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Land degradation, a silent threat costing trillions

This global crisis, fueled by unsustainable practices, jeopardizes ecosystems, livelihoods, and food security

Rahul Garg,  Founder & CEO, Moglix
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Rahul Garg, Founder & CEO, Moglix

He had worked at Google for several years before starting Moglix as an entrepreneur. He was Head of AdX for India, SEA, and Korea, in addition to holding strategic positions in the APAC region, such as Head of Sales Strategy and Operations for Mobile, Media & Platforms, and Search Solutions. He floated Moglix to revolutionise the traditional supply chain and Moglix now provides businesses with a complete solution for sourcing and managing industrial goods. He always ensures that at Moglix, a successful e-commerce unicorn for manufacturing goods, sustainability is a core value. The company recognizes the inter-connectedness of environmental health, social well-being, and economic prosperity.

Speaking to Bizz Buzz exclusively, just before the World Environment Day (June 5) Rahul Garg, Founder & CEO, Moglix, Alpha Wave Global-backed unicorn, explains why and how they are committed to promoting responsible environmental practices within its supply chain and beyond and how they remain passionate about continuous improvement and innovation to achieve a more sustainable future, despite more challenges than one

We often get to hear about the issue of land degradation. How grave is the crisis and how much does it cost the global economy?

The Earth’s land is under immense pressure. A staggering one-third of the planet's terrestrial surface is already degraded, threatening the well-being of billions. According to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), land degradation costs the global economy up to $10 trillion per year. This environmental crisis manifests as desertification, a process where once fertile land transforms into arid, unproductive landscapes. Drought, further exacerbated by climate change, intensifies the challenge, impacting ecosystems, livelihoods, and global food security. Addressing land degradation, desertification, and building drought resilience is no longer an option, but a critical imperative.

So, what does Moglix do towards this goal?

At Moglix, sustainability is a core value. We recognize the inter-connectedness of environmental health, social well-being, and economic prosperity. We are committed to promoting environmentally responsible practices within our supply chain. By integrating Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) criteria into our supplier evaluation processes, we prioritize working with partners who share our commitment to ethical sourcing, fair labor practices, and environmental conservation.

Let me go back to the main issue. What are the main causes and impacts of land degradation, because unless the main causes are known, the issue can never be properly addressed and the crises cannot be resolved?

Human activities are the primary drivers of land degradation. Unsustainable agricultural practices, such as excessive use of fertilizers and pesticides, deplete soil nutrients and degrade its structure. Deforestation, fueled by growing demand for timber and agricultural expansion, disrupts natural water cycles and accelerates soil erosion. Overgrazing by livestock removes vegetation cover, leaving the land vulnerable to wind and water erosion. Rapid urbanization also leads to land-use change, further squeezing the availability of fertile land.

The environmental impacts of land degradation and desertification are far-reaching. Loss of biodiversity, often exceeding alarming rates, disrupts ecosystem health and reduces the resilience of natural systems. Reduced soil fertility weakens the land’s ability to support plant growth, contributing to declining agricultural productivity. Increased carbon emissions, a consequence of soil degradation, exacerbate climate change, fueling a vicious cycle.

The socioeconomic impacts of land degradation are equally devastating. Reduced agricultural productivity leads to food insecurity, malnutrition, and increased poverty in affected regions. Communities reliant on agriculture face displacement as their livelihoods become unsustainable.

So what is the way out? Is there a way? What should be the strategies for land restoration?

The good news is that the tide can be turned. There are strategies for land restoration and we can weave a new path. By adopting sustainable land management practices, degraded ecosystems can be restored to build resilience to drought. Agroforestry, a practice that integrates trees and shrubs with crop cultivation, improves soil fertility, minimizes erosion, and provides additional income for farmers. Reforestation and afforestation efforts, particularly with native species, can revive ecosystems, restore habitats, and capture carbon dioxide.

Soil conservation techniques play a critical role in land restoration. Contour plowing and terracing create ridges and barriers that slow down water flow, preventing soil erosion. Cover crops, planted during fallow periods, suppress weeds, improve soil moisture retention, and enhance nutrient levels.

