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From potatoes grown in recycled sacks to “more crop per drop” fruit tree varieties, climate-smart and women-led agriculture initiatives became the center of discussions at a recent interregional conference convened by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. Fertile land is a precious commodity in Tajikistan, where 90% of the country's territory is covered by mountains and 60% of the population directly depend on agriculture for livelihood. Agriculture is a major part of Tajikistan’s economy. Can you spot the colors of one of its best-loved crops in the stripes of the national flag? As heatwaves, droughts and other extreme climate events become more frequent and severe across the globe, regional cooperation and knowledge sharing are becoming a priority in building drought resilience and fighting land degradation. In response to these growing challenges, representatives of Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Moldova, the Russian Federation, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan met in Dushanbe, Tajikistan from 1-2 July 2023 to discuss upscaling and coordinating legislative, educational, scientific and technical cooperation aimed at achieving Land Degradation Neutrality. Water is so precious in Central Asia, some say it’s worth more than gold. Burrowing deep into the soil, this well in the Gissar Valley carries water that contains trace amounts of the precious metal “Though we come from different climates and landscapes, we are united in the face of climate-induced drought and land degradation. Women who develop and test climate-smart and cost-effective solutions locally should be the ones spearheading regional and global efforts to grow and protect our food in the times of climactic stress,” participants stated. Reflecting the theme of this year's Desertification and Drought Day “Her Land. Her Rights”, discussions centered on the key role of civil society organizations, particularly those led by women, in harnessing donor financing and advancing legislative action in support of gender-responsive land restoration projects that provide sustainable rural livelihoods. Apples are the most popular fruit worldwide, and so are new ways to grow them more efficiently After attending a training series at the Youth Ecological Center in Dushanbe, Mavluda Akhmedova is using the technology of growing potatoes directly in recycled sacks on her homestead in the Dekhanabod village. This approach has proven particularly effective as more frequent and sudden heatwaves and droughts in Tajikistan raise the risk of harvest loss. Growing potatoes in sacks lets the farmers control the temperature and humidity better and is of particular use on small plots where growing space is at a premium. Greenhouses at the Agricultural University in Dushanbe use the latest technology, encouraging the students to test new approaches to efficient and sustainable crop production During a visit to an experimental farm in the Gissar District, participants learned how students from Agricultural University in Dushanbe test classroom knowledge to implement the “more crop per drop” approach on their 800 hectares under tillage, including a fruit orchard, a vineyard and pasture. Nothing tastes better than bread fresh from the oven! Farm-to-table is the way of life at the experimental farm of the Agricultural University of Dushanbe The university hopes that new investments and focus on research, smart tech and innovation will bring more female students to the classrooms and labs. Using compact varieties of fruit trees combined with drip irrigation means less water, less labour and less land are needed to produce comparable crop yields By the end of 2023, Tajikistan intends to complete the process of joining the Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) Target-setting programme, bringing the number of countries who set voluntary LDN targets to 130, including all Central Asian nations. Furthermore, participation in the World Bank’s RESILAND CA+ Initiative will allow Tajikistan to access the knowledge base of other engaged countries – Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan – and train forest management and rangelands biodiversity specialists. Women are expected to become the majority of RESILAND CA+ projects’ participants and beneficiaries. Photography by Didor Sadulloev via UNDP Tajikistan
While plastic has many valuable uses, our dependency on it comes at high environmental, social, economic and health costs. The qualities that make plastic useful are also the ones that make it hazardous: designed to fool nature itself, most plastics are too resilient to biodegrade in a meaningful timeframe. Our current efforts to recycle plastics have been inefficient so far: only 9 percent of plastic is recycled globally, and much of it is either thrown away or cannot be processed for recycling. One third of all plastic waste ends up in soils or freshwater, endangering our food, our livestock and the health of the soil. Invisible to the eye, microplastics linger in the environment, the food chain, and our bodies. Soil is the foundation of our agricultural systems which support nearly all food-producing crops: about 95 percent of our food comes from soil. Fertile soil that produces our food is a finite resource, and plastic pollution can have long-lasting impact on soil health, biodiversity and productivity, all of which are essential to food security. To avoid the future where our food systems are choked by plastics, we must rethink the ways we produce, consume and dispose of them. “Our soils silently bear the weight of discarded plastics, impacting our daily lives. On this World Environment Day, let us redefine our relationships with plastic, from design to disposal” says UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw. The solution to plastic pollution is closer to the ground than we might think. Our commitment to beat plastic pollution combined with business incentives that address plastic dependency can result in a positive switch from the ‘throwaway economy’ to a ‘reuse’ society. Through our everyday choices as consumers, let us join efforts with governments and businesses, shifting toward sustainable plastic alternatives and reusable plastic products, to reduce damage to human health, the environment and the land.
