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Baaba Maal vows to fight desertification in the Sahel

UNCCD has recently renewed its partnership with Baaba Maal who is one of the six UNCCD Land Ambassadors. Hailing from the region of the Senegal River which is home to millions of people living in four Western African countries: Senegal, Mali, Guinea and Mauritania, the music legend Baaba Maal has vowed to fight desertification and climate change in the Sahel, by planting trees and making it a land of green. A singer and guitarist who has released albums since 1989 in a music career lauded across the world, Baaba Maal lent his unique voice to the sound track of the international blockbuster Black Panther, a film that won an Oscar and a Grammy Award for its music score. Since 2003, the musician has been committed to fighting various development challenges in Africa. His popularity means that he can make global impact to help create a new narrative for the Sahel as a region of opportunities, where a Great Green Wall Initiative works to transform lives of humanity’s most vulnerable people by creating green jobs, harnessing the Sahel’s abundant solar energy and building and prosperous future on land. "My music and songs use many words to describe the beauty of the Sahel – but now the beauty is disappearing and people are moving away from their villages. I want my music to call people to fix things, again. The first step is planting trees." — Baaba Maal Photo (L to R): Baaba Maal with UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw Read more: Land Ambassadors Great Green Wall

Baaba Maal vows to fight desertification in the Sahel
Using NFTs to support climate action

As the COP26 closes with a call for more ambitious and measurable climate actions by governments, activists around the world are ramping up their efforts to continue work outside the conference halls. Our Land Ambassador, a Malian-French singer and songwriter Inna Modja, in her recent interview with CNN presented the CodeGreen, a new coalition of artists and coders who want to use non-fungible token (NFT) auctions to raise money for climate projects. Inna, who is a co-founder of CodeGreen, discussed its potential to mobilize funds for projects along the Great Green Wall. In the Sahel, where 80 per cent of the population rely on agriculture for their livelihood, the Great Green Wall goes beyond growing trees to create opportunities for vulnerable populations, especially, for youth and women. The first CodeGreen is  planned for the World Economic Forum in Davos. Watch the interview here

Using NFTs to support climate action
Celebrating Changwon Initiative 10th anniversary

A decade ago at the UNCCD COP10 in Changwon, two key ideas in the UNCCD process were rolled out: the “Changwon Initiative” and the global target of “zero net land degradation.” The initiative has been instrumental in materializing this new vision of a land-degradation neutral world and played a pivotal role in developing the Land Degradation Neutrality concept, supporting advocacy within the international community and ensuring its reflection in Sustainable Development Goals through SDG 15.3. The Changwon Initiative also supported national voluntary target setting processes to achieve Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN), leading to more than 100 countries’ participation. It has also contributed to the preparation of action-oriented projects and programmes to facilitate the implementation of LDN on the ground. Land-based solutions are among the most efficient and effective ways to safeguard nature and human beings: land restoration can be an important solution for mitigation and adaptation to climate change and biodiversity loss. Furthermore, it can contribute to job creation and food security. A land degradation-neutral world by 2030, which is the vision of the Changwon Initiative, can be an important stepping stone toward restoring balance with nature and realize the Sustainable Development Goals. As we celebrate the achievements of the Changwon Initiative over the past 10 years, there is a great expectation that the Initiative will continue to act as an accelerator in addressing land degradation neutrality and making a positive impact for a better future for people and the planet. Read more: The Changwon Initiative LDN target-setting programme Land and the SDGs

Celebrating Changwon Initiative 10th anniversary
Voices from around the world: the global essay competition

