World Wetlands Day Focuses on Agriculture
2 February 2014: The 2014 edition of World Wetlands Day, celebrated each year on 2 February, focused on the theme 'Wetlands and Agriculture,' within the framework of the UN International Year of Family Farming. The slogan for the Day was 'Wetlands and Agriculture: Partners for Growth,' placing a focus on the need for the wetland, agricultural and water sectors to work together for the best shared outcomes.
While wetlands conservation has often been seen as a barrier to agriculture, the essential role of wetlands in support of agriculture is becoming clearer, with successful agricultural practices that support healthy wetlands. The Secretariat of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar Convention) has released a series of materials for Wetlands Day that look at different types and scales of agriculture, the impacts of agriculture on wetlands, and some of the successful methods used to reduce the negative impacts, sustain wetland health, and restore degraded wetlands in agricultural landscapes. These materials include a poster and sticker, a leaflet, a comic strip, a game, a PowerPoint presentation, and reports of activities. The Secretariat has also launched a Vine video competition. From 27 January to 9 February 2014, the Secretariat invites all stakeholders to share videos showing successful interactions between agriculture and wetlands, or showing how World Wetlands Day events and activities are raising awareness about wetlands.
In his message to mark the day, David Sheppard, Director-General of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), underscored that if Pacific island communities are to be resilient to environmental change and able to sustain their livelihoods, the functions and economic values of wetlands must be recognized and protected in food and agricultural planning. He called for strengthening partnerships and taking action to protect our wetlands that provide "essential services."
In his message, Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), stressed that worldwide, over 50% of wetlands have been lost and many of those that remain are highly degraded. He identified "conversion to farming, over-extraction of water for irrigation and the impacts of farming systems on soil erosion and water quality" as the leading causes. Noting that "we know that the value of wetlands on a per unit area basis, far outstrips the economic benefits of farming and aquaculture," he recognized the important role of the Ramsar Convention and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) as the lead implementing partners for the CBD for wetlands and agriculture respectively. [World Wetlands Day Website] [World Wetland Day Leaflet] [UNESCO IHE Webpage on World Wetlands Day] [Message of the CBD Executive Secretary] [Message from SPREP Director General] [Vine Video Competition Webpage] [Ramsar Press Release] [International Year of Family Farming Website]