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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
UNCCD-led Drought Toolbox

Requested in The COP 13 as part of the Drought Initiative, the toolbox is being designed to provide drought stakeholders with easy access to tools, case studies and other resources to support the design of National Drought Policy Plan with the aim to boost the resilience of people and ecosystems to drought. The Drought Toolbox is currently being developed as part of the Drought Initiative through the close partnership among UNCCD, WMO, FAO, GWP, the Joint Research Centre of the European Union, the National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC) of the University of Nebraska, and UNEP-DHI.      

UNCCD-led Drought Toolbox
IWG recommends actions on drought for countries

The online meeting of the Intergovernmental Working Group (IWG) on drought on 13-15 December 2021 brought together 30 regional representatives, scientists, international organizations and members of civil society, to review new policy and institutional measures that can help address drought effectively under the Convention. The novel findings and recommendations are the result of the two years of work since the IWG was established by Parties at UNCCD COP14 in New Delhi, India in 2019. The final recommendations of the IWG will be presented to Parties at UNCCD COP 15 which will take place in Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire in May 2022. The holistic approach to drought proposed by the IWG are expected to support early action on drought to help the most vulnerable communities and ecosystems. Read more: Land and Drought The Intergovernmental Working Group on Drought

IWG recommends actions on drought for countries
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
Experts meet to discuss solutions for Central Asia

The final conference on the results of a Joint initiative to develop regional strategies to combat drought, sand and dust storms (SDS) in Central Asia took place on 21 October. Representatives of the UNCCD Secretariat, national institutions and CAREC, government representatives, experts, as well as regional and international partners gathered to discuss joint strategies for drought and SDS management.  The drought that gripped the Central Asian countries last summer resulted in massive losses of livestock and crops, affecting local communities and economies. The risk of drought in the region is of particular concern because of its dependence on agriculture and shared water resources. Studies also show that global dust emissions have increased by 25-50 per cent since 1900 as a result of land use and climate change.  "The strategies presented today advance the agenda on drought and SDS, consolidating common concerns and priorities. Since prolonged drought often triggers sand and dust storms, the SDS mitigation requires drought-smart solutions," said UNCCD Deputy Executive Secretary Tina Birmpili.  The conference participants emphasized that achieving a neutral balance of land degradation to slow down desertification, land degradation and drought is an integral part of the initiative. To date, five Central Asian countries have joined the UNCCD Land Degradation Neutrality programme, striving to reach no net loss of healthy and productive land. At the end of the conference, the Central Asian countries reaffirmed their commitment to address drought and SDS and called on the international community to support the implementation of the proposed strategies. The outcomes of the initiative will be presented at the upcoming UNCCD COP 15 in May 2022. Read more: Regional approaches to combat drought, sand and dust storms in Central Asia About sand and dust storms

Experts meet to discuss solutions for Central Asia
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