An initiative to curb Desertification along the Silk Road


Photo credit: IPS

Credit: 2009 UNCCD Photo contest Jason Lee

Battle of the Desert (and III): UNCCD ‘s Louise Baker on The Silk Road

Marking this year’s World Day to Combat Desertification last June, the United Nations announced the launch of a China-United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) Belt and Road Joint Action initiative to curb Desertification along the Silk Road.

UNCCD is the key United Nations legal framework to combat desertification. IPS interviews Louise Baker, Coordinator External Relations, Policy and Advocacy Unit, UNCCD about the current effects of drought in the countries, which are expected to benefit from this initiative?

Drought is a complex natural hazard that causes more deaths and displaces more people than any other natural disaster. Its socio-economic and environmental impacts are severe and far-reaching, Baker states.

“Desertification and land degradation cause poverty and hunger. In turn, these can lead to massive environmental damage and natural resource scarcity that sometimes ends with conflict. It certainly hinders sustainable development.”

She then explains that there are 24 types of ecosystem services in the world. 15 are in decline. Desertification and land degradation are major stress factors. Many countries along the Belt and Road are highly vulnerable to both drought and desertification, and are facing social, economic and political stresses.

Asked for specific examples, Baker cites the case of Uzbekistan: 73.6 per cent of the population live in areas affected by drought.

Droughts have reduced the country’s water flow by 35-40 per cent below the average…crop yield losses range from 42 to 75 per cent… wetland ecosystems are degraded and up to 80 per cent of the lakes are drying out.

Read the full article: IPS

25,000 die each day

Photo credit:

Community garden in Niou (Prov. Kourweogo, Burkina Faso) in 2009 – Project Committee Maastricht-Niou and TC-Dialogue Foundation (Belgium) started in 1988. – Soil conditioned with TC – Photo Willemien 2009 Niou Jardin Communautaire P2250398 copy 2.


Although success stories to alleviate hunger exist, 25,000 die each day – (bewing)

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

published at:

In Bewing


“About 25,000 people die every day of hunger or hunger-related causes, according to the United Nations. This is one person every three and a half seconds, as you can see on this display. Unfortunately, it is children who die most often.Yet there is plenty of food in the world for everyone. The problem is that hungry people are trapped in severe poverty. They lack the money to buy enough food to nourish themselves. Being constantly malnourished, they become weaker and often sick. This makes them increasingly less able to work, which then makes them even poorer and hungrier. This downward spiral often continues until death for them and their families.”

Senegal Toubacouta 2002-02
Senegal Toubacouta 2002-02

2002-02 : Toubacouta (Senegal) – Community garden for women in the Sahel region – Excellent production with only half of the normal quantity of irrigation water – Look at the dark, healthy, continuously moistened soil. –

Project TC-Dialogue with Philippe BEKAERT and Alain GOETGHEBUER (sponsors, Belgium) – Keur Bou Natte – Photo WVC 2002.

2003-03 Espargos-Pretoria-06 copy
2003-03 Espargos-Pretoria-06 copy.jpg

Project of TC-Dialogue Foundation – Evaluation mission 2003-03 with Etienne Van Steenberghe and Marc PIlle : Cabo Verde (Isla do Sal – Escola Pretoria) – Splendid school garden – Former schoolyard transformed into a “garden of Eden”, producing fresh vegetables for the lunches at school, thanks to the application of the TerraCottem (TC) soil conditioner. See the happy children ?  

Photo WVC 2003-03 Espargos-Pretoria-06 copy.jpg


P1000569 copy 1
P1000569 copy 1.jpg

UNICEF Project with TC-Dialogue Foundation 2005-2007: Saharawis refugee camp of Smara (S.W. Algeria) – Sahara desert sand transformed into a magnificent family garden (25 m2, sufficient to feed the family). Soil conditioner TerraCottem applied in october 2006; first vegetables (red beetroot and carrots) harvested in november 2006. For the first time all the family members can eat fresh vegetables from their own garden. –

Photo WVC P1000569 2007 Smara TV4.JPG.


