By Matthew Ponsford
LONDON, July 20 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Six countries that are tackling the "silent, invisible crisis" of land erosion were chosen by the United Nations on Thursday to compete for an award aimed at combating the world's top threats.
Australia was shortlisted for making indigenous people guardians of more than 40 percent of its national reserves and Jordan for backing the sort of traditional farming pioneered by Bedouins to tackle "desertification", which can lead to drought.
Niger, Ethiopia, China and Brazil were also selected, either for projects that tackle the causes of land erosion, including deforestation and overgrazing, or for restoring land and soil to make farming more productive.
Monique Barbut, executive secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) - co-organisers of the 2017 award - called land degradation "a silent, invisible crisis that is destabilising communities on a global scale."
The Future Policy Award, given by the World Future Council (WFC), an organisation working to promote the interests of future generations, will be announced in August.
Each year the prize focuses on one world threat that will impact future generations and this year, it chose the little-recognised challenges of land erosion and desertification.
The UNCCD said the phenomenon is one of humanity's most pressing problems, which undermines food security, livelihoods, stability and health.
Degradation, which can contribute to severe drought and loss of food production, could displace 135 million people across the world by 2030, unless action is taken to restore and rehabilitate degraded land, according to UNCCD.
The award will recognise the policy that best protects life and livelihoods in the world's "drylands" - especially arid areas that cover close to two-fifths of the Earth, including 66 percent of Africa and 40 percent of Asia.
Droughts have killed more people in the last century than any other weather-related catastrophe and risk sparking violent conflict in some of world's most conflict- and drought-prone regions, said a statement by the WFC and UNCCD.
"Droughts, which are getting more severe, frequent and widespread with climate change, are common in drylands, and can amplify tensions within and between communities," said the statement.
An international imitative that encourages farmers to capture atmospheric carbon in plants and increase the amount of carbon in soil, has also been shortlisted.
(Reporting by Matthew Ponsford, Editing by Lyndsay Griffiths.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)
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