Highlighting successful farmer-led initiatives, scientists demonstrate the importance of the ‘Research in Development’ approach for the global land restoration effort
New Delhi, 02 September 2019: If degraded lands have to be saved embedding research within farmer-focused development initiatives is essential, echoed scientists on the sidelines of the 14th Conference of Parties to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification here on Monday. They cited successful land restoration initiatives in Africa and India to make the point.
“To stop land degradation and reverse it to be able to achieve the SDGs, especially combatting desertification and restoring degraded lands (SDG 15.3), a synergy is required between scientists, farming communities and their institutions that are the land users and managers. Research can help restoration initiatives to scale-up globally but only if farmers, their livelihoods and communities are at the heart of such initiatives,” said Prof Anthony Whitbread, Director for the Innovation Systems for the Drylands research program at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), during the session ‘Applying the Research in Development Approach to Scale Land Restoration and Achieve the LDN targets’. The event was organized by ICRISAT and World Agroforestry (ICRAF).
The SDG 15.3, as envisioned by the UN, reads – By 2030, combat desertification, restore degraded land and soil, including land affected by desertification, drought and floods, and strive to achieve a land degradation-neutral world.
This target, which drives land restoration initiatives that were presented at the session, bridges with the UNCCD through the scientific conceptual framework of Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN).
Dr Leigh Winowiecki highlights the significance of the research in development approach in achieving land restoration in sub-Saharan Africa.
“Restoring degraded lands for food security is critically important in sub-Saharan Africa given the extent of degradation and socio-economic conditions in the region. With climate change only exacerbating degradation, collaboration between institutions of science, development actors, governments and farmers is a pressing need,” said Dr Leigh Winowiecki, a Soil Systems Scientist at the World Agroforestry (ICRAF). Dr Winowiecki’s work that was presented at the session had resulted in creation of ‘Communities of Practice’ in Africa. These communities are platforms for stakeholders with common goals to share lessons learnt and create knowledge for an enabling environment to accelerate impact on the ground.
In India, development and management of watersheds have helped reclaim degraded lands. The Parasai-Sindh watershed in India’s Uttar Pradesh state, developed by ICRISAT and partners from Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), has been held up as a model for increasing land productivity by the National Institute for Transforming India (NITI Aayog).
“Integrated watershed development involving agroforestry helps to control erosion and enable farmers to achieve food and economic security. It is important in the context of increasing dependence of Indian agriculture on groundwater,” said Dr Kaushal Garg, a Natural Resources Management Scientist at ICRISAT. Dr Garg presented the Parasai-Sindh watershed which helped increase area under cultivation, crop and milk yields and triple farm household incomes in Jhansi. The government of Uttar Pradesh is attempting to double farmers’ income in seven districts of the state’s Bundelkhand region with ICAR and ICRISAT’s assistance.
In Ethiopia’s Amhara region, ICRISAT’s work in managing landscapes illustrates the benefits of integrated watershed management in restoring degraded lands. Innovations, mainly in the development of physical and biological barriers, have helped control extreme events upstream and runoffs downstream, thereby creating opportunities for farming. Dr Tilahun Amede, ICRISAT’s Country Representative for Ethiopia, demonstrated the benefits of research contributing to adoptable innovations.
“Following construction of structures to control runoff and creation of areas where sediment can be deposited, new avenues for farming and unique farming systems came into being. These systems were trialed at scale with local and normally nomadic communities. For the first time, these communities were producing food crops and fodder. A long-standing problem was not only managed but taken advantage of,” Dr Amede said.
The session also saw Bora Masumbuko, Senior Program Officer, Drylands, IUCN; Ms Aureile Lhumeau, Professional Officer of the UNCCD’s Global Mechanism Team; Ms Marie-Aude Even, Senior Regional Technical Specialist, IFAD, and Dr Susan Chomba, an ICRAF scientist managing the Regreening Africa initiative, a megaproject that aims to restore 1 million ha, discuss approaches to scale land restoration in a panel discussion. The panel deliberated donor priority for land restoration, land management strategies in the backdrop of the LDN framework, the role of policy and governance in land regeneration and role of nations in a region’s land restoration agenda.