Hunger and famine belong to the most shocking and disastrous phenomena on this world. We all get really touched when seeing hungry children, mostly in the drylands, where poverty of the rural people is one of the basic reasons for this plague.

Therefore, it is striking that very positive results, obtained since the nineties with creation of community gardens for women (Burkina Faso, Senegal), school gardens (Cabo Verde, Burkina Faso) or small family gardens (Algeria), do not seem to convince international or national authorities to invest seriously in these easy to duplicate “best practices” to alleviate hunger and poverty.

If local farmers, mostly women, can produce more crops with half of the normal volume of irrigation water, simply by applying one single time a soil conditioner, why don’t we invest more in the multiplication of vegetable gardens for villagers and school children?

Have a look at my blog <>, see what we have done with UNICEF ALGERIA for the creation of family gardens in the refugee camps of the Sahraouis people in the Sahara desert, and you will be convinced that a nice solution for the hunger problem exists.

It suffices to apply it to break the downward spiral. I know that the rural population in the drylands lacks the money to buy enough food and being constantly malnourished, is becoming weaker and often sick. Fabulous amounts of money have been and are continuously spent on very diverse, ambitious, but sometimes non-sustainable programmes and projects. What if we would invest in the creation of kitchen gardens and school gardens, offering the rural people and their children a nice opportunity to produce their own food, even within a period of 2-3 months? Production of fresh food, full of vitamins and mineral elements, makes them increasingly more able to work, which then makes them even less hungry and a bit wealthier (possibility to bring vegetables to the local market).

I see no easier and better way to create an upward spiral. And remember, seeing is believing. That’s what the Saharawis have been telling us after registering the first successes with their new gardens and trees in the Algerian Sahara desert.  Why only here, in the most difficult circumstances ?  Why not in all the drylands ?

The day will come …


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 ( 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:‐and‐campaigns/WDCD/Pages/default.aspx
For background information and materials for the 2016 Observance, visit: For information about the Global Observance event, visit:‐and‐ campaigns/WDCD/wdcd2016/Pages/default.aspx
Contact for World Day to Combat Desertification:
For Media information:

New publication on financing for forest and landscape restoration


Message sent by LAND-L

FAO and Global Mechanism of the UNCCD launch new publication on financing for forest and landscape restoration

More than USD 300 billion are needed per year to restore the world’s degraded land in order to achieve a new Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target by 2030, according to a new publication by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Global Mechanism of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (GM).

The joint discussion paper, Sustainable financing for forest and landscape restoration: opportunities, challenges, and the way forward, was launched today at the Global Landscapes Forum in Paris during a session on ‘’Investing in integrated landscapes to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals’’.

Currently, the world’s degraded land amounts to 2 billion hectares, which is equal to an area the size of South America. Each year an additional 12 million hectares of land are degraded, while 7.6 million hectares of forest are converted to other uses or lost through natural causes.

“The degradation of the world’s land and forests is a serious threat to the livelihoods and food security of millions of people who depend on them, and there is an urgent need to invest in forest and landscape restoration to bring a significant portion of that degraded land back to a productive state,” said Douglas McGuire, Coordinator of the Forest and Landscape Restoration Mechanism hosted by the Forestry Department of FAO.

Funding falls short of global commitments

Countries have already made ambitious commitments to forest and landscape restoration, including under Goal 15 of the recently adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which sets a target (15.3) to achieve land degradation neutrality by 2030.

In addition, some countries had previously pledged to restore 150 million hectares by 2020 in the framework of the 2011 Bonn Challenge, and 350 million hectares by 2030 under the 2014 New York Declaration on Forests.

However, mobilization of funds is one of the chief constraints to achieving these global targets. The USD 300 billion a year needed for SDG target 15.3 aside, the Bonn Challenge is estimated to require USD 36 billion a year, and the New York Declaration USD 49 billion a year.

“One of the main barriers is insufficient awareness of financing opportunities and investors’ lack of understanding of forest and landscape restoration,” said Markus Repnik, Managing Director of the GM.

