Land Update: Global, National Partnerships and Projects Focus on SLM and Governance
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A collaboration between the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) will explore opportunities to scale up support for land restoration in Africa.

UN-Habitat and the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) launched a land reform programme.

In Nicaragua, IFAD is supporting the Dry Corridor Rural Family Sustainable Development Project (NICAVIDA) project.

In South East Asia, the Economics of Land Degradation (ELD) Initiative estimates that the value of ecosystem services lost due to land degradation could be as high as US$118,738 for each square kilometer.

8 February 2017: Globally, partnerships and country-level projects are lending focus to sustainable land management (SLM) and its links to food and human security. The 2017 World Day to Combat Desertification (WDCD 2017), which will be celebrated on 17 June, will highlight the connections between land degradation, migration and stability.

One such collaboration, between the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), will explore opportunities to scale up support for land restoration in Africa with the aim of enhancing food security and rural livelihoods. The UNCCD/JICA partnership was announced during the Tokyo International Symposium on Combating Desertification, which was hosted by the UN University (UNU) in Tokyo, Japan, on 7 February 2017.

The partnership will investigate the links between land degradation, desertification, poverty and migration, some of the root causes of instability in Africa. It will work closely with African-led initiatives such as the Initiative for Combating Desertification to Strengthen Resilience to Climate Change in the Sahel and the Horn of Africa, and the 3S Initiative on Sustainability, Security and Stability, which was launched by African ministers at the Marrakesh Climate Conference in November 2016.

Speaking on the partnership, UNCCD Executive Secretary Monique Barbut said a key objective is to help to accelerate achievement of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target on land degradation neutrality (LDN ), while also contributing to poverty reduction and climate resilience. JICA’s Senior Vice President Noriko Suzuki stressed that country ownership and global partnership are indispensable to addressing the mounting development challenges in Africa and ensuring that no one is left behind. She described the collaboration with the UNCCD as a great opportunity to accelerate JICA’s contribution to Africa’s development and peace and stability in the world.

JICA’s Senior Vice President Noriko Suzuki stressed that country ownership and global partnership are indispensable to addressing the mounting development challenges in Africa.

The Tokyo Symposium underscored that land degradation affects all countries in the world. Highlighting the case of Japan, UNCCD Executive Secretary Barbut said that, to achieve its target of 45% food self-sufficiency, the Japanese Government will need to rehabilitate some of the estimated 30% of agricultural land that is already degraded.

In other news, in September 2016, UN-Habitat and the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) launched a land reform programme, funded by the UK Department for International Development (DfID) aimed at contributing to peace and stability. By using participatory land-use planning as an entry point, the programme seeks to bring together diverse land actors, including customary authorities, conventional land administration and civil society organizations, with the aim of increasing transparency and inclusiveness to prevent land conflict in the context of state building. The partners aim to use the lessons drawn from implementing bottom-up land use planning processes to develop a framework for securing community land rights that is in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Rwanda and the DRC are among six countries involved in pilot CAADP (Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme) projects to strengthen inter-institutional collaboration on land reform programs, secure land rights, provide equal access to land, and promote responsible agriculture investments to advance agricultural and rural transformation.

Also addressing land governance, under the CAADP framework and the FAO’s Voluntary Guidelines on land tenure, representatives of farmers associations, civil society organizations, microfinance providers and government officials met in Kigali, Rwanda, on 20 December 2016 to discuss how to mainstream land governance issues within the country’s agricultural transformation policies. The meeting was facilitated by the Land Policy Initiative – a joint initiative of the UN Economic Commission (ECA), African Union Commission (AUC), and the African Development Bank (AfDB) – in partnership with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the Government of Rwanda.

In Nicaragua, IFAD is supporting the Dry Corridor Rural Family Sustainable Development Project (NICAVIDA) project, which aims to build smallholder farmers’ resilience to climate change. The “Dry Corridor” describes the strip of dry tropical forest landscapes in Central America that covers the lowlands of the Pacific coast and most of the central-pre-mountain region of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, and parts of Costa Rica and Panama. In Nicaragua’s Dry Corridor, which covers 58 municipalities and affects around 30,000 family farms, 52% of soils are characterized as “overused” and 40% as “strongly or severely eroded.”

Other country partnerships are focusing on developing analytical tools to support informed decision making on SLM investments in Africa. In Tunisia, a study implemented within the framework of ‘Global Futures and Strategic Foresights,’ part of the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions and Markets, mapped approximately 260,000 hectares of agricultural land managed by smallholder cereal farmers. By introducing conservation agriculture practices, soil health could be restored on the land. The next phase of the project will show the economic benefits of investing in land restoration, an outcome meant to encourage this type of investment.

A related project implemented by the CGIAR International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) in Tunisia aims to develop a cost-effective impact evaluation tool that uses GIS and remote sensing data to reliably predict the agronomic and economic outcomes of SLM interventions. Based on the “options by context” approach, the tool is designed to support to private and public stakeholders in answering common questions on land use on issues such as: how to target more relevant geographies and prioritize investments, given limited resources; how to identify geographical domains that capture key biophysical, economic, and social drivers of land restoration and related outcomes; and how to anticipate future impacts of SLM in terms of land ecosystem services and target populations. By providing access to site-specific “SLM Options by Context” (OxC) data for Tunisia in a national database, the project aims to support the user-friendly Global Geoinformatics Context and Options (GeoCOs) online tool. This can help stakeholders to investigate the efficacy of several SLM practices within different contexts simultaneously.

Finally, in South East Asia, the Economics of Land Degradation (ELD) Initiative has estimated that the value of ecosystem services lost due to land degradation could be as high as US$118,738 for each square kilometer, or US$836 per person. During an international conference held in Bangkok, Thailand, in January 2017, researchers discussed the results of a project that evaluated past and ongoing SLM projects in the region to understand how to scale up SLM practices in support of national LDN targets. The conference highlighted some policy recommendations based on the project’s assessment of the legal, policy, and institutional measures required to promote SLM at the country level. [UNCCD Press Release on Tokyo Symposium] [UNCCD Press Release on UNCCD-JICA Partnership] [UNCCD Press Release on Launch of 3S Initiative] [UN-Habitat Press Release on DRC Land Governance Programme] [ECA Press Release on Rwanda Land Governance Meeting] [CGIAR Press Release on Conservation Agriculture in Tunisia] [CGIAR Press Release on OxC Tool] [ELD Initiative Press Release on South East Asia Conference] [UN News Centre Press Release on Nicaragua “Dry Corridor” Initiative][SDG Knowledge Hub coverage of CAADP]


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