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Why better soil could mean peace and prosperity for African farmers

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by Meera Shah

Food assistance needs in 2017 are unprecedented, say FEWS-Net, an early warning system pioneered by the US government.

Famine threatens South Sudan, Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen. Ethiopia is also included within the top 5 areas of highest concern. An estimated 42 million people are currently food insecure in the Sahel – a situation that is expected to further deteriorate to 53 million during the lean season from June to August.

In Somalia and Ethiopia, hunger is largely the outcome of failed rains and a crippling drought linked to climate change. Elsewhere, hunger and famine have been caused by conflict. In South Sudan, farmers have been displaced by conflict, abandoning their land to escape the violence. In Northern Nigeria, Boko Haram’s presence has displaced large numbers of people, disrupting livelihoods and markets. Protracted conflicts in Somalia have eliminated the infrastructure required to take produce to markets. Conflict also disrupts trade and humanitarian access. Blockades of ports and airports in Yemen has directly impacted the amount of humanitarian aid available to people.

In some cases, such as in South Sudan, conflict and drought combined to create the perfect storm.

It is no secret that conflicts are complex and building peace requires addressing their root causes. A less explored root cause is one that links food insecurity, livelihoods and migration: land degradation.

The knock-on effects of land degradation

Land degradation is at the nexus of the world’s food, poverty, migration, water, climate, and security crisis and lies at the root of many conflicts. As droughts become more frequent and more intense, the resilience of farmers and pastoralists has been eroded. Droughts are particularly damaging to soil health, especially in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas. Every year, 12 million hectares of topsoil – equivalent to the size of Switzerland, is being either blown or washed away.

This is not good news for climate change, since warming soils release more carbon. The world’s soils have lost between 50-70% of their original carbon stock, releasing 98 billion tonnes of carbon in 2008 alone, compounding the effects of climate change. Droughts also increase salinity and destroy the capacity for soils to hold nutrients required for healthy yields.

When soil becomes less fertile, yields fall and farmers seek alternative livelihoods, either in more fertile regions or urban areas. 60 million people are expected to migrate out of Sub-Saharan Africa towards northern Africa and Europe within the next 20 years.

While most migration tends to be temporary and peaceful, recent examples show that added pressure on resources can lead to conflict. Some scientists argue that the Syrian war was aggravated by a long and intense drought (combined with poor land management policies), which displaced Syrian farmers from the rural areas into the cities. Similar connections are being made between climate change, drought, land degradation, migration and conflicts in several other regions including Darfur in Sudan and the Lake Chad Basin region.

Land restoration projects can help but they require public investment

Soil restoration offers opportunities for ecosystem restoration, improved environmental governance, climate resilience, enhanced food and water security, and economic growth through employment. But as delegates at the fifth annual Caux Dialogue on Land and Security established, implementing and scaling up land restoration work requires difficult conversations about investment, land governance and policy.

The technical aspects of land restoration, while highly context-specific, are relatively simple. But, investments are dependent on land tenure and access, long-term commitment from smallholder farmers, community engagement and political will. Weak land tenure rights mean farmers are unable to access finance and insurance to invest in inputs and improve soil health. Establishing land security for long-term restoration programmes was a repeated call from farmers, youth representatives and investors. In cases where farmers are displaced by conflict it is imperative that tenure systems cope with their return, and include strong dispute resolution processes.

Scaling up small and successful interventions is key. But there is a gap in funding available for land restoration projects, despite the creation of the Land Degradation Neutrality Fund by UNCCD. Public finance can plug some of this, by rewarding small-scale farmers for investing in soil health, offering financial safety nets as they transition into sustainable land management programmes, or by subsidising input costs.

Ecosystems take a long-time to repair and rejuvenate, but investors prefer short and predictable return timeframes. Public funds can attract more private investment by guaranteeing a timely return to investors. Public finance could also be used to overcome prohibitive transaction and administrative costs which make it financially unviable for investors to invest in small-scale projects.

Restoring the world’s degraded lands to improve food and human security will require comprehensive policies involving representatives from climate, agriculture, water, land and finance sectors and therefore the dialogue must continue.


This blog was written for the Malabo Montpellier Panel, available here.

