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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
Healthy food, healthy climate, healthy planet: they are all impossible without healthy soil. 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. Almost 99% of our calories come from land. So we can say soil is where our food begins. It can take up to a thousand years to produce just one inch of soil. But it only takes moments to destroy it – through flash floods or sand and dust storms that strip our fertile topsoil. Every five seconds, the equivalent of one soccer field is eroded. We must urgently change the way we care for our land and the way we feed our world of eight billion people. Diversifying cropping system, no-till farming, replacing chemical fertilizers and pesticides with organic alternatives are just some solutions that can lead to healthier soils and more nutritious foods. Beyond food, soil is a mighty ally in mitigating and adapting to climate change. More organic carbon can be stored in the soil than in vegetation and atmosphere combined. Restoring degraded land makes it a powerful carbon sink. Finally, the world’s soils are teeming with biodiversity: they are home to one trillion times more bacteria than there are stars in the universe! Fungi is an essential part of healthy soil. It breaks down organic matter so that nutrients become available for plants. And then there are over 2,700 species of earthworms. These vital but under-appreciated creatures keep our soil alive and fertile. This World Soil Day and every day, let’s celebrate our soil, let’s cherish our soil, let’s save our soil. Thank you.
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.
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