Let’s Speak and Write More about Desertification


Veronika Gregušová

My name is Veronika and I come from the Czech Republic. I am a curious person and passionate to share my knowledge with those who are interested in it. I wish that my blog (https://pinklich.wordpress.com/2015/03/29/desertification/) serves you as a platform for getting new ideas. Worlds seems too gloomy from the newspapers headlines, but it does not necessarily mean that it is so. From my perspective, there are many excellent things we are not aware of. My blog is an attempt to let you DISCOVER, LEARN and HELP inspiring initiatives. You can browse through categories (Society, Education, Environment) or read one of the interviews. I care about creating a quality content, that is why I post a new article every two to three weeks. I will be happy to hear any feedback from you. You can contact me on my e-mail address – 382630@mail.muni.cz. Veronika


Why is it that the global community is so concerned about climate change, but desertification rarely gets any attention in the press and what is more puzzling, in the research community? As an International Relations student I was surprised by the lack of scientific debate about this issue among social scientists. That is why the aim of my Master’s thesis “United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification: Challenges and Chances of a Troubled Regime” was to discover how desertification regime works, whether it is effective, and how it strives to make its functioning better.

The thesis provides the first comprehensive description of the desertification regime, while it also presents a list of the regime’s problems, and an explanation of the regime’s efforts to tackle these problems. Scholars have often referred to existence of a desertification regime, but they have not analyzed it by applying regime theory. I explain that the regime is denoted ineffective because until today it has not managed to reverse desertification, mitigate drought, and reduce poverty.

The UNCCD faces several problems including lack of funding, disagreements about financial responsibilities, and investment into unsustainable projects. Secondly, problems in science (small role of scientists in previous and current negotiations, malfunctioning of the Committee for Science and Technology and lack of scientific cooperation and data) lead to misunderstandings about significance of the desertification problem. A third problem lies in the design of the regime, namely in lack of consensus, low political will, and institutional weaknesses. Fourthly, there is a lack of advocacy about desertification and insufficient connections to other two Rio Conventions (UNFCCC and CBD).

The thesis also points out to UNCCD’s efforts of making the Convention more effective. I argue that the adoption of The Strategy for 2008-18 and the introduction of Land-Degradation Neutral World concept represent significant moves towards better implementation of the Convention, nonetheless, these projects have excessively ambitious goals.

To conclude, I believe the UNCCD is indispensable in our fight against desertification, but we have to make it more effective so that it reaches the affected populations and ecosystems. Desertification should also be taken seriously as a scientific topic even among social scientists.  If you feel interested in my thesis, please contact me through my blog and we can discuss some new ideas for research.

Veronika Gregušová holds an M.A. in International Relations from Masaryk University, Brno, Czech Republic. She writes articles on her own blog Veronika & Global Ideas.

See also: https://pinklich.wordpress.com/2015/03/29/desertification/

Success stories and best practices to combat desertification


Iran 2002 : Meeting of TPN3 – Demonstration site for best practices of sand dune fixation

Photo WVC 2002-12-20 – TPN3-05- Rui ZHENG, Representative of the UNCCD.jpg


PEOPLE FOR ACTION, an electronic network for combating desertification


by Prof. Dr. Willem Van Cotthem (University of Ghent, Belgium).


Originally published at:



At the end of 2002, I launched an electronic network for people interested in all aspects of desertification and poverty. In 2006, this network had already more than 1000 members. On the demand of the UNCCD, it has been taken over by the Secretariat of the Committee on Science and Technology (CST), but only for a period of 6 months (until the end of 2006).

In March 2007, trying to keep this network alive and looking for opportunities to network organisations and individuals with interest in desertification, I used my desertification blog (https://desertification.wordpress.com/) to collect information and make the data available over the internet.

This blog aims at bringing all these people closer to one another, as they all have the same attention for combating desertification and alleviating hunger and poverty.

In the coming period, I will try to compose a sort of historical review of the most important contributions to the PEOPLE FOR ACTION-network. I am convinced that, looking back at the last period (1994-2007), we will find a lot of data to be reviewed in the light of recent events, particularly the successes booked and the best practices documented.