The success of land restoration endeavors hinges on community involvement. Local communities hold invaluable knowledge about their land and traditional land management practices. Engaging them in restoration projects ensures the cultural and ecological appropriateness of interventions, fostering long-term sustainability.

Water scarcity being one of the major threats, how can one build walls against water scarcity and foster drought resilience?

Yes, water scarcity poses another major threat to land health. Therefore, building drought resilience is essential. Rainwater harvesting captures and stores rainwater for use during dry periods. Efficient irrigation systems, such as drip irrigation, apply water directly to plant roots, minimizing water waste. Selecting drought-resistant crop varieties reduces water dependence and enhances agricultural resilience.

Effective drought preparedness necessitates robust policy and planning frameworks. Governments can play a pivotal role by supporting the development and implementation of water management strategies. This includes promoting rainwater harvesting systems, investing in efficient irrigation infrastructure, and establishing early warning systems for drought. Policy measures also encourage the adoption of drought-tolerant crops and incentivize sustainable land management practices.

Technological innovations offer valuable tools in the fight against drought. Remote sensing technologies enable monitoring of drought conditions in real-time, allowing for targeted interventions. Further research and development initiatives focused on drought-resistant crop varieties are crucial for ensuring food security in drought-prone regions.

Could you mention some case studies, some success stories that can act as an inspiration and offer a pathway towards a more sustainable and equitable future?

Land degradation poses a significant threat to rural communities in India, exacerbating the challenges of climate change. However, landscape restoration initiatives in select Indian districts have delivered promising results. A study conducted in Sidhi district of Madhya Pradesh exemplifies the potential of restoration to improve livelihoods and conserve biodiversity. The project demonstrated that restoration efforts can create jobs, boost incomes, and contribute to carbon sequestration, all while prioritizing the needs of marginalized groups. Sidhi’s success story serves as a compelling argument for replicating such community-centric restoration approaches across India, offering a pathway towards a more sustainable and equitable future.

What can be the possible challenges in the path and how to face or overcome the challenges?

Despite the success stories, challenges remain in land restoration and building drought resilience. Funding constraints often hinder large-scale restoration projects. Technical expertise may be lacking in some regions, hindering the implementation of effective land management practices. Policy gaps and inadequate enforcement mechanisms can also impede progress.

Fortunately, numerous solutions exist to bridge these gaps. Public-private partnerships, where governments and businesses collaborate to finance and implement restoration projects, can unlock the necessary resources. Building the capacity of local communities through training and knowledge-sharing initiatives empowers them to become active participants in land restoration efforts. In addition, innovative financing mechanisms, such as green bonds and carbon offset programs, can channel capital towards sustainable land management projects.

Many people think that it needs a global approach, a global endeavour, global policy interventions and international cooperation to take up these challenges and overcome them. What is your take on this?

The fight against land degradation and desertification requires a global approach. The UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) provides a framework for international cooperation to address desertification and land degradation. This framework promotes sustainable land management practices and facilitates the mobilization of resources for affected countries.

Similarly, the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) recognize the critical role of land restoration and drought resilience in achieving broader sustainable development objectives. Goal 15, “Life on Land”, specifically targets the halting and reversing of land degradation and biodiversity loss. International cooperation through these frameworks fosters knowledge sharing, fosters technological advancement, and leverages resources to address this global challenge.

So, what is the call to action?

Land restoration, desertification prevention, and building drought resilience are not just environmental issues; they are fundamental to our collective future. Healthy land supports healthy ecosystems, ensures food security, and strengthens communities. Businesses, governments, and local communities all have a vital role to play in adopting sustainable practices and fostering collaboration.

At Moglix, we recognize our responsibility as a global leader in the B2B distribution industry. We are committed to promoting responsible environmental practices within our supply chain and beyond. We remain passionate about continuous improvement and innovation to achieve a more sustainable future. The challenges are substantial, but through collective action, innovative solutions, and unwavering commitment, we can turn the tide. Let us join hands and leave a legacy of a thriving planet for generations to come.

Ritwik Mukherjee
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