What is the relationship between our treatment of land and the likelihood of future pandemics?    Congratulations to everyone who participated in the UNCCD/CDIO Global Essay Competition 2020-2021. We were glad about the sheer number of participants engaged in creating a better future by giving their ideas on averting future pandemics. Our hope is that this experience helps you stay concerned and motivated to address problems concerning sustainability by providing new ideas, products, and services that reduce the ruining of our planet and that benefit humanity. In this regard, all participants are encouraged to remain constructively engaged by continuing to contribute to this necessary action of protecting land. This effort must be made as it inter alia will help raising awareness and in reaching more and more communities across the globe. Background In 2020, we witnessed the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic causing devastating impacts in virtually every facet of people’s lives. To many, the pandemic feels like a force out of their control. Yet, a closer look reveals it is a directly result of our action as a global community. To mark the 2020 World Soil Day (Saturday the 5th of December), the UNCCD Capacity Development and Innovations Office (CDIO) invited people around the world to participate in an essay competition exploring the concept of 'one health' through examining the relationship between our treatment of the planet's land and the increased likelihood of these types pandemics. Participation in the essay competition was open to everyone and was FREE!  Essays of a minimum of 500 and maximum of 1500 words were  submitted in English, French, Russian or Spanish. All entries were original unpublished works written by the participants.   Submissions The goal of this competition was to explore Covid-19, a topic of current and global importance, specifically, how our actions towards the planet's land resources can play a role in dealing with and help in preventing such pandemics in the future. Submitted essays explored inter alia: The diagnosis (the objective reality): The nature of Covid-19 and its relation to our attitude to land. The prescription and solution: What issues must be addressed for our improved relation to land. We have received 179 essays from 69 countries. There was a good distribution from all over the world:   The winners, their stories and their essays The winners were announced in mid July on UNCCD CDIO social media platforms. 1st prize winner Divya Keren Prakash is from Chennai, a bustling metropolis in the south of India. She studies at SBOA School and Junior College and is in 10th grade. Like most teens today, she is inspired by Greta Thurnberg to look a little closer at the places we live in and try to harmonize with nature. At a global level there might be a lot being done, but she believes that a lot more can be done locally. In her essay she argues that if we are to survive, our attitude towards land needs to change. From trampling on everything in our path for self-satisfaction, to alternatively, recognizing the frailty of the gift granted to us and learning to "Live and let live". Not to conquer but to seek balance. To respect other species, no matter how small. To recognize that every life has value and has evolved for a purpose in its ecosystem. Read Divya's essay here 2nd prize winner Latifah Pillay is 18 years old, she lives in Guyana and is a secondary school student. Latifah's essay title was "The plan B". Latifah's work stood out as it encourages one to read to the end. Indeed, she starts directly by writing: "What if I told you the Covid 19 Pandemic was planned?". As we go along, we discover her arguments and her very interesting way of analysing the events of the last two years. She concludes that this crisis can lead us to reform our way of life and consumption: the Corona Pandemic actually gives us a unique opportunity to make the structural changes needed to transition towards a fair and ecologically sustainable economic system. Read Latifa's essay here 3rd prize winner Ilyia Volkov is 26 years old and lives in the Russian Ural region. Currently, he works in the field of management consulting, where he conducts projects in various industries, such as the oil and gas industry, retail information technology. He also engages in projects on a voluntary basis, for example, in the field of environmental protection. His essay was titled "Responsible attitude to the lands and prevention of pandemics". In his essay, Ilya talks about the relationship between earth and the current COVID-19 pandemic. He convincingly proves that if we change our attitude towards the earth, we will be able to prevent the occurrence of pandemics in the future. Read Ilya's essay here Land practitioner category winner Wilfredo Alfaro is a forest engineer and an experienced land practitioner from Chile, and works for the National Forest Corporation (Cooperación Nacional Forestal) which servers as a national focal point to the UNCCD. Wilfredo's essay is entitled "The social function of forests: towards Land Degradation Neutrality, the provision of human health and overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic in Chile". In his essay he talks about the damage to human health caused by the natural deficit. He highlights the important role of forests to overcome SARS-CoV2, as forests aerosols could have an antiviral pharmacological action. He underlines the role of the forest aerosol in the reduction of risk factors for covid, as cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome and mental illness. In his essay, Wilfredo also highlights the progress that Chile has made to incorporate the social function of the forests to improve human health and combat the Covid 19. Read Wilfredo's essay here Special prize winners Elizabeth Dolger is 12 years old and lives in Brest, Belarus. Despite her young age, she is very responsible about the environment and the Covid-19 pandemic. She thinks this is a very serious topic. She always monitors the environment in nature and wears a protective mask in public places. Her essay was titled "COVID-19 - a harmless disease or a terrible pandemic?". In her essay, she says that the pandemic has divided life into before and after. But she believes that with the help of modern medicine, knowledge and a high-level of consciousness, humanity will be able to defeat this disease. Meerimgul Rajapova is 16 years old and lives in Kyrgyzstan. She studies at school no. 28 "Uchar" and is currently working on a project to clean ponds in her hometown and plans to expand it. Her essay is titled "Research COVID-19" and discusses her brother's experience as a medic in the "red zone" during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in Kyrgyzstan. The schoolgirl stresses that we should not underestimate the sacrifices made by health workers.  Alejandro Mejia Gomez is 28 years old and is from Colombia but is presently living in Germany. He has completed his studies in the University of Cologne in Economics and he has worked with policy makers in the areas of economic growth and sustainability. Alejandro's essay title was "Health and land 2021". In his essay Alejandro advocates that a new "One health Governance" should be put into forward to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. This governance arrangement recognizes that the health of the people is connected to the health of our animals and the environment. He argues that it is up to us to learn from this pandemic the fact that we are bound to the land whether we like it or not. Opeyemi Adewale is 43 years old and is from Nigeria. He has worked professionally in town planning, architecture and biomedical engineering. Opeyemi's essay title was "Land use change and the prevalence of zoonosis: The COVID-19 case". In his essay he particularly emphasizes that our readiness for future pandemics depends on how we treat the environment, the priority we place on animal health, and our understanding of its link to human health. Zachary Sadler is 22 years old and was born in the USA, raised in Thailand and studied in Spain. From an early age he was attracted by environmental issues and has led many ambitious projects concerning the same. Zachary's essay title was "The relationship between our treatment of the land and the increased likelihood of future pandemics". He underscores the importance of the interconnection between us (humans), animals and the Earth. For him, this is the most important thing that humans need to understand if they want to prevent events like COVID-19 from happening again. Vrishni Maharaj is 17 years old and lives in Trinidad and Tobago. She is a student, currently in the Sixth Form level, pursuing biology, chemistry, environmental sciences and entrepreneurship, with aspirations to become a surgeon. Vrishni's essay title was "COVID-19 and land resources". In her essay, she argues that "by shifting to a paradigm of sustainability, we can use land resources to our advantage as we fight through COVID-19. She says it is our duty as a global community to act now; tomorrow may be too late". Quotes from the essays Word from the team Isn't it amazing to be able to connect the world altogether around the same topic? Isn't it wonderful to get the views from every part of the globe about land? Isn't it beautiful to realize that we are actually all sharing this same land? These and more are what we found with this essay competition. It was a really wonderful to have this impressive number of participants and an even greater pleasure to discover their work. The essays were of very high quality, and written with sincerity and honesty. None of them disappointed us. It is necessary to understand that our reality can be quite different depending on our location and circumstances. We often find it challenging to put ourselves in other people's shoes, if only to understand better how the world works. However, the damage caused by our lack of care for our land has brought us all closer together. We are all victims of the pandemic. By joining our hands, hearts and minds we become a true a community. We were able to directly discover with pleasure, and sometimes sadness, how the relationship to the land influences the lives of hundreds of people, in countries all around the world. Every word was right, and every sentence should be read worldwide. Whether it was the laughter, the tears, the anecdotes, or the advice, each person who contributed to the exercise gave the world something of real value!! THANK YOU ALL!! Photo gallery Please see the photo gallery of the wonderful activities our winners are engaging in to protect the environment. Future competitions Please look out for our up-coming competitions and other major events. We shall soon be releasing a special competition from primary-school aged children; a special project for women and young girls, and much, much more. So please continue to stay tuned! Conclusion The power of the human mind never ceases to astonish us! Language abilities, face recognition, decision-making, creative thinking, memory, logic, multitasking, emotions, the list goes on. Imagine the potential when several such minds work together! The outcome is creation, innovation! This is what happened in this project. From the team that worked tirelessly to the participants who were willing to write and share their ideas.

