Drylands Ambassadors


​The Drylands Ambassador programme raises awareness among decision makers and the public at large about the importance of combating desertification, land degradation and mitigating the effect of drought. These issues are vital to solving major global challenges such as poverty alleviation, sustainable water management, food security and greening energy.

Drylands Ambassadors emphasize the opportunities generated by sustainable land management (SLM), land rehabilitation and reclamation. Drylands Ambassadors also help reach target groups such as youth, children and women.

Some Drylands Ambassadors are targeting the public at large, while others are drawing the attention of decision makers to the importance of topics such as land management within relevant policy agendas, and as a priority for increased investment.

Highly regarded Drylands Ambassadors could draw attention to the issues upheld by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and provide the impetus needed to fully implement the objectives of the UNCCD 10-Year Strategy. Below is a list of dry land ambassadors,their drylands messages and biographies.

Deborah Fraser, South African gospel singer

Deb Fraser

 There are a lot of people, who go hungry, and yet there is land they could be utilizing profitably. It is part of my obligation to learn about the land and how it can be better utilized.

— Deborah Fraser

Deborah Fraser, or Debs as she is popularly known in music circles, is regarded by many as a South African gospel superstar, a title she resists. "People make me a superstar and treat me that way. But I am not a superstar. I just regard myself as an ordinary God-fearing person". Her debut album, Abanye Bayombona, was dismissed by some in the music industry. It went on to become a multi-platinum seller in a year.


Dennis Garrity, Former Executive Director of World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF)


I will, in particular, hope to contribute to the Secretariat's efforts to highlight the role of agroforestry, evergreen agriculture, and farmer-managed natural regeneration as critical opportunities for making vast progress on the ground in the regeneration of healthy farms and ecosystems.

— Dr. Garrity

Dr. Garrity was ICRAF director general between 2001 and 2011. Previously Dr. Garrity was the regional coordinator of our Southeast Asia Programme, based in Bogor, Indonesia. He led systems improvement research in the humid tropics of the region to develop and evaluate agroforestry alternatives to slash-and-burn agriculture, and conducted research on the development of conservation-oriented agroforestry systems for sloping uplands. He has been active in the development of institutional innovations related to farmer-led organizations in sustainable agriculture and natural resources management.


Byong Hyon Kwon, Former Korean ambassador and chairman of the NGO Future Forest


Desertification is one of the most severe and most serious problems we are now facing. We are trying to stand up in action in preventing and combatting decertification. We are dedicated and devoted and determined to do every effort to prevent desertification.

— Amb. Kwon

Born in 1938, Amb. Kwon, a national of the Republic of Korea, is a lawyer by profession. He has served in various diplomatic capacities in Australia, China, Japan, Myanmar and the United States. His exceptional achievements earned him both the Red (1979) and Yellow (1992) Orders of Merit for Excellent Civil Service and the Order of Merit for Outstanding Diplomatic Performance (1987) from the Government of Korea. In 2008, he received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the University of Pittsburgh in the United States, the second such award to a foreigner, and holds the 2nd Annual Award of international cooperation for North East Asia, sponsored by the Association of the North-East Asia Community and supported by Ministry of Unification and the Daily Economy Newspaper. Amb. Kwon has also served as Invited Eminent Professor at Myungji University, Korea, and Professor Emeritus at Luo Yang University, China.

Upon retirement from the civil service, Amb. Kwon founded Future Forest  to raise awareness on the issues of desertification and yellow dust storms, to promote the participation of young people in environmental activities and to establish friendship among youth all over the World. In 2005, he began constructing the “Korea-China Friendship Great Green Wall” made of natural forests in order to, what he calls, "tame the yellow dragon", or the encroaching desert sands. 

His goal is to plant one billion trees in China’s Kubuchi Desert to demonstrate that degraded land can be reclaimed, and to provide a research site on reclaiming degraded land. The Great Green Wall is already taking shape, with a 70 percent success rate in tree planting.


Leila Lopez, Miss Universe 2011


I am humbled and honored to be called upon to serve as a Drylands Ambassador for the Convention.

