Land Management and Resources Policy Support

The promotion of sustainable resource management relies on creating the appropriate enabling policy frameworks for sustainable resource management. Such frameworks could include, for example, codes of logging practice and land use guidelines. LRD works with PICTs to develop or revise policies, plans and legislation based on national needs and priorities. A crucial aspect of this is ensuring that policy revisions take account of crossing-cutting issues such as climate change, food security, gender, youth.

Sustainable land use to address impact on desertification
Wednesday, 19 May 2010 13:38
New opportunities for land use have arisen in Pacific Island countries and territories (PICTs) in recent years as a result of the expansion of the market economy, partly through tourism developments, mining or urban growth. Often associated with these opportunities are the breakdown of traditional land-use patterns due to population pressures, urbanisation and social and economic development.


These impacts on land use in Fiji were noted in a speech by LRD land-use development adviser, Mr. Inoke Ratukalou, at events to commemorate World Day to Combat Desertification and Land Degradation in Wairiki, Cakaudrove Province, Fiji, in June 2009.

“The expansion of commercial cropping  on to marginal land, cropping on fragile soils without putting proper conservation measures in place, deforestation and burning of grassland all contribute to land degradation, lower crop and pasture yields and growing food insecurity and rural poverty,” said Mr Ratukalou.

“Sadly, it appears that these types of trends will continue as there is little systematic and long-range planning and policy development taking place in PICTs. There has to be more work done to incorporate environmental issues in urban and rural production systems.”

Fiji, like other Pacific islands, does not have areas classified as dryland, but it is becoming obvious that land degradation is contributing to desertification, and thus Fiji is included in the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

All PICTs need to embrace sustainable development through holistic approaches, such as ecosystem-based management. This approach looks at the interactions amongst resources, including land, water, air, biota and human activities, in addressing issues related to desertification and drought, sustainable development of mountainous areas, prevention and mitigation of land degradation, coastal zones, deforestation, climate change, rural and urban land use, urban growth and conservation of biological diversity.

The effects of the El Nino and La Nina weather phenomena have disrupted local weather patterns leading to water shortages at one extreme and increased frequency of flooding at the other. Water for land uses including agriculture must always be seen as part of a holistic continuum – from the mountains to the fringing reef ecosystem and all the water systems that lie between. What happens in forested areas in the mountains, for example, can impact on a nearby freshwater ecosystem that receives runoff. In turn, there may be negative impacts on agricultural lowlands and reef ecosystems. Damage to a reef ecosystem can mean reduced food security for coastal communities that have carefully managed and fished from the reef for hundreds of years. It can also harm the burgeoning tourism industry of a sub-region or country.

Sustainable land management, or integrated management of land resources, is being promoted to address land degradation in the Pacific. The approach considers technical, physical, sociological, economic, and political issues in making land-use decisions to achieve the most efficient and non-destructive long-term use of resources. Essentially, sustainable land management is based on using a package of technologies, individually or in combination.

Mr Ratukalou stressed that sustainability requires Pacific communities to be empowered to make informed decisions on the use of their resources, now and in the future. Fiji, like other Pacific Island nations, is faced with the crucial issue of how to manage its scarce resources.

He noted that most PICTs are fully supportive of and committed to the principles of the UN Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, as contained in Agenda 21. The outcome of Agenda 21 has been embodied in three conventions, namely the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), UN Convention on Biological Diversity (UNCBD) and UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). PICTs are also committed to internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goal on poverty eradication, which is among the world’s greatest challenges. Sustainable management of land resources in PICTs is an essential part of meeting these commitments and achieving these goals.

 
Land Use Planning is becoming increasingly important in the Pacific. If demographic trends continue there will be increasingly urgent need to match land systems, soil types and land uses in the most rational way possible, to optimize sustainable resource development and management to meet the needs of society.

A participatory 'bottom up' planning process should begin at the local level utilizing fully the experience and local knowledge of landowners and users to identify priorities and to draw up and implement plans.

Some guidelines which need to be adapted to the local context are available at http://www.fao.org/docrep/T0715E/t0715e00.htm