Dec 2002 TPN3-11a---Iran
Photo WVC Dec 2002 TPN3-11a—Iran.jpg

IRAN 2002: Representatives of different countries inspecting field work for the demonstration of best practices and success stories for sand dune fixation in TPN3 countries

Photo WVC Dec 2002 TPN3-11a—Iran.jpg



One of the important messages and conclusions of UNCCD’s CRIC1 in Rome (11-22/12/02) was that there is an urgent need for exchange of information within a network of individuals interested in the desertification problems. Many of us enjoyed in Rome very much the presentations of case studies and the ensuing discussions, although seemingly there was no time left for in-depth analysis or exchanges of views on the situation in other countries than those who presented the case studies. Nevertheless, CRIC1 was a real success!

Most of the participants will remember that single sentence, repeatedly coming up in different interventions from the podium and the floor : There is no more time for talking, only time for action !.

I had a couple of times the privilege and the pleasure of reminding my colleagues in Rome that “REAL ACTION” should be launched by selecting a small number of success stories (best practices) and applying these in small scale projects, but in a large number of countries in all regions.

The TPNs (Thematic Program Networks) seem to be an excellent forum for setting up such comparative initiatives (see the pilot projects of the Asian TPN3 on sand dune fixation and rangeland management to be launched in Iran 2002). It goes without saying that we still need to exchange a lot of ideas on the way such actions could be optimally planned.

In order to enable a large number of colleagues and friends to participate in this exchange, I take today, March 26th, 2007, the liberty of sending this message to a list of email addresses stocked in my computer, asking first of all if you are interested in receiving from time to time my messages concerning desertification aspects. IF NOT, PLEASE SEND ME A SHORT NOTE TO TAKE YOU OFF MY NETWORK LIST.


In Aleppo (Syria) 2002-05: TPN4, fraternising with the Chinese delegation

Photo WVC 2002-05-UNCCD-TPN4b.jpg


Maybe you have from time to time some interesting information for our network? Please do not hesitate to send it to me and I will forward it to all the members of the network. It is my intention to create in this way a functional network of individuals interested in desertification under the umbrella of the UNCCD. Through our exchanges we will be gradually in a better position to bridge the intersessional periods of COPs and CRICs. I hope you will contribute to it in a very effective way, by sending comments on former messages, by sending important information yourself and especially by promoting the real CCD-family spirit.  Success stories and best practices: that’s what we need to apply at the largest scale.  Let’s go for it !

Today, Feb. 23, 2016, this blog registered 1,997,548 hits.  Not bad, don’t you think ?


World Day to Combat Desertification

Photo credit: Google – Imgres.jpg


United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification

World Day to Combat Desertification to be held on 17 June 

Let us find long‐term solutions, not just quick fixes, to disasters that are
destroying communities,” urged Monique Barbut, Executive Secretary of the UNCCD.(See PRESS RELEASE below).


Willem Van Cotthem: We keep hoping that success stories and best practices will be applied at the global level. Priority should be given to methods and techniques providing daily fresh food to the hungry and malnourished. It cannot be denied that hunger and malnutrition are constantly undermining the performances of people. Application of existing success stories in local food production (kitchen gardens, school gardens, hospital gardens, …) would positively influence the efforts to combat desertification (limiting erosion, stimulating reforestation, etc.). We keep hoping.

ReplyUnited Nations Convention to Combat Desertification Hi Willem Van Cotthem, would you like to share some success stories you have? We always welcome all to share!”

       ReplyWillem Van Cotthem : Hello Friends at the UNCCD Secretariat: It will be my pleasure to select a series of success stories in the literature. However, I am convinced that the UNCCD secretariat has the necessary documentation to compile even a book on this subject (to the best of my knowledge the documents, e.g. presentations at COPs and meetings of CST and CRIC, have been there during my active period in the CST and in Bonn). Please consider a consultancy to achieve top class work that would serve all member countries, the CST and the CRIC. To be presented at the next World Day June 17th 2016.

