Dryland Ecosystems at a Glance
Drylands – comprising deserts, grasslands, and woodlands – cover about 41% of Earth’s land surface and are inhabited by more than 2 billion people (about one-third of the world’s population). Many of these dryland areas face severe land degradation, in which marginal areas are turned into wastelands and natural ecosystems are altered through destruction of surface vegetation, poor management of water resources, inappropriate land use practices, overuse of fertilizers and biocides, and disposal of domestic and industrial wastes. As a result, dryland populations on average lag far behind the rest of the world on human well-being and development indicators. In the absence of any remedial measures, the situation is likely to get worse over time due to population increase, land cover change, and global climate change.
UNU-INWEH’s programme on drylands assists developing countries in dryland areas to better manage their land resources and to achieve sustainable use of their water and biodiversity resources. This is done through capacity development at various scales, ranging from community-based efforts to national training initiatives. The capacity building efforts are closely interlinked to knowledge management to support national policy development, particularly in relation to poverty-reduction strategies and better integrated natural resource management.
Ensuring Impacts from SLM (KM:Land) (2007-2011)
Traditional Water Management Technologies (2001-2005)
News & Events
Safe and Productive Use of Wastewater in Agriculture
Final Wrap-Up Workshop: June 2013
UNU-UNWEH is a member of an alliance of seven UN-Water members and partners on an initiative aimed at capacity development in the safe and productive use of wastewater in agriculture. The first phase of the project is heading towards completion with the wrap-up workshop scheduled for June.
2nd UNCCD Scientific Conference in Bonn, Germany:
Economic assessment of desertification, sustainable land management and resilience of, arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas
From left to right: Dr. Richard Thomas, Mark Schauer (ELD Secretariat), Makiko Yashiro (UNEP), Ephraim Nkonya (IFPRI), Simone Quatrini (Global Mechanism of the UNCCD and OSLO Consortium), Sarah Odera (ELD Secretariat), Stacey Noel (Stockholm Environment Institute Africa Centre), Dr. Emma Quillérou
The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) recently held their 2nd Scientific Conference in Bonn, Germany, focusing on the ‘Economic assessment of desertification, sustainable land management and resilience of arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas’. UNU-INWEH was ardently represented by both Dr. Richard Thomas and Dr. Emmanuelle Quillérou, who engaged in a variety of activities that linked the work of UNU-INWEH and the Drylands Programme to the UNCCD, as well as their role as scientific coordinators of the Economics of Land Degradation (ELD) initiative.
Prior to the conference itself, both Dr. Thomas and Dr. Quillérou met with the ELD scientific coordination team on April 9th. This face-to-face meeting led to important discussions and agreements about future studies and outcomes, the working groups, and the progress of the ELD initiative program.
The UNCCD conference commenced on April 9th and continued until the 12th. Dr. Thomas gave a plenary talk on the ‘Analysis of decision-making for sustainable land management’ as part of a discussion on the cost and benefits of policies and practices addressing land degradation and drought in the drylands. He focused on the need for locally appropriate, robust, and low cost methodologies, the consideration of land-use decisions outside of economic factors, and reversing the ‘investment deserts’ of degraded lands. Dr. Thomas also participated as a panelist in both ‘Scaling up Sustainable Land Management (SLM): what is the missing link?’, where he emphasized the need for investments in SLM, and ‘Tackling key challenges in the economic assessment of desertification, SLM, and resilience of arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas’, where he represented the trans-disciplinary research activities of the DesertNet International working group on economics, which UNU-INWEH leads.
Jointly, Dr. Thomas and Dr. Quillérou contributed to the organisation of the workshop ‘ELD Initiative – bridging the science-policy-practice divide’. With other members of the ELD Secretariat and working groups leaders Stacey Noel (Stockholm Environment Institute Africa centre) and Makiko Yashiro (United Nations Environment Programme - representing Pushpam Kumar), the approach and methods considered by the ELD initiative were presented, discussed, and explored in this pivotal, well-attended workshop. They were additionally joined by Ephraim Nkonya of IFPRI (International Food Policy Research Institute) and Simone Quatrini (Global Mechanism of the UNCCD and OSLO [Offering Sustainable Land Use Options] Consortium) for a panel session. This discussion focused on the need for harmonisation of approaches between initiatives and for building up from previous initiatives like TEEB (The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity), estimations of cultural values in order to compare benefits to observable costs of setting up protected areas, strategies to reach out to the private sector, and the need for representative case studies.
