Climate change resilience in dryland agro-ecosystems

Session number 6 Room: Al Areen Ballroom 3-4

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Key Messages

  • Drylands have unique biophysical and socio-economic characteristics. They are fragile ecosystems, inhabited by 2.5 billion people, including 400 million who survive on less than US$1 per day. There is a rapidly growing population, high urbanization, a heavily youth-skewed age distribution and the world’s highest unemployment rate. These factors and the breakdown of social systems leading to natural resource use make drylands particularly conflict prone.
  • With a third of the population dependent on agriculture for food security and livelihoods, poverty, hunger, drought, and environmental degradation are both widespread and intertwined. According to FAO, 70% of the increased food production will come from intensification and 20% from cropping intensity. But with 70% of the food production provided by small-scale farmers which have weak institutions, organization aspects matter.
  • Climate change will only exacerbate these problems and has already made countries not typically affected by desertification to become vulnerable. Going beyond the threshold of a 4 degree Celsius temperature rise will make coping and managing food security nearly impossible, particularly for the drylands.  The convergence of interests on land restoration and enhanced adaptation/mitigation since Rio+20 is a window of opportunity to foster synergy where potential exists, align policy and catalyze climate finance for land restoration in the drylands. Converting degraded areas into productive agricultural land is sensible for many ecosystem services, including enhanced food security and livelihoods, and adaption to and mitigation of climate change.
  • Systems-oriented research can help reduce the vulnerability of dryland communities to drought, desertification and climate change while moving to a land-degradation neutral world.  It would help improve productive capacity of natural resources and reduce environmental degradation to meet the competing needs of global food security, sufficient water resources, and improved quality of life. Addressing food security and improving livelihoods through systems-oriented research that incorporates the biophysical and socioeconomic sciences is essential.
  • The institutional question matters. On the global level, land-degradation neutrality – avoiding degrading new land and focusing on restoring already degraded land – will require target setting. There is need for an international understanding on sustainable land use practices and who has the right to use the soil. Alliances and cooperation will be needed on soils, food insecure countries. On the domestic level, land tenure and governance and organization of small-scale farmers matter.

Session summary

The Round-Table focused on six questions:
What are the options and challenges that drylands in different countries or regions face in monitoring and assessing their progress towards reduced vulnerability and sustainable intensification of agro-ecological systems, including land-degradation neutrality? What institutional mechanisms are needed to support the needed transition? How can affected communities build climate resilience into food security and livelihoods? Is the elaboration of research and development goals feasible? How can we move towards target-setting? What is feasible and what are the implications?

Discussion was framed around the vulnerability of the drylands countries due to various natural and social challenges, presented initiatives focused on food, water and energy security, and the obstacles to realizing global food production. Presenters underscored: the importance of sustainable land management which addresses several of these challenges; formation of new alliances and initiatives to deal with growing challenge of food insecurity and soil loss; intensification and diversification of production to meet future global food security; the need for an international goal and target to achieve towards land-degradation neutrality; that soil is not simply domestic as it is imported; and that governance plays a crucial role in land use.

The Round-Table elicited several questions. How can we enhance food security and improve livelihoods in a sustainable manner – producing more with less, taking into consideration the social, economic and environmental dimensions? What is the link between drylands vulnerability and conflict? In addressing food, water and energy security, is the focus on increasing own production dimension or supporting the countries from which the products are sourced? What is the scalable action needed? What positive examples exist? How cooperative are governments in address resource-based conflicts? Of what value is the new Great Green Wall for the Sahara and Sahel Initiative? Where will the new land for food production come from? How can we show politicians that soil matters?

The speakers highlighted actions needed at national and global levels. They ranged from the production to institutional, consumption and investment questions to the practical issues of implementation, such as participation, focusing on women and supporting existing initiatives over creating new ones. Attention should go beyond production, to include access, technology, governance, and the consumption models pursued.

