UNCCD names two new Drylands Ambassadors

Press Release

Changwon City, Republic of Korea, 11 October 2011 – The Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), Luc Gnacadja, has named Dennis Garrity, outgoing Director General of the World Agroforestry Centre, and South African gospel singer, Deborah Fraser as UNCCD Drylands Ambassadors. This follows the earlier designation of Spanish football star Carlos Marchena in the role.

The new Drylands Ambassadors will take a lead in raising international awareness of land degradation, its causes and possible solutions. "Politicians and other leaders are often accused of being all talk and no action. Drylands Ambassadors are just the opposite. Their role is entirely action-orientated. Like our earlier Sustainable Land Management (SLM) Champions such as the President of Future Forest, Kwon Byong-hyon of the Republic of Korea, they are ordinary people who achieve extraordinary things," said Mr. Gnacadja.

Dennis Garrity was Director General of the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) in Nairobi, Kenya, from 2001 until last month. Mr. Gnacadja said that Dr. Garrity's extensive career and global experience made him an ideal champion of drylands. "His work on developing agroforestry alternatives to slash-and-burn agriculture is widely recognized, as are his efforts to develop institutional innovations related to farmer-led organizations in sustainable agriculture and natural resources management."

Accepting the nomination Dr. Garrity said, "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. I will also emphasize the role of Landcare as a grassroots institutional approach for comprehensively addressing the rehabilitation of the drylands."

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.

"Today's enemy is poverty and ignorance, and it has to be fought with all the might at our disposal," she said shortly after her appointment. "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." Ms. Fraser, who is also a farmer, said she was rapidly becoming conversant with the advantages of using land profitably.

"Given that every decade the world loses an area of productive land the size of her native country South Africa (1.2 million km2) through desertification, land degradation and drought, I am delighted that the tremendous musical talent of Deborah Fraser can be harnessed in spreading global awareness," said Mr. Gnacadja. "The enthusiasm, knowledge and experience of Dr Garrity makes him the ideal advocate among policy-makers on the need to prioritize sustainable land management and increase investment opportunities," he added.

The two Drylands Ambassadors received their nomination as the tenth session of the Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (COP 10) got underway in Changwon, Republic of Korea.

For more information about Drylands ambassadors, contact:
Ms Yukie Hori, tel: +49 228 8152829, email: yhori@unccd.int
For interviews with the awardees, contact:
Ms Wagaki Mwangi, tel: +49 228 8152820, email: wmwangi@unccd.int