UNCCD’s Monique Barbut Calls for Long‐Term Solutions Not Just Quick Fixes To Drought Bonn, Germany, 22/02/2016 –
“Protect Earth. Restore Land. Engage People. This is the slogan for this year’s World Day to Combat Desertification to be held on 17 June. I am calling for solidarity from the international community with the people who are battling the ravages of drought and flood. Let us find long‐term solutions, not just quick fixes, to disasters that are destroying communities,” urged Monique Barbut, Executive Secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).
The droughts and floods beating down on communities in many parts of the world are linked to the current El Niño, which is expected to affect up 60 million people by July. In some areas, including in North Eastern Brazil, Somali, Ethiopia, Kenya and Namibia, the El Niño effects are coming on the back of years of severe and recurrent droughts. It is impossible for households that rely on the land for food and farm labor to recover, especially when the land is degraded.
What’s more, these conditions do not just devastate families and destabilize communities. When they are not attended to urgently, they can become a push factor for migration, and end with gross human rights abuses and long‐term security threats.
“We have seen this before – in Darfur following four decades of droughts and desertification and, more recently, in Syria, following the long drought of 2007‐2010. It is tragic to see a society breaking down when we can reduce the vulnerability of communities through simple and affordable acts such as restoring the degraded lands they live on, and helping countries to set up better systems for drought early warning and to prepare for and manage drought and floods,” Barbut said.
Ms Barbut made the remarks when announcing the plans for this year’s World Day to Combat Desertification, which will take place on 17 June.
“I hope that World Day to Combat Desertification this year marks a turning point for every country. We need to show, through practical action and cooperation, how every country is tacking or supporting these challenges at the front‐end to preempt or minimize the potential impacts of the disasters, not just at the back‐end after the disasters happen,” she stated.
The United Nations General Assembly designated 17 June as the observance Day to raise public awareness about international efforts to combat desertification and the effects of drought.
Ms Barbut thanked the Government and People of China, for offering to host the global observance event, which will take place at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.
“China has vast experience in nursing degraded lands and man‐made deserts back to health. This knowledge can and should benefit initiatives such as Africa’s Great Green Wall, the re‐ greening in southern Africa and the 20 X 20 Initiative in Latin America. We can create a better, more equal and climate change‐resilient world,” she noted.
“I also call on countries, the private sector, foundations and people of goodwill to support Africa  when the countries meet later in the year to develop concrete plans and policies to pre‐ empt, monitor and manage droughts,” Ms Barbut stated.
The 2016 World Day campaign is also advancing the Sustainable Development Goals adopted in September last year. The Goals include a target to achieve a land degradation‐neutral world by 2030. That is, a world where the land restored back to health equals to, or is more than, the amount degraded every year.
For more information on the Day and previous events, visit: http://www.unccd.int/en/programmes/Event‐and‐campaigns/WDCD/Pages/default.aspx
For background information and materials for the 2016 Observance, visit: For information about the Global Observance event, visit: http://www.unccd.int/en/programmes/Event‐and‐ campaigns/WDCD/wdcd2016/Pages/default.aspx
Contact for World Day to Combat Desertification: Yhori@unccd.int
For Media information: wwischnewski@unccd.int

CRIC 13 and Sustainable Land Management


UNCCD CRIC 13 Addresses Sustainable Land Management Linkages in Post-2015, Climate Agendas

Delegates to the 13th session of the Committee for the Review of the Implementation of the Convention (CRIC 13) of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) made a critical assessment of the status of the Convention and exchanged views on how to ensure its continued relevance and effectiveness. Pointing to the continuing “implementation gap” despite the high number of submitted country reports, several delegates questioned whether “we are collecting the right information to spur further action,” and suggested that a focus on synergies with the other Rio Conventions and adopting a global target on land degradation neutrality (LDN) could enhance the Convention’s impact.

