At the start of the new academic year, the United Nations Regional Information Centre in Bonn together with UNCCD, hosted a group of graduate students from Côte d’Ivoire, Germany and Kenya to discuss the Convention’s work on combating drought and desertification and the role of science in supporting good land stewardship. Two dozen students who visited UN Bonn are a part of the programme launched by the German Center for Development Research (ZEF) in 2021, together with the Universities of Cologne, Abidjan and Nairobi as part of the new DAAD Global Environment and Climate Center Initiative. The African Climate and Environment Center – Future African Savannas (AFAS), research programme focuses on nature-based solutions for climate change adaptation and biodiversity conservation in African savannas.
Addressing the students, UNCCD Lead Scientist Dr. Barron Joseph Orr stressed the urgency of bringing degraded lands back to health at a time when humanity has already exceeded four of the nine planetary boundaries which define our “safe operating space” – climate change, biodiversity loss, land use change and geochemical cycles, according to the recently published 2nd edition of UNCCD Global Land Outlook.
Integrated land use planning that helps anticipate potential land degradation, navigate trade-offs and deliver on multiple Sustainable Development Goals is at the core of the Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) concept. Developed by the UNCCD Science-Policy Interface (SPI), it provides a strong scientific foundation that supports UNCCD Parties’ work in land restoration. UNCCD Knowledge Management Officer Mr. Jeroen van Dalen explained the structure of the SPI that brings together scientists from various regions, policy makers, practitioners and civil society leaders to research a specific topic such as LDN and provide informed policy recommendations for the country Parties of the convention.
Some of the visiting students who come from farming communities in Africa have witnessed firsthand the devastating effects of drought and land degradation on the rangelands and their inhabitants. Many questions from the students have been focused on UNCCD support for land restoration initiatives that benefit local communities.
The students also wanted to know how youth can be engaged in UNCCD’s work. The UNCCD Communications Chief Ms. Xenya Scanlon highlighted the Convention’s work with Land Heroes and other young activists, as well as youth-led civil society organizations, inviting the students to get involved in the UNCCD Youth Caucus.