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World Environment Day: Restoration and resilience of China's rural communities

2024-06-06 10:59:44Source: CGTNAuthor: Nii Quaye-Kumah
Editor's note: Nii Quaye-Kumah, a special commentator on current affairs for CGTN, is the representative of the International Fund for Agricultural Developmentto China and head of RegionalSouth-South and Triangular Cooperation Center for Asia. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN.
June. 6, 2024 -- On the occasion of the 2024 World Environment Day celebrations, we take time to put the spotlight on the interconnected challenges of drought, land degradation, and desertification – and some of the most frequent and intense climate change impacts wreaking havoc on rural communities' livelihoods.
The UN estimates that globally, 24 percent of the land is degrading. Droughts have been increasing in frequency and severity by 29 percent since 2000, affecting 55 million people every year. From 2015 to 2019, at least 100 million hectares of healthy and productive land were lost each year. In China, climate change has taken a severe toll on its rich landscape. The loss of farmland is threatening China's smallholder farmers who rely heavily on agriculture as a major source of income.  
Sadly, smallholder farmers receive only 0.8 percent of climate finance globally. They continue to face difficulties in accessing markets and climate-smart agricultural practices, as well as exacerbated economic vulnerability fueled by climate disasters. The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) continues to show its unwavering commitment to support rural communities and address the climate disparity in particular. The IFAD has committed to achieve a 40 percent climate finance target across its portfolio in 2024 and will invest almost $670 million in climate change adaptation and mitigation.
The Government of China has also committed to build the resilience of vulnerable rural communities. Through its National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy 2035, China is accelerating actions to make its society and economy more resilient through research, capacity-building and investment. The IFAD's partnership and work with the government thus focuses on the need to ensure smallholder farmers are not left behind amid climate-related challenges.
As the IFAD's representative in China, I am pleased, together with my team, to partner with the government to combine our expertise and efforts to implement innovative, climate-smart agricultural practices in places like Ningxia, Yunnan, Shaanxi, Sichuan, and Hunan where droughts frequently hit and drive land degradation and desertification. Through learning from rural enterprises and smallholder farmers in seven counties in Shaanxi about the level of drought impact, the IFAD supported the local government with a combination of physical improvement, institutional strengthening, technical assistance and policy advisory to promote sustainable, climate-resilient and safe agricultural and food production.  
In Yunnan's Yongsheng and Huaping counties, the IFAD is supporting local farmers with sustainable agriculture machinery such as mist sprinklers and pest control devices. The IFAD-supported mist sprinklers can achieve large-scale spraying with just one person controlling them and can save 30-40 percent on water and pesticide usage and are therefore environmentally friendly.
Workers pick goji berries growing in soil under solar panels at the Baofeng farming-light integrated photovoltaic power station in northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, July 24, 2021. /Xinhua
In Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region in northwest China, which is surrounded by three major deserts, the harsh desert landscape poses a challenge for local farmers. The IFAD has supported building two dozen climate-smart greenhouses in the Yueya Lake Village to enable locals to sell fresh produce and guarantee their livelihoods all year round.
World Environment Day – June 5 – should not be a slogan for a day, but a clarion call to all humanity that we have a duty to act conscientiously in the preservation of our environment. I call upon stakeholders in China, and indeed, globally, to rally behind smallholder farmers and provide them with the necessary climate finance and resources to safeguard their livelihoods and the environment.
We must urgently recognize the vital role that smallholder farmers play as stewards of the land, even as they confront the daunting challenges of drought, land degradation, and desertification. Despite their critical contribution to food security and environmental conservation, these people and their communities continue to bear the brunt of the climate crisis with limited support. It is only by investing in their resilience that we can truly build a greener, more prosperous world for all.