As one of the pilot countries to set up the land restoration targets under the UNCCD Land Degradation Neutrality target-setting programme, Armenia has been strategically placed to welcome the members of the UNCCD International Working Group on Drought (IWG) to share national successes in harnessing the adaptation potential of restored natural landscapes. In the words of the UNCCD COP15 President Alain Richard Donwahi, in the challenging times of uncertainty, geopolitical tensions and conflict, the meeting of IWG on Drought demonstrates that the coming-together of countries to protect the environment has the power to eclipse national interests and conflicting agendas to improve lives. One of the least forested countries in the Caucasus Region, with just over ten per cent of forest cover still intact, Armenia is stongly motivated to invest major efforts in projects such as the restoration on natural and agricultural landscapes around the closed stone mines in Artik. The IWG members who gathered in Yerevan earlier this month had an opportunity to meet the activists from the local youth eco-club who presented the positive impact of the project for local communities. Restoring land cover, reinforcing river slopes and planting pioneer tree species on the site of the abandoned stone quarry created a natural barrier against weather extremes, providing residents with a park and a recreation area, and introducing new habitats for a more diverse flora and fauna. Over the course of the project, water pipelines have also been restored and an automated early warning system installed at a local weather station to improve protection against environmental hazards. The total number of beneficiaries of the project is estimated at over 15 000 people, 60 per cent of whom are women. While thanking the government Armenia for hosting the IWG meeting, UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw called the attention of participants to the importance of united efforts and a strong political commitment to increase the resilience of nations and communities to extreme weather events, reduce human suffering and promote sustainable development. The IWG on Drought was established by the UNCCD COP 15 to identify and evaluate the full spectrum of options, including global policy instruments, regional policy frameworks and national plans to effectively manage drought under the Convention and support a shift from reactive to proactive drought management. In his remarks the Minister of Environment of the Republic of Armenia Hakob Simidyan stressed that the problem of combating land degradation has become of strategic importance to the country. With about 70 per cent of the territory affected by desertification, and 30 per cent severely degraded, mitigating and preventing the effects of drought becomes all-important for the stable and sustainable national development. The attendees also received a training in skill development for multilateral negotiations, delivered in English and Russian, since many participants came from the Central and Eastern Europe, Central Asia and the Caucasus region. The acquired skill set will serve as an important asset for national delegates at the upcoming UNCCD CRIC21 in October 2023 and the COP16 in 2024.
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.
Two years on since the One Planet Summit, 80 percent of the US$19 billion pledged towards the Great Green Wall Accelerator has been programmed across the 11 African nations that are part of the initiative. However, continued political leadership and country ownership, targeted action at all levels, and strengthened institutional arrangements are required to realize the vision of this Africa-led movement.
The 2022 reporting process has now concluded. We would like to thank all Parties for their efforts to submit national reports and are delighted with their active engagement in the process. We are now analyzing the reported data in preparation for CRIC21. PRAIS 4 is now closed for further submissions and submitted national reports can be found in Country Profiles. Additional national reports can be submitted on request via email@example.com. Please note these additional reports will not feature in the CRIC21 analysis but will be published on the UNCCD website upon submission. There will be no technical support or quality assurance for late submissions.
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
As the international cooperation to address the growing threat of drought projected to affect over ¾ of the world population by 2050 gains momentum, the recent workshop in Istanbul on building negotiation skills and developing action plans became a fitting tribute to the successes of the Ankara Initiative that supported capacity-building under the UNCCD for many years. In his message to the participants, UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw remarked that the support provided by the Government of Türkiye since 2016 resulted in key contributions to national policy recommendations on issues such as land tenure, gender equality and land degradation neutrality (LDN). As an arid and semi-arid country that made outstanding progress in land rehabilitation and restoration, Turkiye has been uniquely positioned to share its experience, providing a number of capacity-building and knowledge-sharing initiatives for UNCCD Parties working toward achieving LDN. The General Manager of Combating Desertification and Erosion Nurettin Taş presented a decision support system developed by Türkiye to realize the national LDN targets and confirmed the country’s commitment to sharing its expertise with other countries facing desertification, land degradation and drought. The practical part of the workshop for over 30 Parties from Africa and CEE included interactive trainings on building the knowledge base and developing an effective skill set for multilateral negotiations on drought resilience and LDN implementation, which will be an important asset for national delegates at the UNCCD CRIC21 in October 2023 and the COP16 in 2024.