The concrete proposals made are: to scale up the initiatives that are working; to agree on specific targets to address desertification; finding optimum solutions in agriculture; applying a systems approach to address the challenges; and fostering land degradation neutral world by putting a specific goal and target to achieve it; intensification and diversification of production systems (including management of inputs); supporting innovators over initiating new mechanisms; enhance and broaden the knowledge bases of farmers; aim to reap mutual benefits including increased production and income; and enhance cooperation.

Organisers

Related links

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Dryland farming can be green, even as climate changes

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More session information ↓

Brief synopsis of the issue
Productive land and fertile soils have become a strategic, but increasingly scarce, global asset for which no global governance or regulatory mechanisms exist to date. Land degradation is accelerating the loss of topsoil and impeding our abilities to meet water and food demand and tackle climate change.

The rates of soil degradation are especially worrying in the drylands, areas highly vulnerable to degradation due to aridity and water scarcity. Dry areas cover more than 40 percent of the world’s land area and are home to 2.5 billion people or more than one-third of the global population. Of these, one third depends on dryland agro-ecosystems for food security and livelihoods. Investment in dryland systems agricultural research for development, therefore, is more urgent than ever.

In many dryland developing countries, there is little in the way of safety nets to manage risk in the event of system shocks such as drought, price rise, or pestilence. Livelihood goals of dryland farmers therefore tend more towards food security, stability, and risk avoidance. Especially for poor small landholders, an integrated systems approach is important to managing risk or increasing resilience.

At the Rio+20 Conference in June, world leaders agreed to strive to achieve a land-degradation neutral world. It’s time for a renewed commitment to mobilize the collective action needed at a global level to translate this vision into reality. This round-table session will take the debate further from the perspectives of dryland agro-ecosystems towards increasing food security and improving livelihoods with the following focus:

  1. Ways to advance the post-Rio+20 agenda on achieving a land-degradation neutral world in a rapidly evolving climate-change scenario;
  2. Sharing examples of on-the-ground initiatives and research programs to increase local small landholders resilience to biophysical and socioeconomic shocks;
  3. Sustainable intensification and risk management in production systems to reduce food insecurity and generate more income;
  4. Discuss institutional change to move the global community towards more resilient land use systems;
  5. Providing insights and ideas for action to advance work under the Durban Platform to enhance climate resilience and land-stewardship.

Agenda for this session:

  • Introduction by moderator: Prof. William Payne, Director, CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems
  • Brief presentations by panelists
    • Ms. Mary Barton Dock, Director, Climate Policy and Finance, World Bank
    • Dr. Jae K. Lee, Head of Technical Unit, Global Dry Land Alliance Qatar National Food Security Programme, Doha, Qata

    A very brief reflection of the presentations by a discussant from DryNet

  • Q&A session including participation from web-cast audience
  • Brief presentations by panelists
    • Mr. Luc Gnacadja, Executive Secretary, UNCCD
    • Dr. Mahmoud Solh, Director-General, ICARDA

    A very brief reflection of the presentations by a discussant from the floor: Dr. Yong-Kwon Lee, Director of international cooperation, Korea Forest Service

  • Q&A session including participation from web-cast audience
  • Brief presentations by panelists
    • Mr. Jochen Flasbarth, President, German Federal Environment Agency
    • Dr. Jes Weigelt, Scientific Advisor on Soils, Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies
  • A very brief reflection of the presentations by a discussant from the floor (DryNet)
  • Q&A session, including participation from web-cast audience
  • Wrap up and summary of key points by moderator: Prof. William Payne, Director, CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems

Questions to be Addressed

  1. What are the options and challenges that drylands in different countries or regions face in monitoring and assessing their progress towards reduced vulnerability and sustainable intensification of agro-ecological systems, including land-degradation neutrality?
  2. What institutional mechanisms are needed to support the needed transition?
  3. How can affected communities build climate resilience into food security and livelihoods?
  4. Is the elaboration of research and development goals feasible?
  5. How can we move towards target-setting?
  6. What is feasible and what are the implications?