Jordan’s restoration efforts push back on degrading land

A dam built in the 1960’s to protect the area from flooding in Petra, Jordan. (AP Photo/file)
Short Url
Updated 27 April 2022

Jordan’s restoration efforts push back on degrading land

  • Local organizations believe projects that reintroduce native plants and implement smart water harvesting systems will cushion the impacts of climate change and desertification
  • The UN desertification agency says 40% of land globally is currently degraded

SABHA, Jordan: Efforts to restore damaged but once fertile land in Jordan’s desert are sprouting hope for one of the world’s most water-scarce nations, as a land assessment report Wednesday warned of the growing scale of global degradation.
Local organizations believe projects that reintroduce native plants and implement smart water harvesting systems will cushion the impacts of climate change and desertification, which are only set to worsen, according to the United Nations report.
The UN desertification agency says 40 percent of land globally is currently degraded, blaming unsustainable land and water management, poor agricultural practices, mining, urbanization and infrastructure development for the land’s deterioration.
Mira Haddad, from the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas said several other factors, including “overexploitation of vegetation cover, overgrazing, and...new land practices” as well as climate change are also contributing to land degradation in Jordan.
But environmentalists are already pursuing options to ward off further damage. One of the efforts, run by the Watershed and Development Initiative, is introducing four native plants to 10,000 acres (41 square kilometers) of desert in the Sabha reserve, roughly 56 miles (90 kilometers) east of the Jordanian capital Amman.
“We’re working on the water, we’re working on the green cover and we’re working also with the habitats of the creatures, from insects to animals and all living parts of that ecosystem,” Deyala Tarawneh, a WADI founding member, said. “The success rate of these plants is 85 percent, which is considered a very high percentage, and they only need to be watered once, which is also reducing the amount of water needed for the irrigation of the green areas.”
But despite the success of WADI’s planting initiative, land restoration in Jordan is still facing several challenges: the number of land unit areas available for restoration is lacking, and the willingness of local communities to leave the land for at least one or two rainy seasons without grazing is also hindering efforts, said ICARDA’s Haddad.
Jordan is one of several countries already grappling with the effects of degradation, with more than 2.3 billion people currently living in water-stressed countries, according to the UN report. It warned that more food supply disruptions, forced migration and greater pressure on species survival are also expected as climate change intensifies and poor land management practices continue. By 2030, it warns that 700 million people could be displaced by drought.
“The situation we have right now is unhealthy and certainly not acceptable,” Ibrahim Thiaw, the executive secretary of the UN desertification agency, told the Associated Press. “The more you degrade land the more you emit carbon and the more you contribute to climate change.”
The report calls for financial support to bolster conservation and restoration in developing countries. It says the expansion of protected areas and conservation hotspots, better water management, smart agriculture, and the rewilding of biodiversity can be boosted by appropriate funding.
If these kinds of measures are implemented on a wider scale, the UN agency’s restoration scenario predicts reduced biodiversity loss and improved soil health, with the benefits particularly felt in North and Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America.
But it also notes that inaction would lead to 16 million square kilometers (6 million square miles) — nearly the size of the entire South American continent — of land degradation by 2050.
The report also recommends scaling up land rights for Indigenous peoples and local communities, urging farmers to draw on ample lessons about land restoration, crop adaptation and livestock from established customs and traditional knowledge.
“We welcome new allies to this battle, including economic actors who are increasingly interested in avoiding climate risk, but we must make clear that we will not be used for greenwashing,” José Gregorio Diaz Mirabal, the leader of the Congress of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin, said in a statement. “Partnering with Indigenous peoples requires embracing transformative change.”
The UN’s Thiaw agreed that support for restoration projects should be ramped up.
“The message from the report is that do not take land degradation as a fatality. It can be addressed, and it is the cheapest solution to the climate crisis and biodiversity loss. It is possible to do it by 2050, which is just one generation,” Thiaw said. “It does not require high tech nor a PhD to undertake. Land restoration is accessible and democratic.”
Several countries, like Jordan, are already addressing their own land issues, from drought preparedness programs in Mexico, the USA and Brazil, to the 11-country Great Green Wall in Africa aimed at restoring 100 million hectares (390,000 square miles) of degraded landscapes along the Sahel.
“Land restoration is a win for the environment, economy, society, and for biodiversity,” said Thiaw. “What we are calling for now is the acceleration of such programs.”


Sudan’s Burhan relieves civilian members of the sovereign council from duties

Updated 06 July 2022

Sudan’s Burhan relieves civilian members of the sovereign council from duties

  • Army would not participate in internationally led dialogue efforts to break its stalemate with the civilian opposition

CAIRO: Sudan’s military leader General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan issued a decree relieving the five civilian members of the sovereign council from their duties, a statement on the council’s telegram account said on Wednesday.
Burhan said on Monday the army would not participate in internationally led dialogue efforts to break its stalemate with the civilian opposition, and urged political and revolutionary groups to start talks to form a transitional government.