Voices from around the world: the global essay competition
Portrait of the week: Baaba Maal

Senegalese singer and UNCCD Land Ambassador Baaba Maal believes that the future of Africa is in the hands of the youth. He is actively supporting the new narrative on the Sahel as the region of opportunities, rich in traditional culture and with a large potential for development in the management of natural resources as well as opportunities for youth, since close to two thirds of the population is under 35 years old. Through his concerts and social engagement, Baaba Maal uses the magic of his voice to bring people together and empower them to build a peaceful and prosperous future on land, harnessing the potential of the African traditions and new technologies. Read more: UNCCD Land Ambassadors Land and youth  

Portrait of the week: Baaba Maal
Portrait of the week: Ricky Kej

Ricky Kej is known internationally as a music composer, No.1 artist on the US Billboard chart and a Grammy Award winner. Committed to creating awareness on environmental and social causes, he composed UNCCD Land Anthem that showcases his strong dedication to music as a powerful catalyst that moves people from understanding their environmental responsibilities to making everyday decisions that mean taking less from nature: "Exceptional situations call for exceptional response. We must reflect on how we, as individuals and as global communities, can make a significant positive change  and use our talents and creativity to inspire action." — Ricky Kej Read more: UNCCD Land Anthem UNCCD Land Ambassadors Anniversary of Paris Agreement: Land Ambassador shares memories

Portrait of the week: Ricky Kej