Climate conference COP22 calls for action on land restoration, coordination, financing


Marrakesh, at the foot of the Atlas Mountains

The 22nd UN climate conference (COP 22) held in November in Marrakech, Morocco’s ‘Ochre City,’ was all about action.

Action not only to reshape the path of development in order to curb global temperature rise as a result of climate change, but also to sustainably feed and provide for a growing global population. The actions are part of countries’ commitments of the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement, which came into force on 4 November 2016, just days before the Marrakesh conference kicked off on 7 November.

Restoring the world’s degraded lands back to health, productivity and resilience is a critical piece of climate action.

img_4365At the conference, participants grappled with the nuts and bolts of how land restoration on a massive scale will be achieved. Of particular interest were sub-Saharan Africa’s drought-prone drylands, defined as the arid, semi-arid and dry subhumid zones. Drylands make up about 43% of the continent’s land area and host half of its population – some 425 million people. African drylands are highly prone to climate-related shocks, and hunger and poverty afflict many people in these regions.

Speaker after speaker emphasized the need and enablers of large-scale land restoration, with leadership, financing, technical support, coordination and integration, and monitoring being flagged as essential to success. The importance of a people-centered approach and social and environmental safeguards for the world’s communities were also highlighted.

The World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) delegation to COP22, led by Director-General Tony Simons, participated in over 10 events. Simons, as well research leaders Peter Minang, Aster Gebrekirstos, and Henry Neufeldt —spoke at events dealing with sustainable green energy, land restoration, and landscape approaches.

At an event on Sustainable Bioenergy organized by ICRAF and INBAR, Tony Simons and Henry Neufeldt pointed out that solid biomass fuels — firewood and charcoal— supply 80% of energy for households in Africa. Furthermore, despite, or because of urbanization and population growth, demand for these fuels is rising.

“Tree-based bioenergy systems offer great opportunities for sustainable green growth pathways,”said Simons, adding that the seventh global Sustainable Development Goal (SDG7)—Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all —must recognize the contribution and potential of wood fuels to play an important role in the mix of modern energy systems. At present, SDG7’s main focus is on an increase in electrification.

inbar-mouTrees and shrubs provide wood fuel, charcoal, as well as oil-rich seeds that can be pressed for liquid biofuels, said Neufeldt.

INBAR’s director general Hans Friederich spoke about bamboo’s large, mostly untapped potential as a source of energy— as firewood, charcoal and for power generation. In Sri Lanka, bamboo is being used to power local power generation stations to provide rural, off-grid electrification. Bamboo is also an excellent pioneer species for land restoration, added Friederich.

That event saw ICRAF and INBAR sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that will see the two organizations work together to promote tree-based solutions to land health as well as energy security.

The Africa Pavillion at COP22 was abuzz with a large number of events on varied topics to do with the Continent’s agriculture and sustainable development.

rhoda-peaceAt an Africa Pavilion event organized by Africa Union (AU) and the World Bank, Resilient Landscapes in Africa’s Drylands were on the spotlight. The event title, ‘Towards Building a Convening Platform for Various Landscapes Initiatives in Africa,’ heralded the rich discussions around better coordination of initiatives.

AU commissioner Her Excellency Rhoda Peace Tumusiime said land degradation is a huge challenge, but “presents opportunity to reshape the development trajectory in Africa.”

“A third of the world’s population, or 2 billion people, live in drylands, where moisture is a luxury,” said Tumusiime, making the links between land degradation and the wave of migration of African nationals to Europe.

“Climate change, migration, and youth vulnerability is a nexus.”

“If our young people are ready to cross the desert and the deep sea in search of a better life, imagine what would happen if that determination was channeled into land restoration,” she said.

“By investing in drylands, we can end hunger, create opportunities and curb migration,” said H.E. Tumusiime.

She called for the coordination of the many sustainable land management initiatives on the continent, in order to maximize synergies, save on resources, and minimize confusion among stakeholders. The need for a holistic approach is highlighted in the AU Agenda 2063, as well as the Paris declaration on AID effectiveness, she noted.

“Implementing individual small projects by single institutions, or even individual persons at the country level, is wasteful and leads to duplication, confusion and fatigue. All these initiatives should not stand on their own; they must build complementarities and be mainstreamed into and build on national processes and plans.”

And at COP22, the African Union launched the Africa Environment Partnership Platform (AEPP) to serve the purpose of coordination of Africa-based initiatives, among which are the African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative (AFR100), African Landscapes Action Plan (ALAP), the Great Green Wall Initiative (GGWI), and the Land Degradation, Biodiversity and Adaptation to Climate Change (LDBA).

Sustainable financing was another hot button topic at COP22, with options for financing land restoration and sustainable environmental management discussed at different forums.

ICRAF Director General Tony Simons said a blended financing mechanism was needed, with governments, development partners, and the private sector coming together to raise the necessary funds. The Livelihoods Funds, as well as the new AAA Initiative launched at the Morocco COP22, are among such private-public sector mechanisms. Already, the Livelihoods Fund is improving the livelihoods of 30,000 farmers through sustainable farming and milk-water-carbon value creation.

Green bonds, also known as climate bonds, the newly launched Tropical Landscapes Finance Facility (TLFF) as well as the Land Degradation Neutrality Fund of the UNCCD, are others, added Simons.

