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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.
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.
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
As the COP26 closes with a call for more ambitious and measurable climate actions by governments, activists around the world are ramping up their efforts to continue work outside the conference halls. Our Land Ambassador, a Malian-French singer and songwriter Inna Modja, in her recent interview with CNN presented the CodeGreen, a new coalition of artists and coders who want to use non-fungible token (NFT) auctions to raise money for climate projects. Inna, who is a co-founder of CodeGreen, discussed its potential to mobilize funds for projects along the Great Green Wall. In the Sahel, where 80 per cent of the population rely on agriculture for their livelihood, the Great Green Wall goes beyond growing trees to create opportunities for vulnerable populations, especially, for youth and women. The first CodeGreen is planned for the World Economic Forum in Davos. Watch the interview here
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
For centuries, we have used nature to live. As a result: Nearly one million species are at risk of extinction. Nearly three quarters of the Earth's ice-free land has been transformed to meet human demands for food, raw materials, and homes. If humans continue to emit greenhouse gases at current rates, global temperature will rise more than 1.5 degrees Celsius target within decades. Today, we need nature to survive. Protecting and restoring nature can help drive a green recovery and prevent future pandemics. Investing in nature-based solutions will allow us to build forward better, greener, healthier, stronger, and more sustainably. The three Rio Conventions on biodiversity, land and climate are joining forces to ensure that each and every one of us takes action in their own environment in order to change the course of the world to restore balance with nature. Learn more about the campaign at the Rio Conventions Pavillion website and follow it on social media: @UNCCD @UNBiodiversity @UNFCCC. Read more: Rio conventions Land and climate Land and biodiversity Solution brief: Restored Land, healthy people, green recovery