Key questions addressed at the Global Landscape Forum session on ‘’Investing in integrated landscapes to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals’’

The GLF is one of the largest events held on the sidelines of the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The session on ‘’Investing in integrated landscapes to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals’’, at which the publication was launched, addressed a number of key questions on forest and landscape restoration financing, including:

[if !supportLists]·         [endif]How are investments coordinated within integrated landscape initiatives?

[if !supportLists]·         [endif]How can investors better engage with landscape stakeholders?

[if !supportLists]·         [endif]How can these models be scaled-up and applied in the implementation of SDGs?

The joint FAO-GM discussion paper addresses these issues by providing an overview of existing funding sources and financial instruments that could be adapted specifically for forest and landscape restoration purposes both at the local, national, regional and global levels.

The Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative launched a complementary publication at the same discussion forum entitled “Scaling up investment & finance for integrated landscape management: Challenges and innovations”.

Innovative financing solutions proposed in the publication launched in Paris

The FAO-GM discussion paper sets out key messages on financing for forest and landscape restoration for governments, development banks, international agencies, environmental funds, NGOs and private companies. It also proposes innovative and non-traditional ideas such as crowdfunding and green bank cards.

 “With both governments and development agencies facing increasing funding shortages, long-term financing solutions may rely on private-sector investors – businesses and individuals – whether in the framework of corporate social responsibility or as investors looking for a mix of social and financial returns,” said Ludwig Liagre of the GM.

The joint publication also identifies ways to create an enabling environment for sound investments in forest and landscape restoration and proposes recommendations for building and strengthening financial alliances.

A joint FAO-GM public policy brief and infographic with key messages on sustainable financing for forest and landscape restoration included in this publication were launched in October 2015 at the Forests and Landscape Forum – organized by the GM, FAO, and LPFN, among other partners- during the 12th Conference of the Parties to the UNCCD in Ankara, Turkey.

Related links

Discussion Paper on ‘’Sustainable financing for Forest and Landscape Restoration: opportunities, challenges, and the way forward’’

Infographic on Sustainable financing for forest and landscape restoration: key messages

Policy brief on ‘’Sustainable financing for forest and landscape restoration: the role of public policy makers’’


Global Mechanism’s work on forest and landscape restoration

FAO’s Forest and Landscape Restoration Mechanism


Photo credit: WVC 1994-07 – Bois de la Fraternisation in Arbolle (Burkina Faso),

Belgian TC-Dialogue with Canadian Cooperation

Happy to remind me of an former publication in the CBD Magazine 2002

by Prof. Dr. Willem Van Cotthem (Belgium)


Arbolle 1988-07 at the start of the project (Photo credit - WVC)
Arbolle 1988-07 at the start of the project (Photo credit – WVC)


Click on the text to enlarge the size

Arbolle 1990-07 - Young wood developing thanks to soil conditioner TerraCottem
Arbolle 1990-07 – Young wood developing thanks to soil conditioner TerraCottem
Arbolle 1998-12 : Ten years after plantation with TerraCottem soil conditioner, the Bois de la Fraternisation (Wood of Fraternization) is a remarkable success. Reforestation at its best. (Photo credit WVC)
Arbolle 1998-12 : Ten years after plantation with TerraCottem soil conditioner, the Bois de la Fraternisation (Wood of Fraternization) is a remarkable success. Reforestation at its best.
(Photo credit WVC)

A small scale farmer in Ethiopia

Photo credit: UNCCD

Worldbank/Terra Africa

Meri Geta Hulgize Nurelgne: Farmer, Wereda: East Estie, Kebele: Zegora Wemberoch

The World’s Land Heroes

The land here used to be barren and dry – no trees grew, and the soil kept washing away down the hill into the Nile. Large rocks would often roll down and drop on our villages. Since the terraces have been built with the trees, we can find water within 7 metres of ground level – we used to struggle to find water at 20 metres. I now produce a higher quality crop, with two to three times the yield. I can now send my children to school. I have three daughters at university – one has just finished her Master’s degree. I also have a son at school, and I send my grandchildren to school too.