Simons called for greater private-public sector engagement for financing sustainable land management, for mutual benefit. With sustainable financing, land restoration projects will be able to to carry for the many years or even decades it takes to see results.

aster-2-copy-webThe restoration of drylands in Tigray, Ethiopia, for instance, took over two decades.

ICRAF scientist Aster Gebrekirstos described the transformation, which won the 2012 Equator Prize, at a forum of the 4 per 1000 initiative, which aims to increase organic matter content and carbon sequestration in soils, through appropriate farming and forestry practices.

Gebrekirstos stated that it took visionary leadership, sustained, voluntary labour from community members, and technical support from local and international partners. Thanks to the effort, Tigray’s landscapes have been transformed into healthy and highly productive lands, with fresh water, food, and many marketable commodities such as honey.

Staff from World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF)’s Ethiopia Office are providing technical support on the integration of high value tree crops (e.g. avocado) in the restored landscapes of Tigray, as well as in tree nursery establishment and management.

“Permanence of improved practices is key to achieving the gains from higher soil organic carbon,” said Deborah Bossio of The Nature Conservancy, at the session. She mentioned integrated soil fertility management; agroforestry, rangeland management, conservation tillage, agroecology, organic fertilizers, and water management as practices that promote soil carbon storage. Raising soil carbon will mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, raise food production and support mitigate and promote the adaptation of agriculture to climate change.

Speaking at the event, Marc Corbeels of CIRAD said the 4 per 1000 partners estimate that 0.4 –1.2 Gigatonnes of Carbon/yr can be sequestered in croplands around the world. He added that the Corn belt of the US is a main target of the initiative, which has Ohio State Univerity as a partner.

At a session of the Global Landscape Forum 2016 held annually alongside COP22, Peter Minang of ICRAF and James Reed of CIFOR facilitated a session focused on integrated landscape approaches.

Minang said a landscape approach aims to provide food security while building the resilience of a landscape to provide goods and ecosystem services for the long term. A landscape approach also seeks to minimize tradeoffs between water, forestry and agriculture, while promoting synergy and efficiency.

With panelists including UN Drylands Ambassador & ICRAF Senior Fellow Dennis Garrity, the event highlighted the need for coordination, massive scale up of successful pilot projects, and international cooperation.

minang-cop22The panelists also discussed to need for more streamlined landscapes monitoring, given the many tools that exist for the purpose. Garrity shared his excitement about Collect Earth, an open-source tool that enables land data collection through Google Earth. With the tool, farmers and other citizens can become information providers, he said.

“What we need is to package existing climate resilient technologies, practical to each agroecological vulnerability, and scale these up in a massive way,” said Garrity.

The issue of Gender and sustainable land management was raised by many speakers. Wanjira Mathai, co-chair of the Global Restoration Council and chair of the Green Belt Movement, pointed out that rural women are the most affected by land degradation, which results in a scarcity of essentials such as food, water and firewood.

And at a session of the GLF, Felicite Yameogo from Burkina Faso, also known as Mama Karité, said landscape restoration can bring economic benefits for women. Her self-help group, Karikis, processes and markets shea butter from shea trees that are now abundant in Burkina Faso restored drylands.

Bernard Giraud of the Livelihoods Fund; Mamadou Diakhité of NEPAD-AU and the AFR100 Initiative; Thomas Silberhorn, Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development; Margarita Astralaga, Director, Environment and Climate at the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD); H.E. Luis Felipe Arauz Cavallini, Minister of Agriculture, Costa Rica; Craig Hanson of the World Resources Institute, and Stefano Manservisi, Director-General, Directorate General for International Cooperation and Development, European Commission, were among the many that expressed their organizations’ and personal commitments to the global restoration agenda.

“Your Resilience is our resilience,” said Manservisi.

Implementation of the plans and ideas put forward in Morocco is needed to produce the transformation in landscapes, livelihoods and climate resilience the world needs.

Related links:

Bioenergy as a pathway to accomplishing climate goals

World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) participation at COP 22

Global Landscapes Forum (GLF)

Climate smart landscapes: Multifunctionality in practice

Confronting Drought in Africa’s Drylands

Fresh water, the reward of land restoration, flows in Ethiopia’s dry zone


Related events:

Ecosystem Services conference- Africa Chapter, November 21-25 2016, Nairobi, Kenya.

African Soil Seminar supported by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, BMZ, on 28-30 November 2016, at ICRAF headquarters, Nairobi, Kenya

Africa Landscapes Dialogue convened by EcoAgriculture Partners, March 2017, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Global Bamboo and Rattan Congress convened by INBAR, September 2017, Beijing, China.

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Daisy Ouya

Daisy Ouya is a science writer and communications specialist with the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF). Over the past 15 years she has been packaging and disseminating scientific knowledge in the fields of entomology, agriculture, health, HIV/AIDS research, and marine science. Daisy is a Board-certified Editor in the Life Sciences ( and has a Masters’ degree in chemistry from the University of Connecticut, USA. Her BSc is from the University of Nairobi in her native Kenya. She has worked as a journal editor, science writer, publisher, and communications strategist with various organizations. She joined ICRAF in July 2012. Twitter: @daisyouya

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