Sharing her assessment of the reporting and review exercise, UNCCD Executive Secretary Monique Barbut highlighted shortcomings that require attention, with particular regard to measuring progress toward achieving sustainable land management (SLM) goals at national and global levels. She suggested that national reporting should focus on information that leads to a better understanding of land degradation and should “convince donors to increase financing by demonstrating the importance of land management, in particular for climate change mitigation and adaptation.” Highlighting ongoing efforts to develop common indicators among the three Rio Conventions, Barbut noted that LDN could become “a tangible national objective,” if adopted as part of a global post-2015 agreement.

Among ‘process’ actions to enhance the Convention’s relevance, Executive Secretary Barbut proposed: a longer reporting cycle of four years in order to focus on measuring impacts and results and enhance alignment with the GEF; holding back-to-back sessions of the CST and CRIC alongside major international events such as the Global Soil Week; strengthening regional implementation and governance, including by holding annual regional conferences; and strengthening the CRIC Bureau.

Read the full article: IISD



UNCCD 3rd Scientific Conference and CST S-4


Fourth Special Session of the Committee on Science and Technology (CST S-4) and 

UNCCD 3rd Scientific Conference

9-12 March 2015 | Cancún, Mexico


The fourth Special Session of the Committee on Science and Technology (CST S-4) of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), together with the UNCCD 3rd Scientific Conference, convened from 9-12 March 2015, in Cancun, Mexico. Approximately 300 people registered for the meeting, almost half of whom were from the scientific community. In addition, government officials and representatives of civil society, intergovernmental and UN organizations also participated.

Participants at the Scientific Conference had been charged by the UNCCD Conference of the Parties (COP) with addressing “Combating desertification/land degradation and drought for poverty reduction and sustainable development: the contribution of science, technology, traditional knowledge and practices.” They considered this theme on the basis of an Impulse Report on “Climate change and desertification: Anticipating, assessing and adapting to future change in drylands,” several keynote addresses and three sessions of parallel workshops, each featuring poster presentations and discussions. The Scientific Conference was organized by the Scientific and Traditional Knowledge for Sustainable Development consortium, under the guidance of the CST Bureau and the Conference’s Scientific Advisory Committee.

The Summary of this meeting is now available in PDF format

at  http://www.iisd.ca/download/pdf/enb04255e.pdf and in HTML format at


Satellite data to measure and monitor land degradation


UNCCD CST S-4 Side Event Discusses Use of Satellite Data

A side event organized by the Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel of the Global Environment Facility (GEF/STAP) during the fourth special session of the Committee on Science and Technology (CST S-4) of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) considered ‘The use of satellite data to measure and monitor land degradation over time at multiple scales.’

Participants at the side event were informed of a new GEF project that will seek to provide guidance, methods and tools to monitor and assess land degradation using remote sensing, and they were encouraged to address the needs of users of remote sensing. Speakers noted challenges in harmonizing and interpreting data from different remote sensing products and how the data could be used to develop policy advice, among other topics.

Read the full text: IISD

Role of Science and Traditional Knowledge


UNCCD Conference Stresses Role of Science and Traditional Knowledge in Scaling Up Land-Based Adaptation

The outcome from the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) 3rd Scientific Conference emphasizes that, inter alia, “human actions are a key driver of desertification, land degradation and drought, and a contributor to climate change. Therefore, society must mitigate or reverse these stresses using innovative approaches to attain land degradation neutrality.”

The Conference, which was convened in the context of the fourth Special Session of the Committee on Science and Technology (CST S-4) of the UNCCD, developed recommendations for enhancing the contribution of science and technology, as well as traditional knowledge and practices, in addressing the vulnerability of biophysical systems and human livelihoods due to the combined impacts of land degradation and climate change.

Building on lessons learned from previous conferences, a large part of the Conference was structured around 15 parallel workshops that drew on poster sessions by participants to illustrate three main themes: diagnosis of constraints, responses and monitoring and assessment. Each workshop then developed scientific and operational recommendations for scaling up land-based adaptation, building on issues highlighted in the Conference Impulse Report, titled ‘Climate change and desertification: Anticipating, assessing & adapting to future change in drylands.

