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Greening up against drought in Turkana

Turkana in northern Kenya is one of the driest regions of the East African nation. This 77,000 square kilometre county receives an average of just 200mm of rain annually, compared to a national average of 680mm. And with three consecutive rain seasons failing since 2020, many residents are now faced with food scarcity, one of the painful effects of an ongoing  drought.  According to Peter Eripete, Turkana County’s Head of Public Service, the effects of drought are hardest felt by the residents who are mainly pastoralists. Their reliance on livestock means that when their livestock die, their income levels fall drastically, affecting entire families’ food security.   In Kangirenga Village in Katilu, an administrative Ward in southern Turkana, we found Lokutan Amaler preparing her only meal for the day - boiled maize. Food has been hard to come by for Lokutan and her family. “I had nothing to eat. All my food storage containers are empty. If I had not received this maize from a well wisher, I would not have had anything to eat today” Lokutan explained as she stirred the boiling maize in a cooking pot over a three-stone fire.   Traditionally, the Turkana people have always been dependent on their livestock for sustenance. Whenever they need to buy foodstuffs or household supplies, they sell a goat or cow at the market and with the money received, make the necessary purchases. But with the shortage of rains leading to a lack of pasture, many cows, goats and even camels have died, leading to a loss of income for many across this vast county. To get out of the recurring cycle of lack of food whenever drought visits, a few people have now diversified their sources of sustenance.  Lokutan has planted green grams a short walk from her home. Her garden is part of  a 10-acre agriculture project initiated by Panafricaire. Eunice Eseison, who coordinates the farming project for Panafricaire says “Convincing the residents to take up farming was an uphill task. Though a few saw the sense it made, it took us very long to convince many that farming was something they could do profitably because it went against their culture”.   But with time, those who enrolled in the project including Lokutan have seen the benefits after finding an alternative source of food at every harvest, and income when the excess is sold in the local market.  While the work done by organizations like PanAfricaire to mitigate the effects of drought are commendable, food security still remains a concern in Turkana. Greater investments are needed to have more land under cultivation with improved farming practices that will increase productivity from the land. This will allow greater year-round harvests for Lokutan and other farmers, ensuring that they are always cushioned from the harmful effects of the drought. 

Greening up against drought in Turkana
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
Call for gender case studies and good practices

Enhancing knowledge on the differentiated impacts of land degradation, desertification and drought on women and men With a view to strengthening gender-related knowledge, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) secretariat is currently conducting a "Study on the differentiated impacts of land degradation, desertification, and drought on women and men." The study aims to address the socio-economic dimensions of land degradation and desertification with a gender lens and document existing practices. In line with objective 4 of the UNCCD Gender Action Plan, this study will also contribute to developing a baseline on gender-related issues in land degradation and desertification. It builds on the efforts of the UNCCD Parties to produce gender-related knowledge and sex-disaggregated data on matters relevant to the Convention. The Secretariat seeks to collect cases studies and promising practices from Convention Parties, international organizations, civil society organizations (national and international), indigenous peoples’ organizations, academia, and other relevant actors on 5 different topics: Information and data on differentiated gender roles in the communities fighting land degradation, desertification, and drought. How women and men experience changes in environmental conditions, in particular land degradation, desertification, and drought. How land degradation affects women’s empowerment (including participation, economic empowerment, health, mobility, access to and use of resources, access to social services). How land degradation exacerbates the socio-economic vulnerability of specific groups of women. How gender is mainstreamed in national policies related to desertification and land degradation. Transformative actions taken by governments at the national level to ensure that women and men benefit equally from policies and programs addressing land degradation, desertification, and drought. Case studies submitted in English, French, or Spanish will be reviewed and collated, and the Secretariat may follow up to gather further information on individual projects or case studies. Case studies should be sent by 1 December 2021 to the following address: gender@unccd.int .You can also contact us at this address in case you have any questions. Download the questionnaire: PDF | WORD  Read more: UNCCD Gender Action Plan Land tenure

Call for gender case studies and good practices
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