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Graduate students visit UNCCD to discuss the sustainable future of land

At the start of the new academic year, the United Nations Regional Information Centre in Bonn together with UNCCD, hosted a group of graduate students from Côte d’Ivoire, Germany and Kenya to discuss the Convention’s work on combating drought and desertification and the role of science in supporting good land stewardship. Two dozen students who visited UN Bonn are a part of the programme launched by the German Center for Development Research (ZEF) in 2021, together with the Universities of Cologne, Abidjan and Nairobi as part of the new DAAD Global Environment and Climate Center Initiative. The African Climate and Environment Center – Future African Savannas (AFAS), research programme focuses on nature-based solutions for climate change adaptation and biodiversity conservation in African savannas. Addressing the students, UNCCD Lead Scientist Dr. Barron Joseph Orr stressed the urgency of bringing degraded lands back to health at a time when humanity has already exceeded four of the nine planetary boundaries which define our “safe operating space” – climate change, biodiversity loss, land use change and geochemical cycles, according to the recently published 2nd edition of UNCCD Global Land Outlook. Integrated land use planning that helps anticipate potential land degradation, navigate trade-offs and deliver on multiple Sustainable Development Goals is at the core of the Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) concept. Developed by the UNCCD Science-Policy Interface (SPI), it provides a strong scientific foundation that supports UNCCD Parties’ work in land restoration. UNCCD Knowledge Management Officer Mr. Jeroen van Dalen explained the structure of the SPI that brings together scientists from various regions, policy makers, practitioners and civil society leaders to research a specific topic such as LDN and provide informed policy recommendations for the country Parties of the convention. Some of the visiting students who come from farming communities in Africa have witnessed firsthand the devastating effects of drought and land degradation on the rangelands and their inhabitants. Many questions from the students have been focused on UNCCD support for land restoration initiatives that benefit local communities. The students also wanted to know how youth can be engaged in UNCCD’s work. The UNCCD Communications Chief Ms. Xenya Scanlon highlighted the Convention’s work with Land Heroes and other young activists, as well as youth-led  civil society organizations, inviting the students to get involved in the UNCCD Youth Caucus.

Graduate students visit UNCCD to discuss the sustainable future of land
Re-shape policies to transform food systems and end hunger

Nearly 670 million people will still be facing hunger in 2030 – 8 percent of the world population. This is equivalent to the population facing hunger in 2015 when Agenda 2030 was launched. What’s more, access to food is not necessarily leading to healthier eating, mainly because food and agricultural policies are not aligned with delivering healthy food. Governments need to repurpose food and agricultural policies to make healthy diets affordable. This is the conclusion of The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2022  (SOFI 2022) Report released Tuesday, 5 July 2022, by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). SOFI is published every year to track progress towards reaching the 2030 sustainable development goal of ending hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition in all its forms. The latest report presents an update on the situation of hunger and malnutrition around the world. Globally, between 720 million and 828 million people faced hunger in 2021, about 150 million more people since COVID-19 broke out. The last report identified conflict, climate extremes and economic shocks as the key drivers of hunger and malnutrition. To these, SOFI 2022 adds policies that lead to inequality. Policies are no longer having a significant effect in reducing hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition in all its forms, SOFI 2022 states. And in fragile economies, there are constraints to using financial policies to transform agrifood systems. For instance, all over the world, financial support is directed mainly to produce staple foods, such as rice, sugar and meat, not fruits and vegetables. As a result, fruits and vegetables are more expensive and unaffordable. Moreover, food and agricultural policies are not aligned with the promotion of healthy diets. Further, the war in Ukraine is affecting supply chains, in turn raising the costs of fertilizer, energy, and food, such as grains, especially in the first half of 2022. Considering the unfolding challenging economic situation globally, the report states that public-private partnerships are needed to boost investment. However, partnerships require the support of a robust governance system to ensure vulnerable communities benefit, and not powerful industry players. The second edition of the Global Land Outlook (GLO2) released in April 2022 also calls attention to the issue of food insecurity. It spotlights the impacts of modern agriculture on food systems that alter the land and the impacts of globalizing food systems. Global food systems are responsible for 80% of deforestation, 70% of freshwater use, and the single greatest cause of terrestrial biodiversity loss. The disconnect between where food is produced and consumed is key. In the past, local consumption led to land degradation. Behind this rapid land use change today are the demand for food internationally and for urban communities. GLO2 urges the international community to re-think its global food systems. It calls for a turn to the sustainable management of the land, which experience shows can “both improve the productivity of the land and reduce the cost of food production.” The international community has committed to restore one billion hectares of land by 2030, an area the size of the United States or China. GLO2 points to hundreds of practical ways to carry out the desired ecosystem restoration at local, national and regional levels. This year’s SOFI report is a joint initiative of the FAO, International Food and Agriculture Development (IFAD), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Health Organization (WHO). The brief and full reports are now available online.