Meri Geta is one of some 500 million small scale farmers around the world support their families and the livelihoods of 2 billion people. Without sustainable land management, how can we meet the universal goals of equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water (Goal 6.1), end hunger and ensure access to safe and nutritious food (Goal 2.1), double the agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers (Goal 2.3), restore degraded land and soil (Goal 15.3), ensure inclusive and equitable quality education (Goal 4) and eliminate gender disparities in education (Goal 4.5)?

Posted by UNCCD on Facebook 2015-06-05

There is no such thing as a free lunch

Photo credit: UNCCD

No such thing as a free lunch.


Invest in healthy soils

Fertile land is limited. 99.7% of our food nutrition still comes from the land and the fresh water we need to produce the food are filtered by the land. We not only have to share it for our survival today, but we also have to share it with the future generations. Thus, the quality of the land and of our lives are linked. So how we manage the land now matters more than ever before, and we need to start investing in it because we are degrading it faster than it is recovering.

Rehabilitating degraded land offers high returns, but we are not doing enough. Let us pay our bill because there is no such thing as a free Lunch. Let us invest in healthy soils.

This month (June 2015) we invite you to challenge yourself and take up one action to pay your “land bill” for June by investing in the soil. Below are some examples of what you can do.
s a free lunch

World Day to Combat Desertification 2015

World Day to Combat Desertification 2015

 The World Day to Combat Desertification (WDCD) is observed worldwide on 17 June every year.  The focus this year is “attainment of food security for all through sustainable food systems.”

With the slogan, ‘No such thing as a free lunch. Invest in healthy soil’, the 2015 observance calls for:
(1) A change in our land use practices through smart agriculture and adaptation to changing climate, especially in the dry fragile parts of the world where food shortages are becoming more and more severe
(2) Access to technology and land rights for small holder farmers who safeguard the environment and meet the food needs of millions of households, especially among the poorest households
(3) A balance in the land use for ecology and consumption, drawing on the best practices
(4) More investments in sustainable land practices so that sustainable food systems become the normal practice and
(5) More effective action on desertification whose effects on security, peace and stability are invisible yet real for the affected countries due especially to food and water scarcity and environmentally forced migration.
The Day will feature a global observance event in Milan, Italy, during the 2015 UN Expo as well as National and local observances.
See the full text: UNCCD

Equator Prize 2015




UNDP and partners are pleased to announce the opening of the Equator Prize 2015 Call for Nominations.   

The Equator Prize 2015 will honor 20 outstanding indigenous peoples and local community initiatives that are reducing poverty, protecting nature, and strengthening resilience in the face of climate change.

We count on the support of Project Steering Committee (PSC) members and project partners to get the announcement out far and wide.

We would like to see a high number of quality nominations from sub-Saharan Africa, and hope to work through your networks to identify leading community-based initiatives and to disseminate the call widely.

The theme of this cycle of the Equator Prize is ‘empowerment, rights, and partnerships for local climate action’.   Emphasis has been placed on indigenous peoples and local communities that are:

  • Protecting, restoring and sustainably managing forests
  • Promoting sustainable agriculture and food security
  • Advancing community-based adaptation to climate change
  • Protecting and securing rights to communal lands, territories and natural resources 
  • Forging innovative partnerships for sustainable development   

Please note that the nomination deadline is May 27, 2015 — this is a shorter nomination period than previous cycles of the award — so your immediate action in activating your networks is most kindly requested. 

The official announcement is attached here (in English and French), and contains all relevant nomination information (nominations may be submitted in 15 different languages), eligibility requirements and selection criteria.

We look forward to hearing your ideas on how to give this announcement maximum visibility and thank you in advance for your support on the outreach and nomination effort.

Building on the successes of  the Equator Prize for Sustainable Land Management in Sub-Saharan Africa (click here for footage) and the Equator Prize 2014 (click here for footage), the Equator Prize 2015 will be awarded at an Academy Awards-style event during the UNFCCC COP21 in Paris in December 2015.     

The Equator Prize 2015 website is here.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact my colleague Joseph Corcoran at

Very best regards,

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