Land Restoration: Reclaiming Landscapes for a Sustainable Future

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Land Restoration: Reclaiming Landscapes for a Sustainable Future

by

Ilan Chabay, Martin Frick and Jennifer Helgeson

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Land Restoration: Reclaiming Landscapes for a Sustainable Future
Land Restoration: Reclaiming Landscapes for a Sustainable Future

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About the book: 

Land Restoration: Reclaiming Landscapes for a Sustainable Future addresses solutions to land restoration and related topics, such as human security, development, and water and air pollution. The book aims to exchange lessons to enrich the academic understanding of these issues and the solution sets available. Click here to download the Table of Contents.

Land Restoration: Reclaiming Landscapes for a Sustainable Future brings together expertise from a variety of professional positions and experience – practitioners, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), academia and policy specialists in formulating a representative and holistic view of land restoration. The authors in this volume represent a range of perspectives on the topic of land restoration and its relationship with security in different dimensions. Click here to download the List of Contributors.

This compilation of current research provides a holistic overview of land degradation and restoration from the scientific and practical development points of view. Land Restoration: Reclaiming Landscapes for a Sustainable Future is the product of tireless work and dedication by a remarkable group of authors, spread around the globe and from such diverse disciplines, all working on aspects of land restoration. It was made possible through an extensive network of relationships mainly built at the annual “Caux Dialogue for Land and Security” in Switzerland.

KEY FEATURES:

  • Provides information about the science, policy, and social issues behind land degradation and restoration in a form accessible to all, including those who are not specialists in the topics, allowing full access to the issues at hand
  • Includes practical on-the-ground examples garnered from diverse areas, such as the Sahel, Southeast Asia, and the U.S.A.
  • Provides practical tools for designing and implementing restoration/re-‐ greening processes.

To order the book, go to http://store.elsevier.com/product.jsp?isbn=9780128012314


About the Authors

Ilan Chabay

Ilan Chabay is Senior Fellow at Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies in Potsdam Germany, where he co-leads Sustainable Modes of Arctic Resource-driven Transformations and global interdependencies (SMART) project and collaborates on governance of emerging technologies and soil & land restoration. He is honorary member of Swiss Academy of Social Sciences and Humanities, served on Scientific Committee of the International Human Dimensions Programme (IHDP) and Science & Technical Committee of UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction. He was Hasselblad Professor in sociology and applied IT departments at University of Gothenburg and Chalmers University 2006-2011, consulting professor of chemistry at Stanford University 1984-1988. In Silicon Valley he founded and directed The New Curiosity Shop from 1983-2001, which designed and produced hands-on science exhibitions for over 200 science centers worldwide. His Ph.D. is in chemical physics from University of Chicago.

Affiliations and Expertise

Institute of Advanced Sustainability Studies, Potsdam, Germany

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Martin Frick

Martin Frick is the Representative of Germany to the International Organisations based in Germany, including the Secretariats of the UN convention to combat climate change, UNFCCC, and the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, UNCCD. He was E3G’s Programme Leader for Climate Diplomacy from November 2010 to June 2012. Martin has been a German diplomat since 1996. He served as the German representative for human rights and humanitarian affairs at the United Nations General Assembly from 2005 to 2007. Prior to his work in New York, Martin served as Consul and as Deputy Ambassador in Albania from 1999-2002. From 2002-2005 he was the Cabinet Affairs Advisor to German Federal Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer. Between 2007-2010 he was Deputy CEO/Director of the Global Humanitarian Forum, a Geneva based foundation set up by former UN-Secretary General Kofi Annan. From the early days of this foundation Martin formed the content and strategic orientation of the Forum’s work.

Affiliations and Expertise

Representative of Germany to UN Organisations based in Germany

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Jennifer Helgeson

Jennifer Helgeson is a Research Economist in the Applied Economics Office of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). She is a steering committee member for Initiatives for Land, Lives and Peace (ILLP). She is also a member of the Royal Academy of Geographers and was awarded a Fulbright Grant to do fieldwork in Norway. Jennifer was a Climate Change Adaptation Specialist for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). She has done environmental economics-related work for Friends of the Earth Middle East and Grameen Foundation, Uganda. Jennifer did her PhD studies at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, LSE. She previously studied Environmental Economics at the University of Oxford and Economics at Brandeis University.

