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Vienna, 17 June 2008 – "If we want to fight against the food crisis and combat poverty in this world, then we also must strengthen our commitment against continued desertification. This is the only way of permanently safeguarding the food supply of the population in developing countries," stated Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik on the occasion of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought on 17 June.
As a result of continued desertification, valuable farmland is lost every year. Almost three quarters of the agricultural areas used in the dry regions of Africa can no longer be utilised agriculturally because of desiccation. "The prospective consequences of climate change will further aggravate desertification in most of these areas and endanger the fragile subsistence of the people concerned," continued Plassnik. The costs incurred as a result of desertification are also a major burden for the countries affected. According to surveys the economy loses more than 40 billion US dollars through the loss of productive areas.
"For the rural population in developing countries, infertility of the soil means not only economic loss but often also starvation," stated the Foreign Minister. More than 70 per cent of the population in developing countries are dependent on agriculture. "Commitment to sustainable development which defies desertification and strengthens agricultural output is therefore more important than ever. In this context Austria is making a concrete contribution through its Development Cooperation programme," stated Plassnik. In its projects in partner countries such as Burkina Faso, Senegal, Ethiopia and Mozambique, ADC pays special attention to the prevention of erosion and the improvement of soil fertility. "Productivity increases can only go hand in hand with strengthening and protecting valuable resources", asserted the Foreign Minister.
At the international level, Austria is one of 191 UN member states that have ratified the UN Convention to Combat Desertification. "What we need are long-term, social and economic strategies. This is the only way we can take up the fight against desertification and poverty together with the countries affected. After all, all countries bear a joint responsibility for the sustainable development of our planet," concluded Plassnik.