RAMALLAH, February 9, 2012 (WAFA) – The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Thursday celebrated, in an official ceremony in Ramallah, the launching of the National Strategy to Combat Desertification in the occupied Palestinian Territory (oPT).

The Palestinian Ministry of agricultural in cooperation and full coordination with all relevant parties prepared the agricultural sector strategy; the ‘Shared Vision 2011-2013’ which focused on efficiently and sustainably managing the natural resources in Palestine through increasing water availability and supply management as well as through improving the demand for agricultural water.

Minister of Agricultural, Ahmad Majdalani, stressed that there are many difficulties facing agricultural development in Palestine, particularly the Israeli occupation measures and its settlers aggressions, including the continuation of the oppressive siege on Gaza, the establishment of the annexation and expansion wall in the West Bank, which resulted in the isolation of more than 700 thousand dunums, the Israeli continued control over 80% of Palestinian water rights and its control over more than 85% of agricultural land, the confiscation of land and water and the uprooting of trees for the benefit of settlements, Leading to land degradation and depletion of natural resources and increasing desertification.

He said: ‘The Ministry of Agriculture is implementing several projects that aim to increase the green areas and control desertification, especially the national program for greening of Palestine.”

On his part, UNDP Special Representative of the Administrator, Frode Mauring, in a speech, said “this strategy is an important step ahead on the right way to join the world in fighting desertification as well as fulfilling the requirements of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification.”

Mauring said that in February 2010, 193 countries have ratified the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification. The Palestinian Authority was not among them, but now we are very close to the day where the Palestinian Authority will be the country 194.

He added that the natural capital in Palestine provides a significant ecosystem services and support for human activities in agriculture, annual husbandry, traditional and pharmaceutical health products and many other activities.

Therefore, “UNDP/PAPP will continue its supports to the PA institutions, civil society and the private sector to implement the action plan formulated to materialize the objectives of this strategy. Part of that is to improve the awareness of stakeholders and maximizing their participation,” he said.

“UNDP will also continue to provide the needed support to enable the PA to access to relevant international windows of funds such as Special Climate Change Fund, the Adaptation Fund for United Nations Frameworks on Climate Change, Clean Development Mechanism and the Global Environment Facility,” said Mauring.

He concluded, “I would like to thank the Global Mechanism of the United Nations Conventions to Combat Desertification for funding the formulation of this Strategy and its action plan and would like to thank all our partners present here today and wish you all best of luck in this ceremony.”