Affiliations and Expertise

Applied Economics Office of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)


Acknowledgements

This book is the product of tireless work and dedication by many people. It has been a rare and wonderful opportunity to work with a remarkable group of authors, spread around the globe and from such diverse disciplines, all working on aspects of land restoration. It was made possible through an extensive network of relationships mainly built at the yearly “Caux Dialogue for Land and Security” in Switzerland. The authors would like to thank all those who, as volunteers, commit to organize this important conference and maintain the network.

The authors in this volume represent a range of viewpoints on the topic of land restoration and its
relationship with security in different dimensions. The expertise represented in this book spans a variety of professional positions and experience—practitioners, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), university professors, and policy specialists. These authors’ inputs complement one another in formulating a representative and holistic view of land restoration. We thank them for their time, collaboration, and contributions.

We would like to acknowledge the outstanding efforts of some volunteer text editors who went through select chapters and worked with some of the authors during the drafting process. Many heartfelt thanks to Meera Shah, Natassia Ciuriak, Scott Darby, Irina Fedorenko, Jane Feeney, Guy Lomax, Barb Smeltzer, Rachel Waggott, and Wessel van der Meulen. And our thanks also to Dr. Lori Adams Chabay for inspiring the inclusion of notes for educators and others on the uses of this text.


How to slow migration and save the climate

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By Luc Gnacadja, executive secretary, UN Convention to Combat Desertification, 2007-2013

Halting land degradation and restoring soil is a vital part of preserving the Earth’s global commons – the world simply cannot afford to continue to lose 24 billion tons of precious fertile topsoil a year – but it’s also an urgent matter of security.

More than three quarters of the world’s conflicts already take place in its drylands, and about half of all those in fragile regions and economies stem from battles for resources resulting from environmental degradation. The war in Syria followed six consecutive years of drought, and the extremism and violence of groups like Boko Haram are rooted in the loss of productive land. And the crisis is getting worse: since 1970 the area affected by drought worldwide has doubled.

Migration is often driven by lack of hope of a reasonable future at home. Restoring land can restore hope.

Over the last two years, fewer than 2 million migrants seeking to get into Europe have changed the politics of the continent. But by 2030, as the climate changes and more land is lost, 60-130 million people are expected to want to migrate there.

Migration is often driven by lack of hope of a reasonable future at home. Restoring land can restore hope. It increases food production and incomes, reduces conflicts because there are more resources to go round, and combats climate change by sequestering carbon. It is central to implementing the universally agreed sustainable development goals and to enabling countries to fulfil their pledges under the Paris climate agreement.

It is becoming increasingly clear that transformational change is necessary. For example, a high level roundtable of representatives of both the executive and legislative arms of government, business, finance, thinktanks, NGOs and the media from both north and south, which I chaired at the Caux Dialogue on Land and Security earlier this month, called on leaders and stakeholders at all levels to “address the urgent need for systems change rather than incremental improvement”.

It also agreed that “this transformation should target reshaping the context of investment in agriculture, not least in providing incentives for farmers to remove carbon from the atmosphere by restoring and afforesting land”.

Most of the world’s knowledge on how to manage land is stored in local communities. This is also where conflicts – such as the constant ones between settled farmers and nomadic pastoralists – tend to be triggered, and can be prevented or resolved. It is here too that partnerships for change can most easily be forged.

Much can be done with simple well-known, labour intensive techniques. Pruning offshoots from the still-living roots of trees felled long ago to a single stem, and keeping away goats that would otherwise eat it, for example, has regenerated forests in Niger and Ethiopia. Such farmer-managed natural regeneration has resulted in spectacular increases in harvests and incomes, the capturing of vast amounts of carbon, and the reduction or ending of conflicts, while building communities’ resilience to drought.

There are enormous investment opportunities in restoring land

By the same token, the roundtable – held under the aegis of the secretariat of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature – had little time for the top-down capacity building, so beloved by many international organisations which often involves officials far from the grassroots.

Instead it called for greater emphasis on “strengthening the capacity of those working on the ground and those directly affected by land degradation”. Bridges also need to be built between local people and policymakers. Women are critical agents of change, and make up the majority of farmers in many developing countries. They need to see an end to the gender inequalities that hinder their engagement. Young people can also be crucial changemakers and they particularly need the jobs that land restoration can provide.

Communities and governments alike will become more resilient to drought if they are better prepared for it. Early warning systems are essential, as is better assessment of vulnerabilities to drought, and of its impacts.

