Why Iceland

When Iceland became a sovereign state in 1918, after more than six centuries under foreign rule, it was among the poorest countries in Europe. It faced severe land degradation problems caused by over-exploitation through wood cutting and overgrazing under harsh natural conditions. To halt these destructive forces, unique legislation had been passed in 1907 aimed at halting soil erosion and restoring lost and degraded woodlands.

With over 100 years of nationally coordinated efforts to solve these problems, Iceland has gained significant experience in land management and restoration. The numerous success stories about halting land degradation, restoring severely degraded land, and making the land productive again, serve as examples for the achievement of current international objectives. Such actions are important in mitigating and adapting to climate change, restoring biological diversity and in providing opportunities for productive land use.

Though not all its problems are solved, over the last century, Iceland has gained wide experience and knowledge on how to combat land degradation and soil erosion, and on restoring degraded ecosystems. At the same time, the 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.

There is a great need for strengthening capacity within this field in many low and middle income countries where land degradation and desertification directly threaten food security and wellbeing. The knowledge and experience gained in Iceland is relevant to these countries. GRÓ LRT is a venue for making this knowledge available.