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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.
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.
Healthy land is an integral part of planetary well-being, which supports and sustains societies and ecosystems. Loss of healthy land threatens our health, security and prosperity, driving the interconnected crises of desertification, drought, biodiversity collapse and climate change. Land restoration offers a effective and efficient nature-based solution to address the world’s biggest challenges and achieve Sustainable Development Goals. The Changwon Initiative, launched at UNCCD COP10 in Changwon, the Republic of Korea, aims to assist countries in linking policy and action to protect and restore degraded lands. To celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Initiative, UNCCD and the Korea Forest Service are launching a global virtual choir competition to promote land and forest restoration. The application deadline is 17 April 2022. Winners will be announced at the anniversary ceremony of the Initiative in the sidelines of UNCCD COP15 in May 2022 in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, and will receive cash and other prizes. Learn more: How to apply UNCCD COP15
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
A decade ago at the UNCCD COP10 in Changwon, two key ideas in the UNCCD process were rolled out: the “Changwon Initiative” and the global target of “zero net land degradation.” The initiative has been instrumental in materializing this new vision of a land-degradation neutral world and played a pivotal role in developing the Land Degradation Neutrality concept, supporting advocacy within the international community and ensuring its reflection in Sustainable Development Goals through SDG 15.3. The Changwon Initiative also supported national voluntary target setting processes to achieve Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN), leading to more than 100 countries’ participation. It has also contributed to the preparation of action-oriented projects and programmes to facilitate the implementation of LDN on the ground. Land-based solutions are among the most efficient and effective ways to safeguard nature and human beings: land restoration can be an important solution for mitigation and adaptation to climate change and biodiversity loss. Furthermore, it can contribute to job creation and food security. A land degradation-neutral world by 2030, which is the vision of the Changwon Initiative, can be an important stepping stone toward restoring balance with nature and realize the Sustainable Development Goals. As we celebrate the achievements of the Changwon Initiative over the past 10 years, there is a great expectation that the Initiative will continue to act as an accelerator in addressing land degradation neutrality and making a positive impact for a better future for people and the planet. Read more: The Changwon Initiative LDN target-setting programme Land and the SDGs
Statement by UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw: This year’s International Day of Forests theme of ‘Forest restoration: a path to recovery and well-being’ emphasizes the role forests must play in building a better, heathier and more equitable world as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. We need forests to absorb our emitted carbon dioxide, to stabilize rainfall patterns, lower temperatures, and to hold back desertification. Yet, we continue to destroy them: an alarming fifty million hectares of forests have been lost between 2015 and 2020. Research suggests tree mortality in some forests has doubled in recent decades as a result of a drying climate and chronic anthropogenic disturbance. Ensuring that forests don’t just survive but thrive is a cornerstone of the UNCCD’s mandate to achieve land degradation neutrality. The seedlings and saplings we plant today will support our well-being for generations to come. Africa’s Great Green Wall across the Sahel has the potential to transform the lives of millions of humanity’s most vulnerable people. By creating a mosaic of green and productive landscapes, it can provide stability, livelihoods and a path out of poverty. We’ll create green jobs, harnessing the Sahel’s abundant solar energy to power a future for those most at risk. We are not just planting trees –we are planting hope for the most vulnerable – women and youth. We can restore forests and restore hope, in tandem. We can turn the economic catastrophe of the COVID-19 pandemic into a better, heathier and more equitable world. Forests are also threatened by human conflict. In politically unstable situations, the management of natural resources is challenging. Rapid reconstruction often neglects sustainable management of natural resources, undermining future peace. The Peace Forest Initiative, launched at UNCCD COP 14, aims to nurture collective efforts for cross-border cooperation on ecosystem restoration including forests, linking stability and peace to land degradation neutrality. This year, let us reaffirm our will to act. Seeing our forests renewed will help humanity recover better, become more resilient, and restore our planet’s health – for all our futures. Read more Forests at the heart of land degradation neutrality Great Green Wall of Africa Peace Forest Initiative