GEO-LDN Competition winner announced

winning team card

The Group on Earth Observation Land Degradation Neutrality (GEO-LDN) Initiative announced the winner of its international technology innovation competition on the development of tools to support land use planning for Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN).

The team that presented the “LUP4LDN”(Land Use Planning for Land Degradation Neutrality) tool won the competition and will receive financial and technical support valued at USD 100,000 to transform their prototype into an operational and scalable tool.

LUP4LDN integrates LDN into participatory land use planning via an interface that allows users to evaluate land use and land management transition scenarios, providing visual and quantitative representation of land degradation gains and losses. “LUP4LDN supports users to answer where is most crucial to focus land restoration efforts and what sustainable land management interventions are optimal and feasible ito achieve LDN” said Pythagoras Karampiperis, CEO of SCiO, and leader of the LUP4LDN team, which includes experts in agriculture, sustainable land management, land preservation and conservation, as well as users from Tunisia and Burkina Faso.

On behalf of the Jury Panel, Douglas Cripe, Senior Scientific Adviser at the Group on Earth Observation Secretariat, highlighted the achievements of the winning team during an online award ceremony in the margins of UNCCD CRIC19. “Of the tools presented, the LUP4LDN tool is the most innovative and the most directly responsive to the Competition’s challenge. LUP4LDN goes beyond analyzing data –  it brings stakeholders together. It directly facilitates collaborative land use planning and the process guidance provided is applicable globally. We recognize the value of the tool in training land use planners toward embedding LDN in planning processes,” said Cripe.

In his welcoming remarks, Neil Sims, Co-Chair of the GEO-LDN Initiative and Chair of the Jury Panel, expressed his satisfaction in the large turnout for the competition. “We received entries from 23 teams, with participants from 36 countries across all continents, which reflects the significance of land degradation to countries around the world. The high level of engagement for this competition also demonstrated the value of coordination efforts such as the GEO-LDN Initiative,” he added.   

Other finalists included the LDN Analytics tool, developed by a team led by Vanja Westerberg, co-Founder of Altus Impact, jointly with Simon Reynolds and Luis Costa, and users from Haiti and Ghana; and the Multi-layered Land-Dynamics Tool (ML-LDT) developed by a team led by Claudio Zucca, University of Sassari, and technical implementers and users from the Republic of Korea, India and Mongolia.

“We would like to thank all three finalists' teams for their outstanding efforts, their contribution toward more transparent and well-informed land use planning and management, and their commitment to solving one of the world’s greatest environmental challenges,” said the jury in its official statement. “We were very impressed by the quality and the diversity of the finalists' tools, with approaches ranging from neural networks to expert knowledge. Through the direct engagement and co-development of the tools with end users from Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean, the finalists' teams created tools that have the potential to better address the specific context, behaviors and expectations of the people who will directly interact with the technology. Especially in these difficult times, the competition provided an indispensable space for innovation and collaborative action,” said the Jury.

In her closing remarks, Sara Minelli, Programme Officer at the UNCCD Secretariat, invited country Parties to express their interest in supporting further development, testing and pioneering of the winning tool. On behalf of the UNCCD Science Policy Interface, which was represented in the jury panel by Nichole Berger and Peter Verburg, Minelli said: “Land use planning is the place where different land objectives come together to enhance productivity and support livelihoods, while conserving biodiversity and combating climate change. The tools developed for this competition will provide the critical step for policy makers to include LDN in land use planning. We look forward to watching how these winning solutions – will contribute to bringing a scientific understanding of LDN into land use planning practice.”

For more information or to express interest in supporting further development and testing of the winning tool, please contact Ms. Sara Minelli, Programme Officer on Monitoring and Assessment.

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