An 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.
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.
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