Dr. Quillérou gave a highly informative presentation based on the paper ‘Costs of land degradation and benefits of land restoration: A review of valuation methods and their application’ (Quillérou and Thomas 2012). Stimulating questions were answered on the estimation of cultural value in practice, and the need to estimate cost-benefits of land degradation and SLM versus a partial cost-benefit analysis. Over 60 copies of the paper were distributed by the end of the conference.
Tangentially, a variety of collaborative side meetings were attended by either or both Dr. Thomas and Dr Quillérou, including with OSLO, AGSA (Ad hoc working Group on Scientific Advice), GEF, (Global Environment Facility), and with CIAT (International Centre for Tropical Agriculture) /WOCAT (World Overview of Conservation Approaches and Technologies).
With over 800 participants in the conference, UNU-INWEH received excellent exposure thanks to the collaborative efforts and scientific expertise of Dr. Thomas and Dr. Quillérou, while connecting with a large number of international scientists, policy-makers, country officials, and representatives of civil society. All presentations and plenaries can be found on the UNCCD website.
ELD also launched the innovative short film 'The Value of Soil' which can be seen here:
UNCCD Global Mechanism Capacity Building Workshop (Rwanda)
Emma has recently been invited on behalf of UNU-INWEH as a speaker to the OSLO Capacity Building Workshop for East Africa organized by the Global Mechanism of the UNCCD and the UN East African Commission for land valuers from East African countries. This is an activity related to UNU-INWEH’s involvement into the OSLO Consortium and the ELD initiative.
UNU-INWEH was responsible for leading one of the working group sessions and for presenting a summary of the benefits land valuation can bring along with guidance from experience. The workshop seems to have been proficient with participants identifying potential improvements to their national legal systems, and realizing that conservation can help development by providing options to diversify livelihoods.
Blog posts by Invited speakers are available on the workshop website, including UNU-INWEH's "Natural Capital Valuation: A Perspective from the African Context".
Rwanda was a very good choice of host country for such discussions: Mountain Gorillas constitute one of the main eco-tourism interests in the Rwandan Parc National des Volcans, with established economic activities depending on their successful conservation.
ELD initiative and Australia
With the help of a 4-week visiting fellowship award from the University of Queensland’s Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions, INWEH staff member Dr. Emmanuelle Quillérou has established a number of linkages and contacts with Australian environmental economists. The Australian experience on valuing land that is subjected to severe environmental pressures such as drought and salinization is an important addition to global study on the Economics of Land Degradation (www.eld-initiative.org) that INWEH is helping to coordinate. Visits included the University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australian National University, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences in Canberra and the University of Western Australia and Society for Ecological Restoration, Australasian Chapter in Perth. Several Australian scientists expressed interest to become involved in the ELD initiative and it is expected that some will attend the 2nd scientific conference to be held at the European Commission in Brussels October 1-2, 2012.
Valuing land – an overdue study
With increasing pressure on land from competition for food and biofuel production, increasing loss of productive potential from creeping degradation and more recently, acquisition of land via foreign investments to secure food security, there is an urgent need to put values on land. Land can be given monetary and non-monetary values but until now studies have been sporadic, unrelated and difficult to compare.
Following several recommendations including a position paper submitted by INWEH and other collaborators in 2009, a new initiative has been launched to address the gaps in information and to make progress towards a harmonized approach and tools that can be quickly used by national institutions and ministries with responsibility for land. The Economics of Land Degradation initiative supported by the European Commission and the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) amongst others, held its first scientific coordination meeting in the London School of Economics March 29-30, 2012.
Chaired by UNU-INWEH the meeting identified an operational structure for the initiative, established working groups to tackle priority areas including data and analyses, methodologies, options and pathways for policy outreach. Emphasis will be given to the economic valuation of sustainable land management options stressing the positive aspects instead of the well-worn rhetoric of the costs of land degradation. In line with the recent UN publication on Global Drylands (www.unemg.org), the aim is to identify win-win areas for investment in land care and to provide countries with a means to value their land assets for improved planning and more informed land use negotiations.
More information can also be found on UNCCD's Global Mechanism page, 'The Value of Land'.