Read the full text : IISD



Local vegetables R&D for smallholders

Photo credit: SciDevNet

Image credit: Abbie Trayler-Smith / Panos

Promoting local vegetables R&D to benefit smallholders

Speed read

  • Smallholders and traders of indigenous vegetables face issues marketing them
  • New post-harvest technologies could help solve the challenges
  • The impact of local vegetables on livelihoods of smallholders should be assessed

Researchers should tackle challenges smallholders face in marketing indigenous vegetables, writes Alberto Leny.

Read the full article: SciDevNet


Sustainable land management

Photo credit: SciDevNet

Image credit: ILRI/Duncan

Partnerships ‘key to sustainable land management’

Lindsay Stringer, University of Leeds. : “Sustainable land management needs all these: traditional knowledge, modern scientific research yielding innovations, and methods for best practices and informing policymaking processes.” 

Speed read

  • Teamwork could prevent competition for resources needed for solving land issues
  • Local and scientific knowledge could be mixed to aid climate change adaptation
  • Scientists should create knowledge to increase drylands values, says an expert

[CANCUN, MEXICO] An integrated approach — involving stakeholders such as researchers, policymakers and local people — for addressing land degradation, climate change and sustainable land management challenges is beneficial than working in silos, says a conference.   According to the 3rd United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) Scientific Conference in Mexico this week (9-12 March), an integrated approach to sustainable land management should be promoted.   “There is a need to change institutional arrangements to prevent the danger of duplication and competition for resources by various stakeholders in addressing issues of sustainable land management,” says Lindsay Stringer, a professor of environment and development at the UK-based University of Leeds.   Stringer, who has conducted research in countries in Sub-Saharan Africa such as Botswana and Malawi, says indigenous knowledge among pastoral and farming communities in Africa on coping with challenges such as drought can be added to modern scientific research outcomes to promote good land management and address climate change-related impacts.

Read the full article: SciDevNet

Nine of the 17 MDGs are based on science and technology

Photo credit: Google

United Nations Environment Programme collaboration in an innovative manner to make environmental science actionable for policy making and civil society

Zimbabwe: ‘Science and Technology Key to Sustainable Growth’

African countries should use science and technology to research on new sources of food, a senior Government official has said. Higher and Tertiary Education Minister Oppah Muchinguri told delegates to the recently ended two-day UNESCO Asia-Africa consultation on sustainability science to support the post-2015 agenda that science is crucial for poverty reduction, clean water and new energy forms to support the Sustainable Development Goals agenda. She added that there was need to turn the country’s knowledge base into practical solutions.

“We are very proud as a nation that the literacy rate is above 90 percent, but that knowledge should be converted to into practice, there is need for increasing scientific literacy, we need to develop a market-oriented curriculum through research of new technologies, African governments, scientists and communities therefore need to look ahead with foresight in order to plan and prepare adequately for emerging development challenges and opportunities,” said Minister Muchinguri.

She added that for sustainable development, policy makers, governments and scientists should join hands in harnessing science and technological innovations.

Read the full article: allAfrica

Breeding crops to withstand drought

Photo credit: Deutsche Welle

Successful plant breeding requires time and effort: Tens of thousands of lines have to be bred and compared

Breeding for dry climates: Some plants like it hot

Member states to the United Nations convention on desertification are meeting in Cancun to discuss what can be done to stop soil degradation. One possibility is crops bred to withstand drought.

Extended periods of drought can destroy not only harvests – at the edges of savannahs or near deserts, they can destroy all human livelihood. As farming becomes impossible, people turn to pastoralism, or letting cattle or goats browse natural vegetation off the land. The result: The animals eat what is left of any plants, allowing the wind and rain remove the remaining topsoil, and letting desertification continue its march forward.

This problem could be addressed with crops that are able to survive a dry spell and still produce yields, even under difficult conditions. This would help to protect and possibly even improve the soil – preventing a dry spell from becoming a disastrous drought.

Some wild varieties more resistant

Farmers struggling with dry climates need plants that are able to survive on little water. And it is possible to breed such crops, because there are enough varieties of wild plants that can survive dry spells. However, such sturdy varieties do not typically make good crops.

Read the full article: Deutsche Welle

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