Why Iceland

IcelandWhen Iceland became a sovereign state in 1918, after more than six centuries under colonial rule, it was among the poorest countries in Europe. It was also faced with severe land degradation problems caused by over-exploitation through wood cutting and overgrazing under harsh natural conditions. To halt the destructive forces, unique legislation was passed in 1907 aimed at halting soil erosion and restoring lost and degraded woodlands. Iceland’s over 100 years of such nationally concerted effort is one of the longest standing in the world. The numerous success stories about halting land degradation, restoring severely degraded land and making the land productive again serve as examples to demonstrate how current international objectives can also be achieved. Such actions are important in mitigating and adapting to climate change, restoring biological diversity and in providing opportunities for productive land use.

Although problems have not all been solved, over the last century Iceland has gained wide experience and knowledge on how to combat land degradation, soil erosion and on restoration. At the same time, Icelandic society has developed from being one of the poorest in Europe to a modern society with a competent research and university sector.

Having seen the adverse consequences of land degradation, the Icelandic nation and its political and academic leaders are highly committed to fighting land degradation and restoring degraded ecosystems. Emphasis is on achieving environmental goals, such as halting soil erosion and restoring severely degraded land with the principles of biological diversity. Actions are taken to simultaneously deal with the three major current global environmental challenges: biological diversity, climate change and desertification. The need for strengthening capacity within this field of expertise is great in the developing countries where land degradation and desertification are directly threatening food security and well-being. The knowledge and experience gained in Iceland is of much relevance to these countries, and LRT is a venue for making that knowledge available.