Land degradation-neutral world
Sustainable Development Goal 15: Life on Land calls for the protection, restoration and sustainable management of land-based ecosystems. In doing so target 15.3 specifically aims to achieve a land degradation-neutral world by the year 2030.Watch
Last week a group of African innovation leaders from the Great Green Wall joined a workshop in the Negev region of Israel to exchange knowledge with local innovative startup companies. The workshop is part of the DeserTech initiative that explores new ways of addressing desert-related challenges through technology and innovation while upscaling Africa's innovation ecosystem. Participants have been selected through an open application process that invited Innovators, entrepreneurs, corporate entities, investors, policy makers and non-governmental organizations from the Great Green Wall countries to explore innovative technologies and new business models that generate collaborations to restore degraded land, while creating business opportunities and jobs. The DeserTech is an innovation community, developed as a joint initiative of the Merage Foundation Israel, the Israel Innovation Institute, The Ministry of Environmental Protection and Ben Gurion University of the Negev. Located in Be'er Sheva, it promotes development, adaptation and commercialization of technologies that enable sustainable living in arid climates, while transforming the region into a global entrepreneurial hub. Earlier in the programme, 30 DeserTech Innovation Leaders from Great Green Wall countries joined a series of online workshops to identify the challenges in need of innovative tech solutions. Specific challenges include rainwater harvesting and conservation, high precision underground water detection, off-grid solar energy production, water desalinization for agricultural use, development of drought-resilient seed varieties, vertical farming, optimizing soil health and planting processes, implementing solar-powered precision irrigation, innovative roof gardening solutions, solar-powered cold storage and weather-forecasting tools. All challenges have been posted on the DeserTech marketplace. The Great Green Wall workshop in Negev also cast project teams that will be working on concrete project proposals and business models over the coming weeks, to be presented to potential donors and supporters later this year. The Great Green Wall is a flagship African-led initiative to create a mosaic of healthy productive landscapes across Africa, protect the climate and improve livelihoods. It aims to restore100 million hectares of degraded land by 2030, capture 250 million tons of carbon and create ten million green jobs in the Sahel region that includes Burkina Faso, Chad, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Sudan.
One year into the project, the collaboration between UNCCD, FAO, Aduna, Orgiis and GLOBHE already bears fruit: individual baobab trees can be now recognized from space and a computer system has been trained to plot them on a map. In the Sahel region, where trees play an important role in fixating soils, providing a barrier to land degradation and supporting food security, the baobab is particularly valued, as its fruit not only has a variety of local uses, but can also be a viable commercial export and a source of sustainable income. An icon of the African landscape revered as the tree of life, baobabs cannot be grown on plantations. Proudly standing big and wild, each one is unique and cherished by local communities, as it provides nourishment for people and their animals. Faced with the advance of the climate change, growing energy needs, rapid urbanization and a depleting stock of seedlings that grow to maturity, these green giants need to be carefully monitored and protected. Recent advances in the spatial resolution and availability of satellite imagery have enabled the detection of individual trees from space. Using FAO’s cloud computing platform SEPAL and dense time-series approaches helps identify individual tree species through phenology, or the seasonal foliage pattern, often unique to individual species. The next challenge was pinning down the actual locations of baobab trees and “training” a classification system to extrapolate and predict the tree species associated with each tree canopy. Drone data provided by GLOBHE at a very high spatial resolution allows identification of baobabs, and the tree locations are then combined with the phenology data to map individual baobabs over vast geographic regions. The resulting maps can be used to inform local communities of the location, number and condition of the baobabs, and enable them “to visualize and analyze high resolution satellite imagery from their mobile phones, allowing to actively monitor and protect this natural resource,” says Yelena Finegold, FAO Forestry Officer. This collaboration between global satellite data providers, drone operators, the private enterprise, the UN and local communities, including women and youth, is a major step toward improving monitoring, conservation and restoration methods in the Sahel. As the project advances toward mapping the baobabs over larger geographical areas, it can also support the implementation of the Great Green Wall Initiative. Better understanding of where to conserve and invest in long-term sustainable use of baobabs can promote value chain development and enable better land management decisions to monitor and safeguard these green powerhouses that provide sustenance, store water and enrich the land. image (c) MakeWaves Media
The world is rapidly urbanizing – within 30 years, two-thirds of the world’s population will live in urban areas. 90 per cent of urban growth will occur in less-developed countries across Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, further deepening the development gap between rural and urban areas. While cities occupy less than three per cent of the global land area, they consume the bulk of natural resources, while unplanned urban expansion often leads to human displacement and loss of productive land. Even though urban and rural areas depend on each other, rural communities often lag behind – worldwide 85 per cent of the poor still live in rural areas. UNCCD COP15 recognized the importance of rethinking urban-rural relationships when tackling desertification, land degradation and drought as drivers of forced migration and unplanned urbanization. Its decision 22/COP.15 invites Parties to promote sustainable territorial development to strengthen urban-rural linkages through territorial governance systems based on integrated territorial development to achieve Land Degradation Neutrality and address the drivers of forced migration. Creating a sustainable future within and outside cities calls for integrated spatial planning and inclusive development to ensure an equal and mutually beneficial exchange between urban and rural communities. Sustainable land use planning and restoration offer a cost-effective way to improve well-being of urban and rural communities, create green jobs, build drought resilience and support climate mitigation. This video, which premiered at the CBD COP 15 in Montreal in December 2022, demonstrates how well-planned and inclusive land-based actions can deliver multiple benefits by strengthening the urban-rural nexus.
Using drones, satellite images and computers, communities across the Sahel will plot the exact location and population of their Baobab trees using the global positioning system (GPS). The image of each tree growing in the 100 million hectares of land under restoration is collected by drone, converted into data that is transferred via satellite to a computer that is trained to automatically pick out the Baobabs.
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As the UNCCD COP 15 draws near and The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (UNDER) gathers momentum, UNCCD and WOCAT are partnering up on a video series that highlight the central role of sustainable land management (SLM) in restoring and maintaining the health of ecosystems. SLM has a central role in each of the eight UNDER ecosystems – farmlands, grasslands, forests, mountains, freshwaters, urban areas, peatlands, oceans and coasts – by combating land degradation, improving production and securing livelihoods while simultaneously generating multiple environmental co-benefits. While people have directly contributed to ecosystem degradation, they can also be the primary agents of change toward a sustainable land management restoration when armed with knowledge to adopt and upscale SLM. The new video series presents successful practices for each ecosystem, demonstrating how SLM can deliver powerful solutions to ecosystem degradation.