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Shea transformation: Sowing the seeds of sustainability in the Sahel 

In the Houet Province of central Burkina Faso, 43-year-old Sanou Fatimata is a key figure in the Song Taab Yalgre Association, a shea cooperative bringing together some 500 women. With more than three decades of experience in the shea industry, Fatimata seamlessly blends traditional methods with modern, eco-friendly practices, enhancing her community's cultural heritage and future sustainability. Fatimata's group is a member of the Global Shea Alliance, an industry association established in 2011.  As part of its efforts towards sustainability, the GSA supports women’s cooperatives to build their income generating capacity and more importantly their resilience.  For women’s cooperatives like Song Taab Yalgre, the shea tree, known as ‘shi yiri’ meaning 'life' in the Dioula language, serves as a cornerstone in enhancing livelihoods. Co-op members harvest shea fruit Its kernels, which are processed into shea butter used in cooking, medicine and cosmetics, are an important source of income in the wider Sahel region. Traditionally, women like Fatimata process shea kernels by hand. This involves gathering the kernels from shea parklands, transporting them back home to boil and dry and then manually crush and mill them. The kernels are then hand-kneaded to extract the oil, which in turn is heated and boiled to produce the final product, shea butter. Much of the shea butter is consumed at home but can also be sold locally or internationally, bringing income into the household. Many women also choose to sell the boiled and dried kernels directly to buyers, most of which end up in food or cosmetic products around the world. This is also another great income-generating activity especially if women are working together as a cooperative, where they can sell quantity at a negotiated price. Traditional methods blend with eco-friendly practices for sustainable production In recent years, there has been a significant decline in the number of shea trees, with approximately 8 million shea trees lost each year. This decline is attributed to various factors, including tree cutting for mechanized agriculture and fuelwood, as well as limited replanting due to cultural factors and the lengthy growth period of shea trees. This decrease in the shea tree population impacts rural economic development and women's empowerment. The availability of shea is at risk to respond to growing demand. Shea communities are at the same time disproportionately impacted by climate change, with extreme temperatures and climate events changing the landscape and impacting agricultural yields. Providing comprehensive training in sustainable shea tree management with an enhanced emphasis on conservation can ensure the long-term availability of shea resources, benefiting not only current collectors but generations to come.  Fatimata's group is a member of the Global Shea Alliance In early 2024, the GSA launched the "Reversing Land Degradation in Shea Communities” project in Mali and Burkina Faso, funded by the Austrian Development Cooperation through the UNCCD. The project focuses on land restoration and livelihood enhancement through regenerative shea agroforestry to increase shea-related incomes. The project aims to improve the income and nutrition of 2,500 women shea collectors and restore 150 ha of farmland and community land through agroforestry practices and shea tree planting. The women also plan to diversify their activities beyond production of shea butter to include crops such as moringa, baobab and fonio. To help with these activities, the project will provide access to water, through boreholes installation, and tricycles will be provided for greater efficiency. “The project activities will have a great impact on the community. The borehole will benefit both the cooperative and the community and will allow us to grow crops during the off-season. The vegetable and fonio harvests will be partly for consumption and partly for the local market, which will increase our financial income. We'll also be able to sell the baobab and moringa when they are ripe. I'm looking forward to the implementation of the activities and I'm committed to the success of the project," says Somda Leocadie, a member of one of the women's cooperatives in Burkina Faso. Despite challenges such as increasingly harsh weather conditions and market fluctuations, the cooperatives, including Fatimata's association, show remarkable resilience, strengthened by ongoing training in sustainable agriculture and financial management. Together, they envision their communities as models of sustainable growth and a brighter future for the Sahel. Photos: ULPKS – YIRIWASSO Cooperative.    

Shea transformation: Sowing the seeds of sustainability in the Sahel 
19th Meeting of the Science-Policy Interface (SPI)

The 25 members of the UNCCD’s Science-Policy Interface (SPI) have assembled at the UN Campus in Bonn, Germany for a critical scientific meeting in the run up to the 16th Session of the Conference of the Parties, which will be held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia from the 2nd to the 13th of December 2024. The SPI is a unique combination of independent scientists from all corners of the globe, science delegates to the Convention representing the five regions of the world, and five practitioners from implementing agencies and civil society. Over the past year half of the SPI members have been assembling the evidence base for a much more systemic approach to land use, so that our impacts can be more strategic and, ideally, much greater than the sum of the parts. The other half have been conducting a comprehensive analysis of aridity trends, projections and anticipated impacts, which under the Convention translates into land and people affected by the combined effects of land degradation and water scarcity. Both assessments have led to draft technical reports which will undergo independent scientific review following the meeting so that they can be finalized and published in the autumn.  The SPI is dedicated to building a bridge between science and policy. They are a global community of experts, united by a passion for understanding and safeguarding all life on land.

19th Meeting of the Science-Policy Interface (SPI)
Budget consultations ahead of UNCCD COP16

The international community has recognized the importance of addressing land degradation and building resilience to drought as the basic conditions for food and water security and for achieving the objectives on climate change and biodiversity. This acknowledgement has translated into a growing demand on the UNCCD secretariat and the Global Mechanism for information, policy guidance, convening of partners and measures to facilitate implementation and resource mobilization, along with an evolving intergovernmental negotiations agenda in the meetings of the COP and its subsidiary bodies. However, the growth in the workload has not been reflected in core resources provided to the secretariat and the Global Mechanism to support Parties in their efforts to implement the UNCCD.  During its meeting on 13 November 2023, the Bureau of COP 15 considered, among other matters, the status of the UNCCD core budget. As background, the UNCCD secretariat provided information showing that although the Convention process has significantly evolved during the last decade, the budget has remained at the same level. The secretariat also presented how during the 2022-2024 budget triennium, high inflation has further decreased the real value of the budget.   The COP Bureau recognized the severity of the budget issues and noted that the situation should be thoroughly considered in the decision on the next biennium budget, to be made at COP 16 in December 2024 in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. he Bureau proposed that the secretariat organize an informal meeting for information-sharing and discussion toward the next UNCCD COP. This informal consultation meeting, chaired by Ms. Marine Collignon (France), was held online on 13 March 2024.   The main purpose of this meeting was to share information of the status of the current UNCCD budget and potential elements for the next budget for 2025-2026.  Some regional groups and Parties also gave their first comments and asked questions concerning the budget.  In follow-up to the first meeting, Parties are invited to provide further comments and questions around the current and upcoming UNCCD budget. These comments and questions should be sent to the UNCCD regional liaison officers, or directly to Mr. Somarajan Pillai (spillai@unccd.int) and Ms. Satu Ravola (sravola@unccd.int) by the end of March 2024. The secretariat will compile the questions and answers into a new document that will be sent to all national focal points and posted on this website by the end of April. Next online consultation meeting on the UNCCD budget is planned to be held on Wednesday 22 May 2024. The secretariat will remind all focal points and provide the link to the consultation  well in advance to that date.   

Budget consultations ahead of UNCCD COP16