Category Archives: Desertification/Land Degradation

In Photos: DDLD at COP18

Over a quarter of world’s population lives in areas that are facing increasing level of drought, desertification and land degradation. Previously we have shared with you blogs that described how these issues were discussed at the 18th session  of the Conference of the Parties (COP18) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP18). This time we bring you a bouquet of photos that highlight some best moments of those discussions:

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Degraded forests: could inconsistent data affect adaptation?

Stella PaulLocal variables, inadequate technology, low capacity and lack of consensus on a single definition of degradation are resulting into inconsistent data on forest degradation, say leading land and forest experts. The experts, who were at the 6th Forest day observed at the ongoing 18th session of the Conference of the Parties  of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP18),  shared this information during the release of a global assessment report on REDD+

The report launched is titled ‘Understanding Relationships between Biodiversity, Carbon, Forests and People: The Key to Achieving REDD+ Objectives”
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Answering to a question on the reason of the data inconsistency in particular, the experts commented that definition of degraded forest continued to be a hotly debated issue, thus making it difficult for scientists and researchers to access consistent data for assessing the volume, seriousness and the loss resulted out of degraded forests.

This, to me however, sounds quite alarming, considering the fact that 40% of world’s total forests are in dryland where 2.5 billion live. It means, whether it is mitigation or adaptation, we are actually talking about policies, strategies and actions that will effect and impact over a quarter of world’s total population. And considering policies must be based on the accurate inputs from the scientific communities, lack of consistent data can very well mean lack of action at the political level.
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However, at the moment, there seem to be no quick fix solution to overcome this problem. The biggest reason is that countries do not agree on a single definition on degraded forest. Also, some countries still lack the technology needed to map the degraded forests, which again make it difficult for the scientists to access data that are bankable and unquestionable.

I asked Valarie Kapos of United Nations Development Program and John A Parrotta of International Union of Forest Research Organizations who were two of the panelists, how these problems could be solved. Kapos had no straight answer, except that there was a need to provide the poor countries adequate technology and build their capacity to produce data. The other need was to raise enough awareness among the policy makers to agree to a common definition of degraded forests.

Is this really going to happen? We will just have to wait and see.

Stella Paul is blogging from COP18

Smart strategy, finance crucial to grassland management

Between 1940 and 2009, there has been a rise of 2.1 degree temperature in the grasslands of Mongolia, which is higher than the global average of temperature rise. Damdin Dagvadorj, special envoy of Mongolia on climate change today shared this information at a side event within the ongoing 18th session of the United Nations Framework to Combat Climate Change (COP18) in Doha today.Stella Paul

The affect of the high temperature has been wide and severe on the local pastoral communities who have experienced both land degradation and loss of livestock, said Dagvadorj. However, despite the alarming scenario, it was still possible to make a turn around and improve the condition of life and land. However, for that, it would be important to take action in two key areas: sustainable livestock management and soil carbon sequestration.
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Integrated approach is key to food security in dryland, say experts

LucGnacadjaAn integrated and holistic approach is the only way to manage dry and degraded land sustainably – this was the core message given out by experts on the second day of Agriculture, Landscapes and Livelihoods day 5 in Doha.

The day, organized at a city hotel, brought together a number of experts and thought leaders from various government institutions and civil society organizations who were unanimous on the need to give more importance to dryland.

“40% of the world’s total forests are in dryland where 2.5 billion people live. Of them, 16% live in chronic poverty. So, there is no way we can ignore the importance of sustainable dryland management.

Because, this is directly linked to increasing agricultural productivity and food security, says Mohammaed Solh – Director General of International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas(ICARDA). According to Solh, technology transfer to the farmers, including improved seeds is important to help build the farmer.’ Dr Solh, however, expressed his shock and disappointment at the non-inclusion of agriculture from the core agenda of the climate change negotiations in the ongoing COP18 at Qatar National Convention Center.

According to him, it’s climate change, agriculture and food security were integrally linked and it needed no more than common sense to see that. Solh’s comments found wide support from other panelists who were also of the opinion that agriculture deserved to be a part of the UNFCCC negotiations. However, beside mitigation, the experts also expressed several valuable observations and comments on climate adaptation in agriculture, especially in the dryland.

Professor Judy Wakhungu, Executive Director of the African Center for Technological Studies said that it was time to take a holistic approach to agriculture, increased production and sustainable management of dry and degraded land. Wakhungu’s view was seconded by Robert Carlson – an American farmer and the president of World Farmers’ Association.

According to Carlson, for a farmer, the core issue was his own farm and sustaining his own food production. ‘When a farmer wakes up in the morning, he isn’t bothered by what is going on in the world, what he needs to know is how can he deal with the factors that are affecting his farm; how can he grow more food. So, we need to take it to the farmer and equip him with all the knowledge and technologies to help him deal with climate change challenges.’ Carlson also said that forthright in the need for land policy reforms were also an important area to focus into. “In many countries around the world, women make up to the 70% of the farm labour, but they have no right to the land whatsoever. So, property right is an area where we need to scale it up,’ he commented.P1060599

Mary Barton-Dock, Director of the Climate Policy and Finance Department at the World Bank., who had earlier worked in countries like Chad that had been experiencing widespread drought and desertification, said in certain countries like Zimbabwe and Kenya, farmers had started to use new technologies that helped treat degraded land. These included low tillage, water holding mulch and improved seed qualities.

However, when asked the importance of integrating conflict resolution into dryland management, Dr Burton-dock admitted that despite an urgent need, there was no such integrated approach yet.

Dr Luc Gnacadja – executive secretary of United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, however, made an important observation: most of the conflicts in the dryland , according to him, were resource-based. Therefore, it was important to address the root causes of the conflicts instead of only taking a fast-track, crisis management approach.

‘It’s time for the politicians to move away from crisis management mood to resolve political conflicts and instead focus on preparedness and prevention of conflicts, said Gnacadja. However, all the experts admitted that there were still a few gaps remaining in the integrated approach to sustainable dryland land management. These included land tenure, revamping of existing policies to give market access to farmers going for adaptation, and finally, creating a political consensus on the importance of dryland in ensuring food security and world poverty.Agriculture Day

Mary Barton-Dock of World Bank wrapped the day’s proceedings with this comment: ‘the president of World Bank said that we should keep asking ourselves, what will it take to end poverty? I think, to find the answer, we have to ask yet another question: ‘what would it take to end land degradation?’

Stella Paul is blogging from COP18