— Leila Lopes

Miss Lopes was crowned Miss Universe 2011 in São Paulo, Brazil, on September 12, 2011 after beating 88 competitors. Prior to being crowned, Miss Lopes held the title of Miss Angola Universe and was active with various social causes in her country.She worked with poor children and the elderly, as well as helped educate the Angolan community about HIV/AIDS.


 Carlos Marchena, Spanish football player and World Cup winner



There are many human lives at stake. While many countries fight against desertification, we must be all united to support them with all our energies. I am very proud to add my humble help to this cause.

—Carlos Marchena

Carlos Marchena currently plays for the Spanish Club Villarreal as central defender and set a world record of 50 successive international appearances without defeat when he played in the 3-2 win against Saudi Arabia in May 2010. On the international front, Marchena first appeared for Spain in the youth squad, winning the 1999 FIFA World Youth Championship. He was also on the roster for the 2000 Olympic U-23 squad, and won the silver medal. As part of the Spanish team, he is now champion of Europe and champion on the World, as winner of the UEFA European Football Championship, held last 2008 in Austria and Switzerland, and the 2010 FIFA World Cup, held last summer in South Africa.


Jeffrey Sachs, Economist and Director of the Earth Institute



Drylands are absolutely in the front line of the most vulnerable position with regard to global anthropogenic climate change, not in the future, but now.

— Jeffrey Sachs

Dr. Sachs is an American economist and Director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University. One of the youngest economics professors in the history of Harvard University, Sachs is known for his work on the challenges of economic development, environmental sustainability, poverty alleviation, debt cancellation, and globalization.

His Excellency Pedro Pires, former President of Cape Verde



Sustainable Land Management, particularly the fight against desertification, land degradation and drought are major priorities for Africa.

—Pedro Verona Rodrigues Pires

Pedro Verona Rodrigues Pires was born on the Cape Verdean island of Fogo in the district of St. Filipe on 29 April 1934. He attended elementary and secondary school in St. Filipe and Praia finishing his secondary education in St. Vicente.His childhood was marked by the severe droughts and famine Cape Verde suffered in the mid--‐1940s. In 1956, he left Cape Verde to attend university at the Lisbon University of Sciences, however he was unable to finish as he was summoned to serve in the Portuguese Air Force.

He decided to leave Portugal in 1961 to take up the cause of Cape Verdean independence as a member of the African Party for Independence of Guinea and Cap Verde (PAIGC) He worked to garner support for the PAIGC amongst Cape Verdeans in Senegal and France and moved up the ranks of the party.

After Portugal’s left-wing Carnation Revolution resulted in a change of government, the stalled de‐colonization agenda gained new momentum with Pires as a leading figure.Later, a coup and ensuing civil war in Guinea‐Bissau would result in a split within the party, and Cape Verde pursued its goals separately from Guinea‐Bissau under the African Party for Independence of Cape Verde (PAICV).

Pedro Pires was appointed Prime Minister by the Parliament of the newly formed country in 1975, and began pushing for democratic reform in the 1980s. He held this post until 1991, when he lost the first multiparty election to Carlos Veiga of the right‐wing Democracy Movement Party.

He remained active in the PAICV party and was elected President of Cape Verde in 2001.

In November 2001, after leaving the Presidency he won the Mo Ibrahim prize for good governance in Africa.


Tarja Halonen, former President of Finland


Soil protection and the promotion of sustainable land management and agriculture are central tools for tackling poverty. I intend to promote sustainable land management at all levels, and its inclusion in the new sustainable development goals and the post-2015 Development Agenda. This is crucial for effective poverty eradication.

— Tarja Halonen


Liu Fangfei


Liu Fangfei is a Chinese national, born in 1977. She holds a master as Executive Master of Business Administration from the Guanghua school of management of Beijing. Ms. Liu is a well renowed professional TV presenter in China. In her career she hosted several big TV shows , galas and events. Fangfei is aslo deeply involved in noumerous charity activities and serves as good-will ambassador for many organizations.

Her current campaign "Fangfei Green Handkerchief Initiative" aims to protect land resources and reduce deforestation by encouraging public to use and reuse handkerchiefs. 

More about her activities on the 2016 Global Observance Day here.