use on ecosystems, as well as that of the mutual effects of human activities and desertification. Japan will promote research on sustainable agriculture, by which land is properly used in harmony with ecosystems. Furthermore, Japan will conduct surveys and research on effective and economic construction methods for combating desertification.
(4)
Japan is making its research and information resulting from it broadly available to the world through an international network, and is studying ways that international cooperation could improve the sharing of information in regards to global environmental problems. Japan will further promote the dissemination of information, as well as technological development for that purpose.

12-B) Combating Land Degradation Through , Intensified Soil Conservation, Afforestation, Reforestation, and Other Activities

Leading causes of desertification and soil degradation include excessive farming, excessive grazing and the excessive exploitation of trees for fuel wood, which are all results of shortages in food and energy accompanying drastic increases in population and poverty. These conditions greatly differ depending on whether they occur on rangeland, rain-fed cropland or irrigated land , and it is important to deal with these issues through agricultural and forestry measures in rural, agricultural and mountainous areas, according to the regional conditions.

Taking the above into account, Japan attaches importance to the implementation of the following activities:

(1)
In regions where desertification has progressed, Japan is conducting surveys regarding the actual conditions of local geography, climate, hydrologic cycle, land use, vegetation, degraded areas, society and economy, social systems and farming operations. Based on the results of these surveys, Japan will develop measures which conform to the conditions of analytical research on these various causes.
(2)
In regions where desertification has not progressed very much, in addition to developing technology for drip-irrigation and the conservation of farmland for the purpose of developing high-yield sustainable farming on existing farmland, Japan will encourage development of farmland and water management techniques conducted by local people.
(3)
In regions where desertification has progressed, Japan will conduct comprehensive technological development and cooperative research, including that for the restoration of degraded land, water catchment agriculture which effectively utilizes rain water, moisture maintenance materials, crops which grow well on arid land, and agro-forestry. Japan will develop management technology for agricultural water and land, including the appropriate drainage technology to prevent salinization of irrigated land. Japan will also consider technological development, including that for underground dams, to make effective use of ground water.
(4)
In order to reduce the consumption of wood fuel, in addition to promoting the development of alternative energy, Japan will also promote the development of reforestation technology, including that for windbreak forests and shifting sand control forests, as well as other surveys and technology research for the restoration of forests. By means of such development, the practical application of improved technology, and the local adaptation of this technology, including such "software" forms of technology as the organization of farm and forestry workers, Japan will study the way of cooperation, from perspective of farming and reforestation of arid land, and perform verification studies when necessary.

12-C) International Cooperation

Desertification has become a serious problem in recent years, and is a great obstacle to the realization of sustainable development for the people of the regions it affects. From such understanding, the 47th General Assembly of the United Nations decided in 1992 that negotiations would for the drawing up of a convention to deal with this problem by June 1994. Considering desertification a serious problem, Japan has been positively participating in negotiations for the convention. It is also important for each country to provide assistance to local residents in their self-help efforts to solve the problem of desertification.

Taking the above into account, Japan attaches importance to the implementation of the following activities:

(1)
In the negotiations for the above-mentioned convention, giving sufficient consideration to natural and socioeconomic conditions in the concerned countries and regions, Japan will be mindful that in dealing with the problem of desertification, as it is essentially important for the concerned countries and regions to be involved in this matter, this convention should safeguard and reinforce the activities of these countries and regions, and that by clarifying what should be covered by this convention it should also be made clear that each country bears as much responsibility as it possibly can for enforcing it, and that the range of this convention should not be excessively expanded. Also, bearing in mind a concrete project for combating desertification, Japan aims to realistically approach this problem by considering the effective application of existing financial mechanisms to enforce this convention.
(2)
Based on the idea that the promotion of sustainable agriculture and rural development should be given precedence over other matters in order to assure increased and steady food production, Japan conducted the Basic Research for Combating Desertification in 1985, and the Conclusive Research for Combating Desertification in 1990, and will comprehensively support a movement to sustainable, environmentally sound rural development in the Sahel region of Africa, as well as measures for increasing food production and combating desertification based on sustainable agriculture and rural development.
(3)
In order to combat desertification in Africa, Japan began dispatching Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers in 1986, as a "Project for Cooperation in Promoting Greenery." Through this project, Japan promotes reforestation activities with local people, makes improvements in the basis of the everyday life of local people, maintains a basis of production, and combats desertification.
(4)
Japan is conducting the development and adoption of technology for combating soil erosion through the introduction of vegetation, as well as technology for the reforestation of fuel wood, training people, and contributing to efforts to combat desertification. Japan will provide assistance for technological cooperation in regard to climatic measurements in areas of desertification, as well as soil conservation by the FAO.
(5)
With regard to implementing above-mentioned activities, Japan will seek ways to cooperate with relevant non-governmental organizations (NGOs), monitor the effectiveness of projects and their effect on the lives of local people, and will make efforts to accumulate experience to combat desertification. Japan will also make efforts to exchange experience with local research institutions, people and NGOs and will support capacity building for all of them.

Ministry of the Environment Government of Japan

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