Re-shape policies to transform food systems and end hunger
The weather alone cannot explain droughts and floods

Communities all over the world have suffered some of the most brutal effects of drought and flooding this year. Flash floods in western Europe, eastern and central Asia and southern African. And catastrophic drought in Australia, southern Africa, southern Asia, much of Latin America, western North America and Siberia are cases in point. The impacts extend well beyond the individual events. For example, the rise in food insecurity in the southern African region and unprecedented wildfires in North America, Europe and Central Asia.   What is going on? This is much more than bad weather in some cases, and is increasingly so. The UNCCD organized an event at COP26, the Climate Change Conference taking place in Glasgow, United Kingdom, to focus attention on the land-water-climate nexus. The science and policy responses discussed make it clear that human decisions exacerbated by climate change are significantly – and arguably, catastrophically – amplifying the impact of drought and floods.  The discussion encouraged more strategic land use decisions. Decisions that ensure what we do where, and in particular, what we plant where, mitigatesthe impacts of both extremes, be it too much or too little rainfall. It also shed light on how important it is to have healthy soils. Soils that are replete with organic matter will obtain “more crop per drop”, and reduce the risks associated with drought and flooding.  Extreme events, including both droughts and floods are on the rise. With more land projected to be get drier and more and more people living in drylandsin the future, the discussions centered on the shift more than 60 countries are making from “reactive” response to droughts and floods to “proactive” planning and risk management designed to build resilience. Participants from Malawi, Pakistan, Honduras, Grenada and Burkina Faso provided concrete examples of policy alignment and cross-sectorial approaches to implementation. Here is a quick overview of the highlights. Read more:  Land and drought

The weather alone cannot explain droughts and floods
Ramsar Convention on Wetlands turns 50

This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Ramsar Convention, the intergovernmental treaty which unites 171 countries to protect and use wisely the wetlands and the resources they provide. The Ramsar Convention is the oldest of the modern global intergovernmental environmental agreements. In the fifty years since it was founded, a lot more became known about the importance of wetlands for water security, disaster risk reduction, mitigating climate change, supporting biodiversity and providing livelihoods.  Across the world, wetlands are of great importance to humanity. All agricultural production depends on water which is transported and provided to humankind through wetlands. More than half of the world relies on wetland-grown produce for their staple diet, for example from rice paddies. Wetlands also provide more than a billion livelihoods across the world in an array of activities that also deliver food, water supplies, transport, and leisure. Wetlands loss contributes to poverty and food insecurity. During the months of August and September 2021, the anniversary website is featuring stories and messages on why wetlands are important and what can be done to ensure they are better protected and used. On October 7, the Ramsar secretariat will host an intergenerational dialogue between leaders past and future to create connections across generations to elevate the urgency to protect, conserve and restore wetlands. This anniversary-themed video presents the many benefits of wetlands and gives the overview of the convention's work.  

Ramsar Convention on Wetlands turns 50
Song and video contests launched for Changwon Initiative celebration

To celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Changwon Initiative, UNCCD and Korea Forest Service are launching two global contests: a virtual choir competition and a video contest to to promote efforts to combat desertification and restore degraded lands and forests. The submission deadline is 30 September 2021. The winners will be announced at the anniversary ceremony in Changwon, South Korea on 15 October 2021 and will receive cash and other prizes.  How to enter: Virtual choir competition Video contest  

Song and video contests launched for Changwon Initiative celebration
Nations call for reversal of soil degradation

The Ministerial Global Forum on Food and Agriculture, hosted by Germany, concluded today with a call from 68 nations across the globe to prevent and reverse soil degradation. While 90 per cent of our food production depend on soil, which is also one of the earth’s most important carbon sinks, its quality is increasingly deteriorating, and fertile land is becoming more scarce. To stop this trend, countries must unite in their efforts to bring life back to degraded soils. Recognizing that land degradation and drought destroy the soil quality and threaten global food security, the communiqué issued at the closing of the Forum urges the countries to combat desertification and restore degraded land to achieve a land degradation-neutral world by 2030. The communiqué specifically notes the crucial role of land-restoration initiatives such as the Great Green Wall of Africa for political and social stability. UNCCD Executive Secretary Mr. Ibrahim Thiaw, who moderated one of the Forum's sessions, expressed the convention's strong commitment to supporting countries in making the spirit of the communiqué a reality and shaping ambitious long-terms goals on soil restoration at the upcoming UNCCD COP15 in Abidjan, Côte D’Ivoire, in May 2022.  "The decisions taken at our next Conference of the Parties will ramp up response actions of countries that have committed to achieve Land Degradation Neutrality for a sustainable and resilient future.​​​​​" — UNCCD Executive Secretary Mr. Ibrahim Thiaw While the global extent of land degradation is estimated at between 20-40 per cent of the total land area, restoring degraded land has been proven as an efficient and cost-effective solution to reverse degradation, climate change and biodiversity loss and to reduce the risk and intensity of disasters. Moreover, our food systems can be redesigned to ensure positive outcomes for nature and climate. Shifting from inefficient, resource-intensive production models to conservation and regenerative agriculture, agroforestry and other integrated systems, we can rebuild healthy and resilient food systems and restore degraded soils. Read more: Full communiqué UNCCD COP15 Sustainable food systems

Nations call for reversal of soil degradation