There are enormous investment opportunities in restoring land, but governments, businesses and financial institutions are failing to realise them. Incentives provided for activities that, often unwittingly, destroy land are at least an order of magnitude greater than those given for preserving, let alone restoring it. Public finance is needed to encourage entrepreneurship and the development of new technologies, but more especially to reward the services small farmers who nourish their soils make to the global commons through conserving biodiversity, combating climate change, enhancing food security and water supplies, and increasing security.

There also, of course, needs to be more private investment. Introducing special restoration bonds – modelled on the very successful green bonds, issued to provide a return to investors while furthering environmental sustainability and creating jobs and other social benefits – could play an important part. So could public-private partnerships, but these must involve local people, and local as well as central government. Above all, investors will need to be ready to receive returns not in the short, but in the medium to long-term.

The truth is that restoring the world’s over 2bn hectares of degraded land – starting with achieving land degradation neutrality by 2030, the landmark tipping point set in the SDGs for moving humanity into the restoration age – is an immense opportunity. Communicating that, as well as the challenges it presents, is a precondition of success. We owe it to present and future generations to undertake it speedily, and at scale.


This article was first published on 31 July 2017 by  The Global Environment Facility, a sponsor of Guardian’s Global Development Professionals Network. Read it here.

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Dialog über Land und Sicherheit in Caux: Wer Lösungen will, der findet sie auch

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Vom 11. bis 15. Juli fand im Schweizer Caux der diesjährige Dialog über Land und Sicherheit statt. Auch die Earthbeat Foundation war vor Ort. Dabei konnte sich unsere Mitarbeiterin davon überzeugen, dass es für jedes Problem immer auch eine Lösung gibt.

Während man in Deutschland noch darüber diskutiert, warum der Hamburger G20-Gipfel von Gewaltexzessen überschattet war, konnte sich Earthbeat-Mitarbeiterin Julia Gajewski beim Dialog über Land und Sicherheit im Rahmen desNachhaltigkeitsforums in Caux davon überzeugen: Lösungsorientiertes Engagement kommt ohne Gewalt aus. Zum sechsten Mal trafen offizielle Vertreter von Regierungen, Institutionen, Unternehmen, Medien und NGOs zusammen, um sich auszutauschen und Projekte vorzustellen. Auch Earthbeat-Gründerin Guya Merklewar vor einigen Jahren bereits zu Gast. Auch in diesem Jahr war die Veranstaltung geprägt von einer offenen und konstruktiven Atmosphäre, in der wieder einmal deutlich wurde: Es ist noch lange nicht zu spät ist, um sich mit den drängenden Problemen unserer Zeit auseinanderzusetzen!

Dialog über Land und Sicherheit: Strategien gegen die Endzeitstimmung

Caux ist ein kleines Schweizer Örtchen direkt an der Grenze zu Frankreich. Montreux liegt nur einen Steinwurf entfernt und wer den Weg ins hoch gelegene Dorf hinter sich gebracht hat, wird mit einem malerischen Ausblick über den Genfer See belohnt. Flutwellen, Dürreperioden, Klimaflucht: All diese Horrorszenarien scheinen weit weg. Dabei ist Caux gerade bei Nachhaltigkeitsexperten ein fester Begriff. Seit 2012 trifft man sich hier, um Lösungen für die drängenden Probleme unserer Zeit zu diskutieren. Hier geht es nicht um Schönmalerei, sondern darum, funktionierende Einzelprojekte aus der ganzen Welt zu einem Mosaik zusammenzusetzen und Inspiration und Sichtbarkeit zu erzeugen.

„Mir ist einmal mehr klar geworden, dass der große Pessimismus unserer Zeit auch daher kommt, dass die Menschen sich mit bereits existierenden Lösungen nicht auseinandersetzen. Die Schwarzmalerei ist in den meisten Fällen schlichtweg Ausdruck von Unwissen“, berichtet in Julia von ihren Eindrücken aus Caux. Es sei eine bereichernde Erfahrung gewesen, sich mit so vielen engagierten und hochkompetenten Menschen auszutauschen und sich inspirieren zu lassen. „Niemandem hier geht es um Wettbewerb. Wir alle kämpfen für das gleiche Ziel, jeder auf seine Art und Weise. Und wir lernen voneinander. Das ist für meine Arbeit sehr wichtig“, erklärt Julia. 

