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GLF first-ever digital conference focused on Africa drylands brings experts from FAO to discuss techniques that will help preserve the region.

June 4, 2021

Conservation is indispensable for the recovery of Drylands and the maintenance of Sustainable Landscapes. Drought respects no borders.

By Uzman Unis Bah

Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) hosts its maiden digital conference to discuss Africa drylands and how fundamental restoration techniques can help recover the threatened region. Experts from FAO outline the GEF-7 Dryland Sustainable Landscapes Impact Program: Catalyzing transformation – scale – sustainability. 

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations is poised to launch the GEF-7 Dryland Sustainable Landscapes Impact Program, which aims at helping salvage the endangered areas of the African region.

Deputy Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization, Maria Helena Semedo, said GEF-7 is an increasingly important partner of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in supporting countries in meeting their priorities in connection of the environment and sustainable development. 

According to Maria, the GEF-7 will focus on intersecting challenges of sustaining production in the natural ecosystem. She said collaboration is a multifocal and integrated initiative that support countries in addressing common drylands management challenge.  

Gustavo Fonseca, the Director of Programs, Global Environment Facility (GEF), drylands are home to more than 2 billion people and contain 44% of the world agricultural land that supports over half of the earth food production. Drylands also host the most fragile ecosystems on the planet, including 25% of all growth biodiversity hotspots.

Gustavo said climate change, growing populations, overgraze of rangelands pose environmental problems, leading to land degradation and affecting the livelihoods of 600 million smallholder farmers. 

He stressed the importance of investment in the sustainable management of drylands. Investment is a good value proposition for the GEF, as dryland areas have a high potential for generating multiple environmental benefits and their importance for improving local livelihoods.    

Ulrich Apel, a Senior Environmental Specialist at GEF, said the essence of the programme is to achieve land neutrality in poverty-stricken and fragile areas. Such as dryland, which is in line UNCCD concept on land degradation restoration; the scheme supports smallholders and medium enterprises that support living in the drylands, reduces the vulnerability of the communities and the ecosystems, he states. 

According to Ulrich, working together, learning together, sharing knowledge in platforms will enhance cost-effective impacts and strengthen the integrated approach in responding to degradation and harnessing the most plausible solutions that mitigate the problems.  

Malawi’s Minister of Forestry and Natural Resource, Nancy Tembo, said the country’s dry landscape faces severe pressure from the rapidly growing population. The population density is 20 people per square kilometre, growing at a rate of 2.6%; the last census conducted in 2018 puts the youth at 51% of the total population expansion of the country. She states that Malawai uses 32,000 hectares of forest cover every year; the GEF-7 dry land sustainable program provides an opportunity in Malawi to reach out for the sustainable goals, she said.  

According to Nancy, Charcoal production in Malawi is high. About 80% of the population depends on charcoal energy for cooking and land encroachment, especially forest reserves. Population growth and the acquisition of lands for agriculture and housing purposes is worsening the situation.

Frank Musukwa, the Chairperson ofZambia National Forest Commodity Association (ZNFCA), said poverty, low agriculture productivity, lack of livelihood opportunity and increasing need for housing influence land degradation. Frank explains that youth are engaged in charcoal burning, an easy source of income, a form of business that requires a low investment that leaves an indelible scar on the surface of our planet. 

The Dryland Sustainable Landscapes Impact Program supports integrated landscape management, focusing on sustainable forest management, restoration of rangelands and livestock production. The program will promote and diversify agroecological food production and creating enabling environment to support these objectives, outlined by the Program Framework. 

This approach will lead to enhanced preservation and maintainable use of biodiversity, repossession and storage of carbon, developed water infiltration and regulation, control of forest fires, pest and viruses disturbing dryland crops and livestock, improved soil condition and improved livelihoods.

The GLF conference hosts experts and journalists in discussing evidence of the successes of dryland restoration and guide practitioners and policymakers ahead of the launch of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, a challenge to scale up restoration efforts that will restore the degraded ecosystem. 

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