Government of Canada

Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada

Land Degradation

Land degradation-the loss of productivity in all kinds of soils-is a result of climate-induced drought and of a variety of unsustainable farming and forest management practices. Desertification, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, contributes directly to freshwater scarcity, food insecurity, famine, migration, and conflict.

Men and boys form half-moon shapes to facilitate retention of rainwater © ACDI-CIDA/Roger LeMoyen
Men and boys form half-moon shapes to facilitate retention of rainwater for use in agriculture, in Niger, Africa. Although 30 years ago this area was covered with vegetation, today it has many dried riverbeds.

Land degradation can lead to scarcity of food and water, loss of income, resource conflicts, and environmental deterioration. Land degradation and poverty are closely linked. The majority of the people affected by land degradation are the rural poor, who depend on the land for their survival. Often, they must compete among themselves for dwindling natural resources. Consequently, the land becomes further depleted and thus the cycle of poverty is perpetuated.

Canada is taking action, both at home and around the world, to reverse the effects of land degradation. CIDA promotes sustainable land management at the national and international levels using an approach that aims to reduce poverty by building the capacity of affected communities to fight land degradation through technical assistance, training, and modest investments in equipment.

Did you know...?

  • About 30 percent of the Earth's total land surface is affected by desertification.
  • It is estimated that the livelihood of 250 million persons worldwide is directly affected by desertification.
  • Annual income loss due to desertification amounts to approximately US$45 billion globally.
  • Desertification affects the global loss of biodiversity; 27,000 species (three per hour) are lost each year.
    Source: The International Development Research Centre

At the local level, CIDA supports a wide range of community-based initiatives, including tree planting to reduce erosion and provide food, fuel, timber, and income; improved tillage and grazing practices to preserve precious topsoil and vegetative cover; sustainable irrigation to return the soil to productivity; and environmental monitoring to help identify areas most at risk.