Research can play a crucial role in combating desertification: Experts

Synergy between scientists, government and farming communities can help reclaim degraded lands

By DTE Staff
Published: Tuesday 03 September 2019
Photo: Getty Images

Research could hold the key for global land restoration effort but there is a need for collaboration among scientists, government and farming communities, said experts at the sidelines of United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification's (UNCCD) 14th Conference of Parties (CoP 14) on September 2, 2019, its inaugural day.

The UNCCD CoP 14 is on in New Delhi until September 13.

The experts cited the example of Africa, where adding research to farmer-led initiatives have contributed to adoptable innovations in Ethiopia’s Amhara region, according to a statement by International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (Icrisat).

These innovations, for example, aided in the development of physical and biological barriers, which controlled extreme events upstream and run-offs downstream. The structures opened new avenues for farming as well as restored degraded lands in the region, said Tilahun Amede, country representative for Ethiopia at Icrisat.

“These systems (innovations) were trialled at scale with local and normally nomadic communities. For the first time, these communities were producing food crops and fodder. A long-standing problem was not only managed but taken advantage of,” Amede said.

In India, development and management of watersheds helped reclaim degraded lands. The Parasai-Sindh watershed in Uttar Pradesh, developed by Icrisat and partners from Indian Council of Agricultural Research (Icar), reportedly helped increase area under cultivation, crop and milk yields and triple farm household incomes in Jhansi.

“Integrated watershed development, involving agroforestry helps to control erosion and enable farmers to achieve food and economic security. It is important in the context of increasing dependence of Indian agriculture on groundwater,” said Kaushal Garg, a natural resources management scientist at Icrisat.

To achieve the UN-mandated sustainable development goals (SDG 15.3) of restoring degraded land and soil by 2030, there is a need for “synergy between scientists, farming communities and their institutions that are the land users and managers”, said Icrisat Director Anthony Whitbread.

“Research can help restoration initiatives to scale-up globally but only if farmers, their livelihoods and communities are at the heart of such initiatives,” he added. The event was organised by Icrisat and World Agroforestry (ICRAF).

The conference also deliberated on donor priority for land restoration, land management strategies in the backdrop of Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) framework, the role of policy and governance in land regeneration and role of nations in a region’s land restoration agenda.

Also read: Private sector must be engaged to restore degraded land

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