Conference on Desertification Gains Little Ground

The sixth international conference on desertification ended yesterday in Cuba with few results, save for a decision on how to finance efforts to slow the encroachment of arid regions and the loss of fertile lands. Leaders of 10 African and Caribbean nations attending the U.N. Convention to Combat Desertification agreed to use the Global Environment Facility as their main funding source by applying for some of the $500 million in related grants the GEF will make available over the next three years. Desertification is caused by deforestation, overgrazing, drought, and climate change; it affects millions of acres of land per year, as well as the food security of more than 1 billion people, most of them in the world’s poorest countries. Representatives of such countries expressed their dismay during the conference over the apathy of wealthier countries when it comes to tackling desertification. Case in point: The U.S., E.U., and Japan sent only low-profile delegates to the conference.