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Shea transformation: Sowing the seeds of sustainability in the Sahel 

In the Houet Province of central Burkina Faso, 43-year-old Sanou Fatimata is a key figure in the Song Taab Yalgre Association, a shea cooperative bringing together some 500 women. With more than three decades of experience in the shea industry, Fatimata seamlessly blends traditional methods with modern, eco-friendly practices, enhancing her community's cultural heritage and future sustainability. Fatimata's group is a member of the Global Shea Alliance, an industry association established in 2011.  As part of its efforts towards sustainability, the GSA supports women’s cooperatives to build their income generating capacity and more importantly their resilience.  For women’s cooperatives like Song Taab Yalgre, the shea tree, known as ‘shi yiri’ meaning 'life' in the Dioula language, serves as a cornerstone in enhancing livelihoods. Co-op members harvest shea fruit Its kernels, which are processed into shea butter used in cooking, medicine and cosmetics, are an important source of income in the wider Sahel region. Traditionally, women like Fatimata process shea kernels by hand. This involves gathering the kernels from shea parklands, transporting them back home to boil and dry and then manually crush and mill them. The kernels are then hand-kneaded to extract the oil, which in turn is heated and boiled to produce the final product, shea butter. Much of the shea butter is consumed at home but can also be sold locally or internationally, bringing income into the household. Many women also choose to sell the boiled and dried kernels directly to buyers, most of which end up in food or cosmetic products around the world. This is also another great income-generating activity especially if women are working together as a cooperative, where they can sell quantity at a negotiated price. Traditional methods blend with eco-friendly practices for sustainable production In recent years, there has been a significant decline in the number of shea trees, with approximately 8 million shea trees lost each year. This decline is attributed to various factors, including tree cutting for mechanized agriculture and fuelwood, as well as limited replanting due to cultural factors and the lengthy growth period of shea trees. This decrease in the shea tree population impacts rural economic development and women's empowerment. The availability of shea is at risk to respond to growing demand. Shea communities are at the same time disproportionately impacted by climate change, with extreme temperatures and climate events changing the landscape and impacting agricultural yields. Providing comprehensive training in sustainable shea tree management with an enhanced emphasis on conservation can ensure the long-term availability of shea resources, benefiting not only current collectors but generations to come.  Fatimata's group is a member of the Global Shea Alliance In early 2024, the GSA launched the "Reversing Land Degradation in Shea Communities” project in Mali and Burkina Faso, funded by the Austrian Development Cooperation through the UNCCD. The project focuses on land restoration and livelihood enhancement through regenerative shea agroforestry to increase shea-related incomes. The project aims to improve the income and nutrition of 2,500 women shea collectors and restore 150 ha of farmland and community land through agroforestry practices and shea tree planting. The women also plan to diversify their activities beyond production of shea butter to include crops such as moringa, baobab and fonio. To help with these activities, the project will provide access to water, through boreholes installation, and tricycles will be provided for greater efficiency. “The project activities will have a great impact on the community. The borehole will benefit both the cooperative and the community and will allow us to grow crops during the off-season. The vegetable and fonio harvests will be partly for consumption and partly for the local market, which will increase our financial income. We'll also be able to sell the baobab and moringa when they are ripe. I'm looking forward to the implementation of the activities and I'm committed to the success of the project," says Somda Leocadie, a member of one of the women's cooperatives in Burkina Faso. Despite challenges such as increasingly harsh weather conditions and market fluctuations, the cooperatives, including Fatimata's association, show remarkable resilience, strengthened by ongoing training in sustainable agriculture and financial management. Together, they envision their communities as models of sustainable growth and a brighter future for the Sahel. Photos: ULPKS – YIRIWASSO Cooperative.    

Shea transformation: Sowing the seeds of sustainability in the Sahel 
19th Meeting of the Science-Policy Interface (SPI)

The 25 members of the UNCCD’s Science-Policy Interface (SPI) have assembled at the UN Campus in Bonn, Germany for a critical scientific meeting in the run up to the 16th Session of the Conference of the Parties, which will be held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia from the 2nd to the 13th of December 2024. The SPI is a unique combination of independent scientists from all corners of the globe, science delegates to the Convention representing the five regions of the world, and five practitioners from implementing agencies and civil society. Over the past year half of the SPI members have been assembling the evidence base for a much more systemic approach to land use, so that our impacts can be more strategic and, ideally, much greater than the sum of the parts. The other half have been conducting a comprehensive analysis of aridity trends, projections and anticipated impacts, which under the Convention translates into land and people affected by the combined effects of land degradation and water scarcity. Both assessments have led to draft technical reports which will undergo independent scientific review following the meeting so that they can be finalized and published in the autumn.  The SPI is dedicated to building a bridge between science and policy. They are a global community of experts, united by a passion for understanding and safeguarding all life on land.

