Combating desertification

Photo credit: DW

Holding back the growing desert

Fertile soil is disappearing, swathes of land are being eroded away. Through its convention on combating desertification the UN is attempting to stop the desert growing and take back the land.

Deserts are expanding – every year they grow by an area around the size of Ireland. But it’s not a natural process; it’s manmade. Overgrazing, increasing agriculture, deforestation and a growing use of water are eroding the land. And it is particularly affecting parts of Africa, America or Asia.

Preventing the destruction of the soil

An important step was made during the 1992 United Nations (UN) Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro – the decision to fight desertification.

The UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) has been in place since 1996 and has been signed by 194 countries. Its aim: “promote processes and activities relating to combating desertification and/or mitigating the effects of drought…” (Article 2, UNCCD)

It was not only countries affected by desertification that signed the agreement, but also those that are not, like Germany. And it is there where the responsible UN-secretariat has its base for combating desertification, at the UN Campus in Bonn.

It was here that the UN’s Committee for the Review of the Implementation of the Convention (CRIC), the body responsible for making sure the conditions of the convention are adhered to, met in March. The members regularly meet to examine the status of the 10-year strategy. Ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference COP21, due to take place in Paris later this year, they also made recommendation on how the convention can be effectively implemented.

Read the full article: DW

Combating desertification in China

Photo credit: WANT CHINA TIMES

Desert-greening at the Kubuqi Desert in Ordos, Inner Mongolia, December 2012. (File photo/Xinhua)

Desertification fight begins to dust up in China

China has developed a new operating model to control desertification, which covers 1.73 million square kilometers and affects over a third of the country’s total population. The model will also help boost the livelihoods of farmers and businesses, the National Business Daily reported.

The government plans to utilize a public-private partnership (PPP) model used for the development of the Kubuqi Desert, China’s seventh-largest desert, for anti-desertification projects along the Silk Road Economic Belt during the 13th Five-Year Economic Development Plan (2016-2020), according to the report.

Chinese vice premier Wang Yang said July 28 at the Fifth Kubuqi International Desert Forum in Ordos, Inner Mongolia autonomous region, that the government will encourage the public, businesses and non-government organizations to help prevent soil depletion, or desertification, and reclaim land that has been damaged, compensating them for efforts in this area through market mechanisms and the PPP model, Wang said.

The Chinese government and the United Nations are exploring the PPP model for combating desertification.

Zhang Shigang, coordinator of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) China Office, said that the government, the UN and the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) have signed a letter of intent to strengthen collaboration to promote green investment along the proposed Belts utilizing the PPP model.

Read the full article: Want China Times

Sustainable intensification as a potential solution to improving agricultural productivity

Photo credit: Food Tank

Terminology matters: “ecological intensification” means something very different from “sustainable intensification” among scientific experts.

Harvesting the Research: Ecological Intensification Can Feed The World

Food Tank spoke with Dr. Brian Petersen, co-author of a paper that examined expert views on sustainable intensification. Some environmental and agriculture scientists propose sustainable intensification as a potential solution to improving or maintaining agricultural productivity while minimizing harmful effects of agriculture on the natural environment.

The overall message: The biological and intensification components of sustainable intensification remain unclear to experts in the field, and the authors found that the term is not based on theory. Alternative concepts such as ecological intensification, which have a more theoretical basis, may be more useful.

The research: The authors interviewed 30 experts in fields related to sustainable intensification, examining their perceptions and definitions of the term. The research investigated whether experts believed that sustainable intensification represented a departure from business-as-usual agriculture or incremental improvements in the efficient use of land and natural resources.

Food Tank (FT): What are two key points of your paper? Why is your research relevant for the transition to sustainable agriculture?


Read the full article: Food Tank

It makes sense to prioritize the quality of diet in hospitals, particularly in desertified countries

Photo credit: Treehugger

© St Luke’s University Farm — Farmer Lynn harvests lettuce

Innovative hospital farm provides fresh, nutritious food to patients

“Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.” – Hippocrates

by Katherine Martinko

Nutrition plays such an important role in personal health that it makes sense to prioritize the quality of diet in hospitals. The question is, why as has it taken so long?

