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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
Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire - On the invitation of UNCCD COP15 President Alain Richard Donwahi, the members of the COP15 Bureau held their second meeting on 1 March 2023 in Abidjan. This meeting was an opportunity to take stock of what has been achieved since the first COP15 Bureau meeting in Bonn in October 2022 and identify the next steps in the lead up to UNCCD COP16 in 2024. In his opening remarks, COP15 President Donwahi congratulated stakeholders who are working to realize the commitments made at COP15 and pledged his support. “My focus this year will be on supporting the UNCCD Executive Secretary in the implementation of many regional initiatives that aim at fighting drought and land degradation such as the Great Green Wall Initiative, the Middle East Green Initiative and the International Drought Resilience Alliance, but also major projects within the five regional annexes, he said. UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw stressed that much progress has been made since the COP: “Our beating of the 'drought and land restoration' drums seem to be bearing fruit. Let's continue to work towards a sustainable future for all,” he said. Executive Secretary Thiaw also gave an update on the activities of the Secretariat and of the intersessional working groups, which are working to respond to the mandate given by UNCCD Parties at COP15. Already, 115 Parties have submitted their national reports, which will be considered at CRIC21 session, scheduled to take place in Samarkand (Uzbekistan) in October 2023. COP15 Bureau members expressed their satisfaction with the progress made and readiness to continue the fight to mitigate the effects of land degradation and drought together.
1 March 2023, Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire It is a pleasure to be back in the wonderful city of Abidjan, at the kind invitation of our President. I have always enjoyed visiting Abidjan, but this visit has a special significance, as it is the first since our memorable COP15. So there is now in my calendar a pre-CoP15 and a post-CoP15. Much progress has been made since we last met in Bonn (in October). I would say that our beating of the “drought and land restoration” drums seem to be bearing fruit. This is good news as we certainly need to do much more, at scale. Indeed, despite our past efforts, more land is being degraded, more rivers drying up, more wetlands and more forests destroyed. Simply put, the additional demand on natural resources imposed by our lifestyle is not commensurate with the capacity of our planet to regenerate itself. Our relative prosperity (if ever the extraordinary inequality in the world allows us to use the word prosperity) our prosperity, I said, is nothing but an ecological illusion. Land, water, ecosystems and natural environments are all showing signs of weakness, if not collapse. Never - since the industrial revolution - has the world been hit by such strong and violent gusts of drought (often followed by floods). Never have we destroyed as many forests, degraded as much fertile land or extracted as much water for our agricultural, industrial or basic human needs. On the positive side, we have never had access to so much science and knowledge about how to reduce the pressure on resources; how to live better in harmony with nature; how to ration water use for irrigation; how to regenerate soils and promote more respectful practices. It is in this way that the decisions adopted by our COPs serve as political reference; as a gauge of the willingness of the Parties to contribute to solutions; of the political will of the Parties to collaborate to mitigate the effects of land degradation and drought. It is also in this regard that we appreciate the decisions of the Group of 20 richest countries in the world to engage in land restoration, in collaboration with other interested Nations. We see this as an expression of political will. The first meeting of the Steering Committee of the G20 Land Restoration Initiative held in Saudi Arabia, is a clear signal of proactive cooperation in this area. At the recent COP of the Climate Change Convention in Egypt, the International Drought Resilience Alliance (IDRA) was created! Spurred on by the President of the Republic of Senegal and The Prime Minister of Spain, IDRA is a high-level global alliance, to promote international cooperation and collaboration to mitigate the effects of drought. The first meeting of the Alliance's Steering Committee is scheduled to take place in a few days in New York. The International Drought resilience Alliance, which brings together more than 30 countries, Development Banks and financial mechanisms, UN entities, inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations. IDRA signals world leaders’ commitment to making drought resilience a priority in national development and cooperation policy. It is a partnership to address the increased centrality of the land and drought agendas in the global multilateral agenda. It responds to your calls at COP15 that we need to shift from reactive to preventive – so it will help transition quickly from the current emergency response to build drought resilience. Very much in line with this, and as decided by our COP15, the Inter-Governmental Working Group on Drought had its first meeting also in November of last year; a second meeting is scheduled for 13 and 14 March in Yerevan – with many thanks to Armenia for hosting this important meeting. But several other important UNCCD processes have kick started since we last met. The Science Policy Interface held its first meeting this past December. The Midterm evaluation of the UNCCD Strategic Framework is underway. Its own Intergovernmental working group met from 13-15 February to agree on the set-up for this comprehensive review of the progress made since 2018. Another positive development to note is the National Reporting. A total of 115 UNCCD Parties (the vast majority) have already submitted their national reports. The team is busy compiling the data in time for the next session of the Committee of Review of Implementation. The next CRIC session, scheduled to take place in Samarkand (Uzbekistan) in October, will consider the results of these reports. Now turning to the Global Mechanism, COP 15 requested that the Global Mechanism develop a methodology and conduct a needs assessment to determine the financial requirements for the implementation of the Convention and develop a time-bound strategy to increase fund mobilization based on this needs assessment. We are pleased to report that the methodology will be tested and show-cased at CRIC with results made available at COP 16. Progress was also made on the LDN TSP 2.0 – your plan to improve LDN targets (to ensure they are more quantitative, specific, policy-coherent, linked to the integrated land use planning and gender responsiveness). Now let me turn to external developments which are helping boost our agenda. As you know, COP15 the Convention on Biological Diversity took place in December in Montreal, where Parties adopted the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework to galvanize halting and reversing biodiversity loss. Of particular relevance to UNCCD is the Goal which makes explicit reference to land restoration. Notably the ambition to achieve at least 30% of restoration of degraded areas by 2030. This is a good complement to the various land restoration projects across the world, including the Great Green Wall of the Sahel, the Middle East Green Initiative, the Dry Corridor of Latin America, the AFR100 in Africa to name just a few. Which brings me to The G20 Global Land Restoration Initiative. The Coordination office is now fully staffed. The Steering Committee (made up of G20 representatives, UNEP and FAO) held its first meeting in November in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and discussed the Initiative Strategy as well as the terms of Reference for the Committee. Now allow me to be a bit more forward looking. I recently returned from a trip to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia who will graciously host UNCD COP 16. You will have received a more detailed briefing in writing on the status of the organization of COP16, so I just wanted to stress how engaged our future host country is in receiving us in 2024. I am sure our Bureau member from Saudi Arabia will elaborate more on this. On my part, I came back from Riyadh convinced that we will have a great COP 16. I look forward to your deliberations and guidance on the different items of the draft agenda in front of you. Thank you.
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.