19th Meeting of the Science-Policy Interface (SPI)
New horizons in land restoration: 18 nations spearhead the next phase of LDN TSP

The rollout of the second phase of the Land Degradation Neutrality Target Setting Programme (LDN TSP 2.0) represents a key phase in combating land degradation worldwide, as 18 countries from several regions step up their land restoration commitments ahead of the 16th Conference of the Parties to the UNCCD (COP16). This significant advancement has become the focus of the recent workshop on "Strengthening land restoration targets and commitments" in Doha, Qatar, emphasizing the global community's renewed commitment to sustainable land management. Conducted on the sidelines of Expo 2023 Doha this February, the workshop saw the gathering of UNCCD National Focal Points, lead country consultants and key international organization representatives, such as the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, UN Development Programme, Food and Agriculture Organization, World Wildlife Fund, Conservation International, German Development Cooperation and G20 Global Infrastructure. The workshop fostered the engagement of countries actively working on strengthening their LDN targets by introducing new tools and guidelines for integrated land use planning, and facilitating the identification of priority restoration areas that align with national policy objectives. The workshop also offered an opportunity to explore operational synergies with major environmental initiatives, putting a strong emphasis on the importance of enhancing LDN target monitoring and reporting mechanisms. “The LDN TSP 2.0 represents a unique opportunity for 18 champion countries to showcase in an innovative and bold way to bring UNCCD implementation efforts to the next level in direct response to the global land degradation crisis, paving the way for other countries to follow, ” remarked LDN TSP Team Lead Pedro Lara Almuedo. The goal of the LDN TSP 2.0's is to help countries refine their national targets towards actionable and measurable initiatives. The program stresses the importance of improving land governance by utilizing spatial mapping and monitoring to effectively combat land degradation. The progress and insights achieved through the programme will be shared at the UNCCD COP16 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, this December. With 131 countries engaged in the LDN TSP since 2016, over 450 million hectares committed to restoration and 106 countries having published their LDN targets, the workshop's impact sets the stage for significant contributions at COP16 to tackle regional challenges and propel the global efforts against desertification. Land Degradation Neutrality is essential for achieving SDG 15.3, offering co-benefits like poverty reduction, food security, women's empowerment, environmental protection, biodiversity conservation and sustainable management on natural resources. LDN also aids in climate change mitigation and adaptation by transforming degraded lands into carbon sinks. The LDN TSP 2.0, championed by the 18 countries – Argentina, Benin, Central African Republic, Georgia, Jordan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Malawi, Namibia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Republic of Moldova, South Africa, Sri Lanka, St. Lucia and Türkiye – aims to demonstrate progress and guide further actions beyond COP16 in response to the urgent need for accelerated global efforts to restore productive land.  

New horizons in land restoration: 18 nations spearhead the next phase of LDN TSP
Green jobs for women in Burkina Faso and Senegal

