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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
Madrid (Spain), 30 June 2023 --- The Spanish Government will make globally available a pioneering system to monitor meteorological droughts in real-time, helping other countries build up their early warning systems and adopt a proactive, rather than reactive, approach to drought management. The announcement is part of Spain’s contribution to the International Drought Resilience Alliance (IDRA), a coalition of more than 30 countries and 20 international entities driving drought resilience in the face of climate change. Teresa Ribera Rodriguez, Vice-President of the Government of Spain and Minister for Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge, made the announcement in Madrid during the third meeting of the Intergovernmental Working Group (IWG) on Drought of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). “I applaud Spain's leadership and its drive to share technological innovations and valuable expertise with other regions that, like the Mediterranean, are particularly vulnerable to drought,” said UNCCD Deputy Executive Secretary Andrea Meza Murillo. “IDRA recognizes that countries and communities need to tap into their collective experience and knowledge to move towards a more resilient future. Spain’s move is a step in that direction.” Real-time drought visualizations The system developed by Spanish scientists monitors real-time rainfall and evapotranspiration —the combined loss of water from the soil surface and plants— through satellite data and a series of automated weather stations. The resulting visualizations are freely available online and inform the management of water resources, especially, in key industries such as agriculture. Users can also visualize meteorological drought indexes in Spain since 1961 and download datasets for specific places and times. The tool was launched in 2021 as part of Spain’s National Adaptation Plan to Climate Change, and has since been incorporated into Google Earth Engine, a public platform for the analysis and visualization of geospatial datasets. The contribution of Spain is in line with IDRA’s commitment to the ‘Early Warning for All’ initiative against extreme weather and climate change, launched by the United Nations Secretary-General and overseen by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The WMO is one of the founding members of IDRA, which was launched in 2022 at the initiative of Senegal and Spain. As part of a drive to promote knowledge-sharing, IDRA members are working to facilitate partnerships between technology providers and vulnerable regions to make drought-management innovations available to all. Members have also agreed on establishing communities of practice to foster knowledge exchange and collaboration. Policy options for drought resilience From 21 to 23 June 2023, Madrid hosted the third meeting of the Intergovernmental Working Group on Drought (IWG), which previously convened in Yerevan, Armenia and Bonn, Germany. The Group is working to identify policy instruments that help countries prepare themselves for, and manage, worsening droughts. In 2024, it will present its findings and recommendations to the 16th UNCCD Conference of Parties. No country is immune to drought and its impacts. In Europe alone, economic losses related to drought reach around 6,200 million euros annually, and the global impacts of this phenomenon are projected to become longer and more severe due to climate change and unsustainable land management. Drought affects agriculture, but also energy, transportation, and tourism, and it directly affects the health of an estimated 55 million people around the world each year.
The sun beats down on the dusty streets of Bol, a small town on the shores of Lake Chad. As the locals go about their daily lives, the sounds of laughter and chatter fill the air. For many, living here is a constant struggle, threatened by drought, insecurity, and poverty. But against all odds, the people of Bol have shown remarkable resilience. It all begins with the land. The Lake Chad region, home to approximately 30 million people, has been grappling with the impacts of drought and desertification for decades. Since the 1960s, the lake has shrunk by 90% due to climate change and overuse of resources. The arid land requires significant effort to cultivate and sustain livelihoods, yet the people of Bol have never lost hope. By finding new ways to farm and care for their land, they have learned to adapt to the changing climate and boost drought resilience. One such solution is land restoration. Bol is one of the many communities along the Great Green Wall and has been actively involved in this Africa-led initiative spanning 11 countries across the continent, from Senegal to Djibouti. With the help of local communities, the Great Green Wall Initiative is restoring degraded land, creating a vital source of income for families and empowering women and youth. “We have community farms that are supported by the Agency of the Great Green Wall by providing water and solar panels for the people to work the land,” says Abakar Thiéré, Head of the Lake Chad branch of the Great Green Wall Initiative. Head of the Lake Chad branch of the Great Green Wall Abakar Thiéré The Sahel region has long faced severe, complex security and humanitarian crises. The Boko Haram insurgency is one of the many threats facing the Sahel region. The story of Hassan Amad Muhamad, a resident of Bol, is a powerful example of the town’s resilience. Hassan escaped a life of violence and found hope and a new livelihood as a tractor driver in Bol after completing a three-year training programme. His story is emblematic of the town’s ability to overcome adversity and build a better future. Hassan Amad Muhamad Similarly, the people of Bol have displayed their adaptability and determination in the face of environmental challenges. In response to the extreme drought affecting Lake Chad, they have collaborated with local authorities to develop innovative water management solutions. They have constructed underground cisterns and implemented drip irrigation systems, enabling them to grow crops even in the driest seasons. These techniques have provided essential food and income for families in the community. Central to Bol’s resilience is its strong sense of community. Women, in particular, have formed support groups, pooling resources and knowledge to help one another thrive. These groups have been critical in fostering economic empowerment and resilience in the face of adversity. “When we talk about Lake Chad, women matter. They are the first to get affected by all the crises surrounding the Lake. Men usually respond to the challenges by leaving. Women stay and take care of everything. Women have development of their knowledge in the face of these adversities, they have been resilience in the face of the challenges,” says Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim , President of the Association for Indigenous Women and Peoples of Chad (AFPAT). Bol’s story is a remarkable testament to the power of resilience in the face of adversity. Through collaboration and innovation, the people of Bol have shown that it is possible to find hope and build a better future, even in the most difficult of circumstances. This story is part of a series that seeks to shed light on community drought resilience strategies from various regions around the world. By showcasing these often-untold stories, we hope to inspire and share best practices with others facing similar challenges. Recognizing the urgent need to shift from reactive to proactive approaches in tackling drought and its impacts, the International Drought Resilience Alliance (IDRA) was launched by the leaders of Spain and Senegal at the UN Climate Summit in November 2022, with 30 countries and 20 entities as founding members.
It is easy for some to think that water simply comes from the tap, but this limited perspective fails to acknowledge the vital ecosystems from which our water comes. When rivers run dry or become polluted, when groundwater is over-exploited, and when ecosystems are degraded, it is only then that we begin to understand the true value of water. As we mark World Water Day 2023, we are reminded of the indispensable role water plays in the lives of all living things on our planet. The urgent need for collective action to address the global water and sanitation crisis is reflected in this year's theme, Accelerating Change. Despite an ambitious commitment to achieve Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, billions of people still lack access to safe water and sanitation. This situation is only going to get worse as we are looking to a hotter, drier future. A future where global demand for freshwater will outstrip supply by 40% by the end of this decade. A future where droughts—driven by climate change but also land degradation—will strike more often and hit even harder. These problems do not discriminate. They affect countries and regions across all continents, from China to Chad, from Spain to Chile, from Australia to California here in the United States. Healthy land is critical as we face a future of increasing weather extremes and human pressure. Through sustainable land management we can restore ecosystems, boost drought resilience and safeguard water resources for future generations. The UN Water Conference that starts today is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to set an ambitious Water Action Agenda. One that can foster a more resilient, equitable, and prosperous future by recognizing the interconnectedness of water, land, climate and nature. On World Water Day 2023, we reaffirm our steadfast commitment to accelerate change and address the water and sanitation crisis that impacts every aspect of our lives. We call on governments, organizations, businesses, and individuals around the world to join forces, share knowledge, and accelerate change to ensure safe water and sanitation for all.
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