Sustainable management of the natural resource base is a fundamental issue to support global environmental benefits provided by ecosystem services, and to ensure agricultural production and ultimately food security and livelihoods. Assessing Land degradation is a major component of effective sustainable land management particularly in Small Island Developing States (SIDS). Land Degradation is considered to be “…any form of deterioration of the natural potential of land that affects ecosystems integrity, either in terms of reducing its sustainable ecological sustainability or in terms of reducing its biological richness and maintenance of its resilience” (GEF, 2003). Globally it affects over 100 countries on all continents with Antarctica being the only exception (Springer, 2006). SIDS are generally characterized by high levels of chronic poverty, largely ruralbased populations and heavy dependence on traditional agriculture and with specific reference to the Caribbean region, tourism based economies. In each instance land degradation has devastating effects on these countries such as significant structural constraints for economic growth, human development and environmental sustainability. At the same time, SIDS, possess unique characteristics, that further exacerbates the problems associated with land degradation, given the small size of the countries (in terms of both physical area and economy), limited infrastructure, distance from large international markets, high vulnerability to natural disasters low level of human resource development and increasing urbanization. Small size, combined with, diverse soil types, topography, climatic variation, lack or in some cases archaic and poor land use policies limits the area available for urban settlement, agriculture, mining, commercial forestry, tourism and other infrastructure, and creates intense competition between land use options. It is estimated that of the 400 ha of degraded land in SIDS worldwide, 120 ha occur in the Caribbean region and 30 percent of the reefs in the Caribbean are at risk (UNEP/GEO). In SIDS of the Caribbean, Land degradation has increased in the last 30 years related in some way to the following factors: • Economic: market forces, trade agreements, structural adjustments, national economic and land use policies, land tenure policies etc. • Social: urbanisation, immigration, population dynamics and growth, cultural changes etc. • Environmental: rainfall variability, water quality and quantity, access to water etc
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The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations leads international efforts to defeat hunger. Serving both developed and developing countries, FAO acts as a neutral forum where all nations meet as equals to negotiate agreements and debate policy. FAO is also a source of knowledge and information.
The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in Those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, Particularly in Africa (UNCCD) is a Convention to combat desertification and mitigate the effects of drought through national action programs that incorporate long-term strategies supported by international cooperation and partnership arrangements.