Palestinian killed during Israeli raid in West Bank

Updated 06 July 2022

Palestinian killed during Israeli raid in West Bank

  • At least 50 Palestinians have been killed since late March, mostly in the West Bank

RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories: A Palestinian man was killed by the Israeli military during a raid in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday, the Palestinian health ministry said.
Rafiq Riyad Ghannem, 20, was “shot by the occupation (Israeli army)” near the northern West Bank city of Jenin, the ministry said in a statement, adding that he was killed in the town of Jaba.
The Israeli military did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
On Sunday, a 17-year-old Palestinian died after being shot a day earlier in another Israeli army raid in the same town.
At least 50 Palestinians have been killed since late March, mostly in the West Bank, among them suspected militants and non-combatants.
Israeli security forces have launched near-daily raids in the West Bank following a spate of attacks in Israel in recent months.
Nineteen people — mostly Israeli civilians inside Israel — have been killed mainly in attacks carried out by Palestinians and Israeli Arabs. Three Arab Israeli attackers have also been killed.


Palestinian president and Hamas chief hold rare meeting

Updated 06 July 2022

Palestinian president and Hamas chief hold rare meeting

ALGIERS: Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh met publicly for the first time in over five years, on the sidelines of Algerian independence anniversary celebrations.
Algeria’s state broadcaster reported late Tuesday that representatives of the Palestinian Authority and the Islamist Hamas movement also attended this meeting, which it called “historic.”
The pair, who officially last met face-to-face in Doha in October 2016, were brought together in a meeting with Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, whose country marked the 60th anniversary of independence from France.
Abbas’ secular Fatah party, which dominates the Palestinian Authority that rules the Israeli-occupied West Bank, has been at loggerheads with Hamas since elections in 2007, when the Islamists took control of Gaza.
Tebboune and Abbas also signed a document to name a street “Algeria” in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
As well as Abbas and Haniyeh, Tebboune on Tuesday hosted several foreign dignitaries, who watched a huge military parade to mark independence in 1962 when Algeria broke free from 132 years of French occupation.


Algeria to re-open land border with Tunisia: president

Updated 05 July 2022

Algeria to re-open land border with Tunisia: president

  • "We have taken the joint decision to reopen the land border from July 15," said President Abdelmadjid Tebboune
  • He was speaking at Algiers airport alongside his Tunisian counterpart President Kais Saied

ALGIERS: Algeria said Tuesday it would reopen its land border with Tunisia later this month, more than two years after it was shut at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We have taken the joint decision to reopen the land border from July 15,” said President Abdelmadjid Tebboune.
He was speaking at Algiers airport alongside his Tunisian counterpart President Kais Saied, who was leaving the country after attending a huge parade marking 60 years since Algeria’s independence from France.
Passengers had been blocked from crossing the border since March 2020 to stop the Covid-19 illness spreading, although cargo traffic had continued.
Being cut off from a neighbor of some 44 million people has dealt a serious blow to Tunisia’s tourism industry.
More than three million Algerians usually visit the country every year, according to local media.
Air and sea links between the two countries were restored in June 2021.


Egypt FM attending freedom of religion conference in London

Updated 05 July 2022

Egypt FM attending freedom of religion conference in London

  • Societies that allow their people to choose what they believe are better, stronger and ultimately more successful

CAIRO: Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry is attending the International Ministerial Conference on Freedom of Religion or Belief in London.

The event, which is being held on July 5-6, is hosting 500 religious, government and civil society leaders from 60 countries to call for more action to protect freedom of religion or belief around the world.

In the opening speech of the conference, the UK’s Prince Charles said in a recorded message: “Freedom of conscience, of thought and of belief is central to any truly flourishing society. It allows people to contribute to their communities without fear of exclusion, to exchange ideas without fear of prejudice, and to build relationships without fear of rejection. A society where difference is respected, where it is accepted that all need not think alike, will benefit from the talents of all of its members.”

Speaking at the conference at the Queen Elizabeth II Center in London, UK Foreign Minister Liz Truss said: “The freedom to believe, to pray and commit acts of worship, or indeed not to believe is a fundamental human freedom and has been one since the dawn of time. Societies that allow their people to choose what they believe are better, stronger and ultimately more successful. This fundamental right is covered in the very first clause of Magna Carta and Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is one of the Four Freedoms Franklin D. Roosevelt said were ‘essential everywhere in the world.’”

Yesterday, the Egyptian minister, at the start of his London visit, met UK Minister of State for North Africa, South and Central Asia, the Commonwealth and the UN Lord Tariq Ahmed. The two discussed the conference, Egypt’s preparations for hosting and chairing COP27 in November, and the importance of continuing coordination between Egypt and the UK.