Building on indigenous knowledge passed on for generations, dryland communities have sustainably managed the world’s arid landscapes for centuries on their own. But, today, the combined pressures of climate change, population growth, and increasing demand for livestock are threatening their very lives and livelihoods.
On the final day of the Global Landscapes Forum – GLF Africa – conference, the Dryland Sustainable Landscapes Programme was launched.
With a goal to accelerate extensive, lasting solutions across dryland communities, the programme will be implemented in 11 countries with three geographical clusters to avoid, reduce, and reverse further degradation, desertification, and deforestation of land and ecosystems in drylands. The programme is led by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization – FAO and supported by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) in partnership with the World Bank.
FAO deputy director on climate and natural resources Maria Helena Semedo, said the program “will focus on promoting and protecting the biodiversity and natural resources to enhance people’s livelihoods.”
Dryland ecosystems cover approximately 43 percent of Africa’s landmass, and are home to about half a billion people heavily dependent on land for their livelihood and food through agricultural activities.
According to GEFs’ director of programs Gustavo Fonseca, the importance of these lands cannot be over emphasized. “They maintain soil fertility and moisture which can support agricultural growth and reduce the risk of drought and other environmental hazards,” he said.
Zambia and Malawi, are among the 11 African countries to benefit from this project.
Chairperson for the Zambia National Forest Commodity Association, Frank Musukwa, highlighted charcoal burning perpetuated by poverty and unemployment as one of the biggest threats to the country’s already volatile ecosystems.
Similar challenges are faced in Malawi. Minister for Environment and Natural Resources, Nancy Tembo, said increased charcoal burning and encroachment of forest reserves for farming and timber are key drivers of deforestation in the country.
She said her ministry is coming up with different solutions including scaling up sustainable sources of energy to reduce the pressure on the forest reserves.
Investments in ecosystem restoration have enormous benefits for people and the planet. Planting and restoring forests is key to increasing ecological resilience and productivity.