Unter den 140 Konferenzteilnehmer auf dem Dialog über Land und Sicherheit befanden sich Nachhhaltigkeitsexperten wie Severine von Tscharner Fleming, die sich mit ihrem Projekt ‚The Green Horns‘ für eine zukunftsorientierte Form der Landwirtschaft einsetzt. Oder Agroforestry Experte Patrick Worms, der sich mit der Rolle von Wäldern für die Agrarkultur auseinandersetzt. Auch der amerikanische Ökologe und Dokumentarfilmemacher John D. Liu war in Caux. In seinen Filmen widmet dieser sich bewusst den in den Leitmedien so unterrepräsentierten ‚guten Nachrichten.‘ So porträtiert sein 2009 erschienener Film Hope in a Changing Climate ein Projekt in China. In imposanten Bildern zeigt Liu, wie ein Gebiet so groß wie die Niederlande zu neuem Leben erweckt wird. Möglich wird dies durch moderne Techniken, die dem abgestorbenen Boden neue Nährstoffe liefern und fruchtbar werden lassen.

Wald für die Earthbeat-Bienen

Gerade dieses Thema ist bei unserer Mitarbeiterin auf besonders offene Ohren gestoßen. Klar ist: Wo nichts wächst, gibt es keine Perspektiven. Degradiertes Land ist das Schlagwort der Stunde. Durch den Abbau von Ressourcen, durch Monokulturen oder durch zu intensiv betriebene Landwirtschaft stirbt die Erde ab. Dabei konnte Julia sich darüber informieren, dass dagegen nicht nur ein Kraut, sondern ganze Wälder wachsen können. „Die Art und Weise, wie wir der Erde Ressourcen entziehen, führt dazu, dass ganze Landstriche unbewohnbar werden. Dann denkt man: So, das war‘s. Da lässt sich nichts machen. Aber dem ist nicht so. Es gibt wirkungsvolle Verfahren, die aus totgesagter Erde blühende Landschaften wachsen lassen.“ 

Das ist natürlich auch im Zusammenhang mit Minenfeldern eine gute Nachricht. Denn nicht nur bedarf eine industriell geförderte Feinunze Gold (ca. 31gr) gut 2700 Liter Wasser und den Energiebedarf einer vierköpfigen Familie für zehn Tage. Auch hinterlassen Chemikalien wie Quecksilber und Zyanid immense Schäden für Umwelt und Landwirtschaft. „Als ich mehr darüber erfahren habe, wie Landstriche wiederbelebt werden können, musste ich sofort an unser Heartbeat Honey Projekt in Uganda denken. Die Menschen vor Ort zu Imkern auszubilden, hilft dabei, sie unabhängig von der Arbeit in den Goldminen zu machen. Doch die Bienen brauchen Lebensraum. Wälder und Blütenpflanzen wieder anzupflanzen, die vorher für Minenflächen gerodet wurden, ist keine Utopie, sondern tatsächlich machbar. Auf diese Weise könnte den Minenarbeitern und ganzen Regionen eine neue Perspektive geboten werden“ , resümiert Julia. Das nachhaltige Wiederaufforstung sogar wirtschaftlich sinnvoll ist, käme langsam aber sicher auch bei Investoren an.

Umweltschutz bedeutet Sicherheit

Der Dialog über Land und Sicherheit findet seit 2012 im Rahmen des Caux Forums statt. Dort setzt  man sich seit mehr als 70 Jahren den akuten Problemen unserer Welt auseinander. Der thematische Fokus baut eine wichtige Brücke zwischen Umweltschutz und Sicherheitspolitik. Ein kollabiertes Ökosystem erzeugt Massenflucht und somit auch politische Konflikte. Immer mehr Menschen fliehen vor den Folgen des Klimawandels – auch nach Europa. In Caux diskutiert man Lösungen für strukturelle Probleme in den betroffenen Gebieten, um dem immer mehr eskalierenden Kampf um Ressourcen präventiv entgegenzuwirken. Vertreter aus Politik, Wirtschaft und Wissenschaft arbeiten zusammen, um die Problemkomplexe in ihrer Vielschichtigkeit zu betrachten und einzelne Lösungsansätze zu kombinieren.


Dieser Artikel wurde erstmals am 25. Juli 2017 von Earthbeat Foundation veröffentlicht. Lese es hier.