When my mother underwent a major surgery, she begged me to come cook for her as soon as she got out of the hospital. The food she received while in recovery was so tasteless, stale, and seemingly devoid of nutrients that she thought she would suffer from malnutrition before recovering from the surgery. I stayed with her for weeks, cooking meal after meal with produce from her huge kitchen garden, helping to heal her with nutritious and delicious food.

“That’s why I recovered as quickly as I did,” she told me four years later. “I don’t know how hospitals can get away with serving such awful food to sick patients – the very people who need nourishing meals more than ever.”

One hospital has caught on to this basic concept, realizing that patients should be well fed in order to recover better and to learn about the importance of good nutrition. St. Luke’s University Hospital partnered with the Rodale Institute (a groundbreaking leader in organic agriculture research) to create an ‘hospital farm’ on its Anderson campus in Easton, Pennsylvania.

Read the full article: Treehugger

To take a simple idea and adapt it into a solution for problems of drought and desertification

Photo credit: Takepart

Residents of the Kibera slum in Kenya tend to vegetables planted in sack gardens. (Photo: Tony Karumba/Getty Images)

Across Africa, a New Kind of Container Garden Is Changing Women’s Lives

Growing food in sacks uses fewer resources and less labor and provides high yields too.

Some people have the talent to take a simple idea and adapt it into a solution with far-reaching benefits. Take Veronica Kanyango of Zimbabwe, a grassroots organizer who works in home-based health care and hospice for people with HIV/AIDS. She’s managed to take a couple of bags full or dirt and turn them into an agrarian movement.

“You show her a sack garden, and she’s turned it into a network of women who are producing lettuce and tomatoes for the Marriott hotel,” said Regina Pritchett of the Huairou Commission, a nonprofit that works on housing and community issues for women across Africa.

Using bags of the sort you stuffed yourself in for a race on field day—which are filled with manure, soil, and gravel—sack gardening or farming has been successfully adopted in areas of Africa where agriculture faces distinctly different challenges. It’s proved an effective way to grow food in regions with drought as well as areas prone to flooding, in rural communities and in urban slums. At the Grassroots Academy coordinated by the Huairou Commission in the spring of 2014, Pritchett said, the concept exploded.

“Of all the practices in the room, that’s the one people were most excited about. There’s not a high cost to get started, you’re not waiting on someone to give you seed funding. You could grab a sack and do that tomorrow,” she said.

Read the full article: Takepart

A new study of drought impacts at forest sites worldwide

Photo credit: Eurekalert

This is a stressed forest in the southwestern United States.

CREDIT Leander Anderegg

Drought’s lasting impact on forests


Forests across the planet take years to rebound from drought, storing far less carbon dioxide than widely assumed in climate models

SALT LAKE CITY, July 30, 2015 – In the virtual worlds of climate modeling, forests and other vegetation are assumed to bounce back quickly from extreme drought. But that assumption is far off the mark, according to a new study of drought impacts at forest sites worldwide. Living trees took an average of two to four years to recover and resume normal growth rates after droughts ended, researchers report today in the journal Science.

“This really matters because in the future droughts are expected to increase in frequency and severity due to climate change,” says lead author William R.L. Anderegg, an assistant professor of biology at the University of Utah. “Some forests could be in a race to recover before the next drought strikes.”

Forest trees play a big role in buffering the impact of human-induced climate change by removing massive amounts of carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphere and incorporating the carbon into woody tissues. The finding that drought stress sets back tree growth for years suggests that Earth’s forests are capable of storing less carbon than climate models have calculated.

“If forests are not as good at taking up carbon dioxide, this means climate change would speed up,” says Anderegg, who performed much of the work on this study while at Princeton University. He co-authored the study with colleagues at Princeton. He co-authored the study with colleagues at Princeton University, Northern Arizona University, University of Nevada-Reno, Pyrenean Institute Of Ecology, University of New Mexico, Arizona State University, U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station, NOAA Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University.

Tree rings tell the story

The rate of recovery from drought is largely unknown for the vast majority of tree species. Anderegg and colleagues carefully measured the recovery of tree stem growth after severe droughts since 1948 at more than 1,300 forest sites around the earth using records from the International Tree Ring Data Bank. Tree rings provide a convenient history of wood growth and track carbon uptake of the ecosystem in which the tree grew.

Read the full article: Eurekalert