FAO provides insights at CRIC 21 on achieving land degradation neutrality

     The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) co-organized a series of side-events on the margins of the twenty-first session of the Committee for the Review of the Implementation of the Convention (CRIC 21) to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) that was held in Samarkand, Uzbekistan from 13-17 November 2023.
     CRIC21 brought together more than 500 delegates from 196 countries and the European Union, civil society, and academia to reflect on progress in delivering the Convention’s strategic objectives. It marked the first time UNCCD convened one of its most significant meetings in Central Asia, since its establishment. The Ministry of Ecology, Environmental Protection and Climate Change of Uzbekistan played a key role in organizing the CRIC21.
This meeting came at a critical juncture, as recent data launched by UNCCD shows that the world is losing nearly 100 million hectares of healthy and productive land every year. If current trends continue, 1.5 billion hectares of land will need to be restored by 2030 to achieve land degradation neutrality around the globe. But, halting additional degradation and accelerating existing commitments to reduce and revert land degradation alone could surpass the neutrality target.
     The FAO is working closely with the UNCCD to ensure food security and sustainable livelihoods by promoting sustainable land management and restoration of degraded lands and impoverished soils.
     During the FAO side event entitled “Upgrading LDN implementation through Recarbonization of Soils (RECSOIL)” foreign experts made presentations related to the important role soil organic carbon (SOC) plays in restoring degraded land and the importance of proper monitoring SOC changes  as part of the implementation of the UNCCD and also highlighted synergies with the other Rio Conventions on climate change and biodiversity. Best practices from the Caribbean, Colombia, Türkiye and Central Asia were presented to a wide audience. The experience of the participating countries and the inputs from sister initiatives as the 4 per 1000 Initiative, helped to understand the positive impacts of soil recarbonization practices, such as no tillage and permanent soil cover, versus conventional agriculture. It also highlighted the importance of robust soil data and how this evidence can help governments to monitor and make informed decisions to achieve land degradation neutrality.
     The main objectives of the FAO side event on “Joining forces to combat sand and dust storms: together we can foster a global response” were to showcase countries’ efforts to combat sand and dust storms (SDS) and share inspirations to foster global action to combat SDS building on national, regional and inter-regional efforts. The side-event launched the following three new publications: “Sand and dust storms: a guide to mitigation, adaptation, policy and risk management measures in agriculture”, the report “Preparing for sand and dust storms contingency planning with herding communities: a case study on Mongolia” and the guide “Contingency planning process for catalyzing investments and actions to enhance resilience against sand and dust storms in agriculture in the Islamic Republic of Iran”. The partners and contributors of the event are Türkiye, UNCCD, FAO, Islamic Republic of Iran, Morocco, Syrian Arab Republic, Uzbekistan and the UN Coalition on Combating SDS.
     As confirmed in UNCCD Decision, land tenure security, including for women, is increasingly seen as critical to achieve Land Degradation Neutrality, as well as contribute to multiple Sustainable Development Goals. The FAO-UNCCD side-event named “The LDN-Tenure-Gender nexus: emerging good practices and tools for transformation” shared country experiences in integrating land tenure security, LDN and gender in programming, as well as presented the FAO-UNCCD joint initiative to integrate land tenure into LDN programming, and a dedicated Technical Guide, the ‘Technical Guide on the Integration of the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security into the Implementation of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification and Land Degradation Neutrality’ (FAO, UNCCD. 2022).
     Gender equality issues were also in the spotlight of the side event “How can we utilize local knowledge and women’s empowerment to create more drought-resilient dryland forests and silvopastoral ecosystems”, that was organized by FAO and UNCCD as part of the UNCCD Gender Caucus events. While women are disproportionately affected by drought, at the same time women in many corners of the world are using their knowledge to find and develop location-specific and gender-just solutions to increase their communities’ resilience. The Gender Caucus Session 2 showcased how the WeCaN Community of Practice network contributes to enabling evidence-based policy dialogue that engages women and indigenous groups by applying the Making Every Voice Count for Adaptive Management (MEV-CAM) approach and supporting women to exchange their ideas and engage them in policy processes. MEV-CAM tool kit in English and French was launched at the event.
     The FAO side event “Accelerating achievements of national targets through scalable practices within dryland landscapes” familiarized participants with the integrated approach of the GEF-7 Sustainable Forest Management Impact Program on Dryland Sustainable Landscapes (DSL-IP) that operates in 11 countries across Africa and Central Asia with the mission to avoid, reduce and reverse degradation and deforestation in drylands while improving local livelihoods. The event also enhanced common understanding of the challenges, opportunities and emerging priorities across the Miombo-Mopane eco-region in Southern Africa. The latter exemplifies a hub of good practices and knowledge showcasinges how land degradation neutrality can be achieved in practice, linking sustainable forest and land management good practices, while uplifting livelihoods through income generating opportunities and gender-responsive actions. The DSL-IP applies a “One Country, One Core-Theme Champion” approach as well as the integrated, “One-FAO” Sustainable Land Production Framework (SLPF). This supports countries to tackle common management challenges, and working towards the achievement of LDN through deep, up and out-scaling, turning their national impact into regional and global resilience of dryland landscapes and their people. This side-event was co-organized with Committee on Forestry Working Group on Dryland Forests and Agrosilvopastoral Systems, UNCCD, WOCAT and IUCN.
     During the FAO side event “Integrated land use planning to reverse the trend: from degraded land to healthy soils – for food security and land degradation neutrality”,  participants were provided with a clearer and more concise understanding of the new resources on Integrated Land Use Planning (ILUP). The event raised awareness about the importance of ILUP in achieving multiple benefits, specifically those related to land degradation, climate change and biodiversity. The countries and partners shared their experiences and presented good practices and case studies that demonstrate specific challenges faced in the country as well as potential synergies that can be harnessed to implement integrated land use planning at national and local scales. Partners and contributors of the side-event are FAO, GIZ/ELD, WOCAT, USDA/ARS, IRRI, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Uzbekistan.
     The side event “Using national data and expert knowledge to map Land degradation, estimate SDG 15.3.1 and report to UNCCD: successful stories from 6 countries”, organized by the Government of Panama with the support of FAO and WOCAT, showcased the achievements and significant advances of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bhutan, Colombia, Ecuador, Panama and Türkiye in the process of estimating SDG 15.3.1. The UNCCD commended on the approaches developed by FAO and WOCAT to improve on reporting as an going beyond what’s been developed to date and a value added to the convention.
     It is known that many Parties are facing challenges to ensure evidence-based decisions to progress towards Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) while other countries have developed and implemented successful strategies, tools, and knowledge. In this regard, South South cooperation becomes particularly valuable to optimize investments and create synergies. The side event “Learning from each other: successful experiences on knowledge exchange and South-South Cooperation for achieving Land Degradation Neutrality”, organized by the Government of Brazil with the support of FAO an WOCAT, identified existing demands from country Parties for South-South Knowledge Exchange in the context of LDN.
     The CRIC 21 served as a good platform to address drought resilience, the promotion of women’s land rights, and combating sand and dust storms as well as the progress the countries are making in restoring productive land. The FAO side-events provided insights on actions supporting LDN achievement as well as achievement of related Sustainable Development Goals.


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