$104m program targets land degradation in African and central Asian

15Jun 2021
Correspondent
The Guardian
$104m program targets land degradation in African and central Asian
  • countries

THE global launch of a $104 million initiative signals an ambitious effort by a range of partners to safeguard dry lands in the context of climate change, fragile ecosystems, biodiversity loss, and deforestation in 11 African and Central Asian countries.

Funded by the Global Environment Facility and led by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Sustainable Forest Management Impact Program on Dryland Sustainable Landscapes helps pave the way for initiatives linked to the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. The Program will be implemented in partnership with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, the World Bank, and the World Wildlife Fund.

The Program, launched last week at the Global Landscapes Forum's virtual event, Restoring Africa's Drylands, will involve work across three critical dryland biomes – the Miombo and Mopane ecosystems of Southern Africa, the savannas of East and West Africa, and temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands of Central Asia – to avoid, reduce, and reverse land degradation through sustainable land and forest management.

The 11 countries covered are: Angola, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Malawi, Mongolia, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe.

“As a multifocal and integrated initiative, the Program will support countries in addressing common dryland management challenges and result in numerous benefits in areas of land degradation, biodiversity and climate change and food security,” said Maria Helena Semedo, FAO Deputy Director-General, at the event.

The program will bring 12 million hectares of drylands under sustainable land management, of which 1.1 million hectares will primarily benefit biodiversity and avoid deforestation of 10,000 hectares of high conservation value forests. The program will also reach more than 1 million direct beneficiaries, improve the management effectiveness in 1.6 million hectares of protected areas, restore nearly 1 million hectares of degraded land in the drylands, and reduce 34.6 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

Through the next five years, the Program sets the ground for accelerated action under the Decade on Ecosystem Restoration and will advance the national and global efforts in supporting countries in meeting their commitments under several international accords, including the Paris Agreement, Convention on Biological Diversity, United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, Bonn Challenge, AFR100, and the Sustainable Development Goals. Drylands cover over 40 percent of the Earth's landmass and are home to around two billion people, supply about 60 percent of the world's food production, and support a wide array of critical biodiversity.

Drylands face increasing and combined threats of climate change, population growth, global demands for livestock, and new difficulties posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Common management challenges, such as limited connections between local knowledge with global networks and fragmented approaches, hamper the ability for communities and countries to turn the tide on land degradation.

An integrated approach, across sectors and regions

The  launch event featured participation from countries and partners, linking local and national perspectives to regional and global representations, such as the Southern African Development Community and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification. The event reflected the Program's integrated approach by connecting land users to national governments and intergovernmental fora to elevate local action for impact at scale.

The Program takes a catalytic, country-driven approach to accelerating transformational and durable changes at scale by developing effective planning, management and governance systems, mobilizing national and international stakeholders to strengthen dryland value chains, and co-producing knowledge based on innovative spatial assessment tools. It expressly accounts for the similar and transboundary nature of many of the challenges facing drylands.

The program will be implemented in consortium with the UN Environment Program and the World Overview of Conservation Approaches and Technologies. The Program will be expanded to involve additional countries through regional and global mechanisms, such as FAO's Committee on Forestry Working Group on Dryland Forests and Agrosilvopastoral Systems, to share knowledge and best practices on dryland ecosystems.

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