As the UNCCD high-level meeting in Central Asia draws near, we welcome you to this discussion on why global and regional gatherings are an essential part of the UNCCD process. The twenty-first session of the Committee for the Review of the Implementation of the Convention (CRIC 21) in Samarkand is set to serve as a vital marker in the Convention’s ongoing efforts to accelerate progress on land restoration and drought resilience. By bringing together experts, leaders and delegates from 196 nations and the European Union, the meeting sets a major arena for the exchange of cutting-edge insights. This pooling of global expertise not only fosters productive solutions but also facilitates joint decision-making, ensuring a coordinated approach to pressing environmental challenges. CRIC21 will focus on strategic objectives ranging from sustainable land management and drought resilience to secure and equal land rights for women. The event will also provide a platform to discuss emergent crises exacerbated by climate change, such as sand and dust storms and wildfires. Taking place at the halfway point between the biannual Confrences of the Parties (COP) to UNCCD, the insights coming out of CRIC21 will aid in defining the next steps for all stakeholders, providing a clear and focused roadmap to UNCCD COP16, scheduled to take place in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in 2024.
As the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (UNDER) gains 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.
Excellencies, dear Friends, It is a pleasure for me to address you today from the headquarters of the Secretariat of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification. Let me begin by expressing my recognition to the Russian Federation for hosting this event. The Nevsky Congress is a clear testimony of the paramount importance of the environmental agenda. No corner of the globe is immune from the devastating consequences of climate change, biodiversity loss, land degradation and drought. Sea levels are rising, oceans are acidifying, the Arctic is melting, forests are burning, weather extremes are intensifying. Droughts hit everywhere and with more intensity. Rising temperatures are fuelling environmental degradation and economic deterioration. Therefore, the theme of today´s meeting “Ecology: a right, not a privilege” couldn’t be more relevant. We cannot afford to take today´ situation for granted. Resolute and concerted actions are needed for the sake of present and future generations; for their right to a decent life and environment. However, all rights go hand in hand with responsibilities. And our collective responsibility is to think about our Planet and to take care of the land which belongs to us all. Without urgent action on how we use and steward our land, we cannot aspire to sustainable development for all. Land generates the food we eat. Land produces the fibre necessary to our clothing. The water we drink is coming from terrestrial ecosystems. The quality of the air we breathe also partly depends on the health of our land. Therefore, I would like to call upon all the participants here today to think about land restoration as a powerful and cost-effective sustainable development tool. Investing in large-scale land restoration to build resilience to drought, combat soil erosion, and loss of agricultural production is a win-win solution for everybody: for the environment, for the climate, for the economy, and for the livelihoods of local communities. Sustainable agriculture and nature-based solutions are a smart way to increase food production, stabilize climate, create employment, and wealth and prosperity. These challenges are of importance to all. Ladies and gentlemen, Next year will mark the 30th anniversary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification. 2024 is also the year of COP16 of the Convention, which will be hosted by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The UN Convention to Combat Desertification is the only legally binding global treaty set up to address land degradation and the effects of drought. Next year’s Nevsky International Congress may therefore be a good platform to discuss these issues. Sharing and enhancing knowledge on drought resilience, sustainable land management and restoration is key to improving land and livelihoods. UNCCD stands ready to provide it’s support. I wish you a successful and fruitful meeting and a productive discussion. Spasíbo. Thank you very much for your attention!
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.