Integrated approaches for multifunctional landscapes

Opening the IUCN/ICRAF event ‘Integrated approaches for multifunctional landscapes: connecting LDN, biodiversity and climate change’ at the recent UNCCD summit, Ms Barbut laid out in stark terms the challenge of meeting the world’s growing demand for food. As economies and populations grow, land degradation and growing competition for land threatens to multiply this challenge. At the same time, the global community has committed itself to meeting environmental targets including achieving land degradation neutrality (LDN), safeguarding biodiversity and mitigating climate change, and developing countries in particular are struggling with the added burdens this requires.

“By 2050, we will need to add the agricultural production of 120 million hectares of land – an area twice the size of France – just to support business as usual” – Monique Barbut, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), during the IUCN/ICRAF event. Photo: IISD/ENB | Francis Dejon

Yet many of the speakers at the event, including Ms Barbut, also emphasized that working on multiple issues could have positive effects. IUCN’s Jonathan Davies argued that because tools such as integrated land use planning and sustainable land management treat land as a multifunctional asset, they can “provide multiple benefits from the same piece of land at the same time”. According to Graciela Metternicht, of UNSW Sydney, this means that such approaches can fulfil the aims of different multilateral environmental agreements at the same time, including the three Rio conventions: UNFCCC (climate), UNCCD (desertification) and UNCBD (biodiversity). For example, Ms Barbut noted that “if we were to restore just 12% of all degraded agricultural land, we would boost smallholder income by USD 35-40 billion a year, feeding 200 million people per year within the next 14 years. We would also close 25% of the carbon mitigation gap”.

For ICRAF’s Ermias Betemariam, whether we focus on climate change, desertification, agricultural productivity or biodiversity, “the key is functionality” – meaning that solutions such as agroforestry-based restoration are needed to support the land’s ability to sustainably provide multiple ecosystem services. Because these functions are interdependent, it makes sense for researchers, government agencies and

Ermias Betemariam, ICRAF.

other bodies to share information and collaborate on common goals, which can lead to reduced costs and improved knowledge-sharing. Dr Betemariam also emphasized the need to invest in supporting the capacity of developing countries to monitor and report their LDN activities.

Participants at the event also heard from speakers from South Africa, China and Mexico. Lehman Lindeque of UNDP described South Africa’s efforts to involve all stakeholders in building a consensus around LDN. Turning to Mexico, Jorge Luis Garcia of the National Forestry Commission of Mexico stressed the importance of connecting national development programs and international commitments like LDN. Zhang Kebin of Beijing Forestry University focused on how China was spurred into taking action on environmental issues, including desertification, by a series of catastrophic floods and dust storms. As a result, the aim of building an ‘Ecological Civilization’ is now part of the official ‘Chinese Dream’.

Group photo, L-R: Jorge Luis Garcia, CONAFOR; Lehman Lindeque, UNDP; Graciela Metternicht, UNSW Sydney; Ermias Betemariam, ICRAF; Annette Cowie, GEF; Jonathan Davies, IUCN; Zhang Kebin, Beijing Forestry University. Photo: IUCN/BRICKS Project

Despite differences in their countries’ experiences of desertification and land degradation, a common theme emerged: that synergies between different approaches to land degradation could only be fully realized if they first took into account local contexts and capacities. Dialogue between governments and international agencies is vital, but in the words of Annette Cowie of the Global Environment Facility, we need to “start at the local level to produce a shared vision for transformational change”.

[This is part one in a series of blogs reporting on ICRAF’s activities at UNCCD COP13, which took place in Ordos, China, from 6 to 16 September 2017. For more on ICRAF at UNCCD COP13, visit:].'

Andrew Stevenson

Andrew Stevenson is the East and Central Asia office’s communications specialist. He has previously worked in Switzerland, Nepal and the UK with the UN and various NGOs on international trade, intellectual property and sustainable development. He holds an MSc in Environment and Development from the University of East Anglia, UK.

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