Burkina Faso and Senegal are leading a significant shift towards a future that's both sustainable and inclusive, according to new research released by the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and UN Women. Filled with valuable insights for policymakers, NGOs and the private sector, the technical briefs focus on the unique opportunities and challenges facing women entrepreneurs and job seekers in the evolving green economy in these two African nations. At the heart of this transformation is the Great Green Wall Initiative, an ambitious project spanning the Sahel that aims to restore 100 million hectares of land, sequester 250 million tons of carbon, and create 10 million jobs by 2030. This massive undertaking is not only an environmental mission, but a pathway to economic revitalization, particularly in promoting gender equality and women's empowerment. “The green transition in Burkina Faso and Senegal is a beacon of hope for gender equality and women's empowerment. It calls for an integrated approach that links green economy goals with gender equality objectives. The Great Green Wall Initiative is a testament to these efforts, combining environmental restoration with economic and social empowerment. By unlocking green jobs for women in key sectors and advocating for gender-responsive policies, these countries aren’t just building a sustainable future; they’re paving the way for a more just and equitable world,” said UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw. Despite being a significant part of the workforce in both countries, women in Burkina and Senegal face many obstacles. They earn less than men, are less represented in leadership positions, and are mostly found in the informal sector. Starting formal businesses remains a challenge due to limited resources, such as capital and technology. Women also bear the heavy burden of unpaid care work, particularly in rural areas, which limits their opportunities for income and education. But there's a silver lining. Both countries have immense potential to create green jobs in areas such as agriculture, forestry, energy and waste management. It is estimated that around one million jobs can be created in these sectors, the majority of which will be for women. Opportunities abound in under-exploited areas such as non-timber forest products, the transformation of subsistence agriculture, solar energy and composting in waste management. These sectors offer rewarding and sustainable opportunities, especially for women. To unlock this potential, comprehensive strategies are essential. These include improving women's access to education and training, especially in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics); developing climate-resilient technologies for women's cooperatives; facilitating access to green finance; and addressing the burden of unpaid care work. In addition, promoting women's networks in the green economy and establishing innovative value chains centered on non-timber forest products are critical steps. Nearly half of the world's smallholder farmers are women, but they own less than 20 per cent of the world's land. In Senegal, where rural women make up about 70 per cent of the labour force and are responsible for 80 per cent of the country's food production, they own a disproportionately low 10 per cent of agricultural land. Similarly, in Burkina Faso, women make up 60 per cent of the labour force and produce about 70 per cent of the food, but their land ownership is also limited to 8 per cent. Moreover, in both countries, most women access land through their husbands and face difficulties in having their tenure rights recognised and effectively protected. Investing in women’s equal access to, use of and control over land and associated assets is a direct investment in their future and the future of humanity and the planet. Women are instrumental in providing security and stability in rural communities with great potential to contribute to land restoration activities. For more information, contact Mr. Gilles Amadou Ouédraogo gouedraogo@unccd.int  

Green jobs for women in Burkina Faso and Senegal
UNCCD Executive Secretary visits Japan to strengthen collaboration ahead of COP16

United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) Ibrahim Thiaw concluded his two-day visit to Japan to strengthen cooperation with key government and international partners ahead of the UNCCD Conference of the Parties (COP16) in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia this December. During the visit, he signed cooperation agreements with two key international partners – United Nations University (UNU) and the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO). He also had meetings with Ambassador Takeshi Akahori from the Foreign Ministry and senior officials at the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). Japan has been a signatory to UNCCD since 1998. On 20 February, UNCCD Executive Secretary also joined UNU Rector Professor Tshilidzi Marwala for a public conversation exploring the relationship between land degradation and human security such as famine, conflicts and environmental crises, as well as the role of international cooperation and the UNCCD in combating desertification, land degradation and drought. "The collaboration with UNU and ITTO to strengthen the delivery of scientific knowledge and improve the resilience of the vulnerable populations and ecosystems will be important to support UNCCD Parties in addressing desertification, land degradation and drought,” Mr. Thiaw said. “These issues will be front and centre at the upcoming UNCCD COP16. We look forward to working together on the road to Riyadh and beyond." United Nations University (UNU), which unites 13 scientific institutes in 12 countries around the world works on collaborative research and education, aiming to contribute, to efforts to resolve the pressing global problems of human survival, development, and welfare that are the concern of the United Nations, its Peoples, and Member States. UNU and the UNCCD have jointly worked on publications around topics of sustainable land management, ecosystem restoration and disaster risk reduction. Future cooperation will focus on aligning approaches on sustainable land and water management, as well as financial inclusion and social protection in the context of ecological restoration. “Desertification is an urgent, complex issue that negatively impacts the lives and livelihoods of 3.2 billion people worldwide. Combating desertification requires partnerships and shared expertise. Working in collaboration, UNU and UNCCD will be able to strengthen research, advocacy and capacity building to further support the United Nations, its Peoples and Member States as we work to reverse desertification and confront related critical issues,” Professor Marwala concluded. Also in Tokyo, the UNCCD and International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) committed to another four years of joint work on the sustainable management of tropical forests under a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed by ITTO Executive Director Sheam Satkuru and UNCCD Executive Secretary Thiaw. The overall objective of the new MOU is to support ITTO member countries and Parties to the UNCCD in restoring and maintaining tropical forest landscapes while promoting the sustainable production of timber and other products and ecosystem services. ITTO is an intergovernmental organization promoting the sustainable management and conservation of tropical forests and the expansion and diversification of international trade in tropical timber from sustainably managed and legally harvested forests. ITTO’s membership represents about 90% of the global tropical timber trade and more than 80% of the world’s tropical forests.

UNCCD Executive Secretary visits Japan to strengthen collaboration ahead of COP16