While land covers less than 30 per cent of the earth’s surface, it is home to 85 per cent of all species. It comprises a variety of terrestrial ecosystems that provide a broad range of essential goods and services, vital to sustaining all life. Biodiversity above and below ground supports the ecological processes that underpin the healthy and beneficial functions of land. Land use change has been identified as the greatest threat to nature, projected to have the largest global impact on biodiversity by the year 2100. Leveraging synergies between international commitments to stem biodiversity loss and land degradation is therefore key to address these interconnected crises. On this year's International Biodiversity Day, the new brief “Land Restoration to Safeguard Nature and Livelihoods: UNCCD and CBD Working Together” spotlights the shared agenda of restoration and resilience, central to both UNCCD and the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework for 2030. It identifies where and how synergies can enhance implementation at global and national levels, increasing the impact of limited finance and delivering multiple benefits. UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw said: “We must harness the power of synergy, a power where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Synergies, like the harmony of a finely tuned orchestra, exist where commitments intersect under binding multilateral agreements and voluntary commitments. Here, at the nexus of land governance, management and restoration, we find a melody that can restore balance.” The brief stresses that preventing degradation of ecosystems and rehabilitating degraded land are cost-effective responses that can simultaneously safeguard biodiversity and improve rural livelihoods, while reducing the growing environmental risks to our societies, economies, and the natural world. Recently adopted Global Biodiversity Framework together with Sustainable Development Goals and Land Degradation Neutrality commitments present a roadmap for a harmonious future when we channel these pledges into national plans and align our actions for resilience and sustainability.
Fertile soil is a vital resource of livelihoods, prosperity and human well-being for millions across the Central Asia region. At the same time, desertification, land degradation and drought (DLDD), spurred on by climate change, pose a growing threat to soil health across the region. Around 1/3 of the region's land area is degraded, one of the highest rates in the world, according to UNCCD data. In his World Soil Day message Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw remarked that “soil is literally the foundation of human wellbeing on this planet. That’s why on World Soil Day we celebrate this precious and precarious layer of life-giving substance.” To highlight the urgency of preserving and restoring soil for a food-secure future, Kazakhstan, with the support of the FAO country office, marked this year’s World Soil Day by holding a yearly scientific conference with government representatives, scientists, journalists and industry on key issues of sustainable soil management. In his opening remarks, Baglhan Bekbauov, Vice Minister of Agriculture of the Republic of Kazakhstan, reflected that “Land resources are of exceptional importance for the livelihood, prosperity, well-being (…) and the way of life of both our contemporaries and our future generations.” In her presentation, the UNCCD RLO for CEE Nadezda Dementieva underscored the urgent need to combat land degradation, raising political momentum to activate the land restoration agenda at global, regional and national levels. She also presented the UNCCD´s flagship publication, the 2nd edition of the Global Land Outlook, which focuses on diverse pathways that countries and communities can adopt to reverse land degradation through fit-to-purpose land restoration agendas. Kazakhstan´s active engagement in the World Soil Day activities reflects the importance UNCCD places on combatting desertification across the entire region. Recognizing the key role of achieving a neutral balance of land degradation to slow down DLDD, five Central Asian countries – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan – have already joined the UNCCD Land Degradation Neutrality Programme, striving to reach no net loss of healthy and productive land. Uzbekistan also holds the distinction of being the first Central Asian country to host an official UNCCD conference, the 21st session of the UNCCD Committee for the Review of the Implementation of the Convention (CRIC21) in Samarkand from 9 to 13 October 2023.
The UNCCD Land Anthem “Born from the Land’, performed by the Land Ambassador Ricky Kej, became an emotional curtain-raiser for the high-level thematic debate "Moment for Nature" that took place on 19 July 2022 in the General Assembly Hall of the UN Headquarters in New York. The debate focused on ways to achieve the Paris Agreement's 1.5-degree target and ensure humanity's future by promoting greater coordination of the global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, protect biodiversity on land and sea, restore life to degraded land and soils, combat pollution and enable circular economies. Somewhere along our journey as humans, we have forgotten that we are not the only species, we need to live in absolute peace and absolute harmony with every single entity of nature, co-existing with the land we walk on and the air we breathe" – Ricky Kej The two-time Grammy Award winner and a long-standing UNCCD Land Ambassador, Ricky Kej embodies and inspires positive change through the emotional language of art and music. The UNCCD Land Anthem that he created together with another Land Ambassador Baaba Maal and other musicians from Canada, India, the USA, Senegal, South Africa and Vietnam has already been produced in eight languages. The song that celebrates Life on Land has been performed at key international events, such as the UNCCD COPs and the Desertification and Drought Day global observances. You can download the lyrics in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Spanish and Russian, and watch the original release on our YouTube channel.
UNCCD has recently renewed its partnership with Baaba Maal who is one of the six UNCCD Land Ambassadors. Hailing from the region of the Senegal River which is home to millions of people living in four Western African countries: Senegal, Mali, Guinea and Mauritania, the music legend Baaba Maal has vowed to fight desertification and climate change in the Sahel, by planting trees and making it a land of green. A singer and guitarist who has released albums since 1989 in a music career lauded across the world, Baaba Maal lent his unique voice to the sound track of the international blockbuster Black Panther, a film that won an Oscar and a Grammy Award for its music score. Since 2003, the musician has been committed to fighting various development challenges in Africa. His popularity means that he can make global impact to help create a new narrative for the Sahel as a region of opportunities, where a Great Green Wall Initiative works to transform lives of humanity’s most vulnerable people by creating green jobs, harnessing the Sahel’s abundant solar energy and building and prosperous future on land. "My music and songs use many words to describe the beauty of the Sahel – but now the beauty is disappearing and people are moving away from their villages. I want my music to call people to fix things, again. The first step is planting trees." — Baaba Maal Photo (L to R): Baaba Maal with UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw Read more: Land Ambassadors Great Green Wall