Environment Conventions and agreements

Posted December 1999

Food And Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Report of the Food And Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) for the Third Conference of Parties of the Convention to Combat Desertification (CCD)

Recife, Brazil
16-29 November 1999
Reported by Dominique Lantieri, FAO Environment and Natural Resources Service

1. Background

FAO has been active for decades in the fight against desertification by monitoring and normative programmes as well as field projects. Activities related to preserving fragile ecosystems in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid regions range from technical assistance to policy advice, including water management, soil conservation, integrated management of rangelands and animal production, management of trees and forests resources, reforestation, agroforestry, sand dune reclamation, control of salinization of irrigated lands, promotion of sustainable energy sources and food security. The description of the degradation process, as well as the range of techniques implemented to combat desertification, have already been summarised in the FAO paper presented at the COP 2 and therefore will not be repeated here. One could only remind that rehabilitation of degraded lands is essentially a long-term development, requiring the creation of a framework of policies and institutions that ensure the agreement and participation of pastoralists, farmers, foresters and other land users, to correct the management deficiencies that have led to resource degradation. Measures for combating desertification should be based on detailed knowledge of natural and cultivated ecosystems, particularly their dynamic features and the interaction between physical and socio-economic factors.

Of prime importance isparticipation of the local people, reinforcing their control over resources and guaranteeing them access to ensure their long-term commitment. Desertification control programmes must be integrated into national development plans, eliminate institutional, legislative or infrastructure constraints and facilitate co-management of development projects and collective community decisions.

Traditional knowledge and experience should be carefully studied and promoted where it is shown to protect and improve local land, but certain damaging practices, resorted to by local societies as means of survival during stress periods, should be replaced by alternative non-destructive solutions; for instance technologies that help relax pressure on threatened resources (such as replacing woody plants as fuel by fossil or solar energy). A variety of technological models and decision-making tools should be provided to cope with diverse local peculiarities.

Priorities should be set to ensure that short-term economic benefit is not given priority over long term sustainability, while acknowledging that conditions that favour enhanced production are also likely to favour resource conservation. Tackling reversible damage to remaining resources usually merits priority action, but all development action, to be sustainable, must offer long term benefits.

2. FAO strategy and programme elements contributing to combating desertification

FAO’s strategic priority is food security. The World Food Summit, convened under the auspices of FAO in Rome in 1996, issued the Rome Declaration on World Food Security (WFS) asserting that poverty was the major cause of food insecurity and stressing the need to increase food production within the framework of sustainable management of natural resources. FAO recognizes that an essential element for food security is the conservation and sustainable management of the natural resources, essential to food production. Sustainable agricultural and rural development (SARD) in drylands implies combating desertification.

This dual concern for food security and the conservation of resources is reflected in the FAO Strategic Framework, which includes a chapter on the conservation, rehabilitation and development of fragile ecosystems with a specific mention of the support to the environmental conventions including the UNCCD.

The Special Programme on Food Security (SPFS) is a major FAO initiative which aims at promoting national action plans to combat hunger and which gives emphasis to actions at local level. A special effort has been made by this programme in 15 countries affected by drought and desertification, recognising that conservation and rehabilitation of natural resources is of tremendous importance for food security in dryland areas, home to some of the world’s poorest peoples. The SPFS is encouraging a number of actions of direct relevance to the CCD, such as water control, soil protection and rehabilitation, diversification of farming techniques, constraint analysis and resolution.

In the field of forestry development, including biodiversity conservation, many countries affected by desertification launched national planning/programming processes with the support of FAO,. In several countries these national forest programmes are implemented with the support of the international donor community, mobilizing financial national and external resources for programmes and projects which are relevant ot the CCD such as forest resources conservation and management, agroforestry, watershed management, reforestation and afforestation, community forestry, extension and public awareness.

More recently, FAO organized an international Conference on a new concept of Multifunctional Character of Agriculture and Land (MFCAL). This Conference was an occasion to provide considerable technical expertise and reflection on the new trends of environmental, social, institutional and food security aspects of agriculture, all very relevant to combat desertification. A specific study was undertaken within this framework on drylands and desertification, which will be presented and discussed during the COP 3.

In addition to these priority programmes closely linked to the CCD, FAO has been concerned with the development of drylands. The keynote paper for the 1987 meeting of COAG (Committee on Agriculture) formed the basis of an FAO strategy for the sustainable development of drylands. The Earth Summit (UNCED 1992) also focused attention on the same process, assigning a specific programme area of Agenda 21 to combating desertification and drought, as well as giving impetus to a range of related activities that must be taken into consideration during any programming exercise concerned with dryland development. FAO (1993) presented an important contribution to the resolution of dryland problems by defining the principal elements of a strategy for sustainable dryland development. Its aim is to increase the productivity of both cropland and rangeland, while alleviating poverty and arresting or reversing processes of land degradation in dryland areas. This focus on increasing productivity, decreasing poverty and maintaining natural resources is a direct reflection of the principles embodied in Chapter 14 of Agenda 21 for which FAO is task manager.

Finally, FAO decided to provide a special support to the UNCCD process by establishing an ad hoc interdepartmental working group on desertification in order to facilitate the coordination of the relevant FAO programmes and internal mechanisms in the area of dryland development, desertification control and drought mitigation and to provide specific support to the programmes launched through the UNCCD.

3. FAO normative activities to combat desertification

3. 1. Support through the FAO interdepartmental working group

The ad hoc interdepartmental working group (CCD IWG) comprises representatives of 15 technical services which have activities with a direct link to the sustainable development of drylands. Among the key players of the IWG are the Divisions of Research, Extension and Training; Forest Resources; Land and Water Development; and Plant Production and Protection, Animal Production. The main activities that were implemented within the framework of the IWG are described below.

The IWG provides a forum for exchange of information and discussion of views among the FAO Divisions and Services in Headquarters. It also liaises with the seven Regional and Subregional Offices of FAO and with the FAO Representatives in dryland countries. In its facilitating role, the IWG promotes the compilation of data and information provided by all the Services of FAO and, in turn, disseminates information on matters of relevance to the Convention and to desertification in general. It has also been instrumental in organizing the representation of FAO at CCD meetings and organizing partnership with other CCD bodies and international institutions.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) has been signed between FAO and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), with the objective of promoting collaboration in assisting countries in the implementation of CCD. Some negotiations are also under development with the Global Mechanism to support the FAO CCD programme.

Other institutional arrangements outside FAO include a MOU between FAO and the Ministry of the Environment of the Italian Republic. It includes the implementation of a FAO/Italy working group and the installation of two Italian offices on desertification in FAO.

The Latin America Sub-regional Office of FAO has also signed a MOU with UNEP to be part of the Consortium of Partners approved by the COP-1 for the survey and evaluation of existing networks, institutions, agencies and other bodies.

Finally, FAO has signed a Memorandum of Co-operation (MOC) with the Executive Secretariat of the CCD at the last COP-2, and which comprises an agreed work programme (more detailed in para 5. 2).

3. 2. Normative activities related to desertification

A number of FAO’s activities are specifically aimed at understanding and controlling degradation of the environment and can be applied to combating desertification. The following account summarizes some recent activities with special significance for the CCD. Within FAO, the activities are carried out by staff organized by subject matter (forestry, irrigation, nutrition, etc. ). They are grouped here according to cross-sectorial categories of activities, which show the integration of the different topics in the desertification process.

3. 2. 1. Best practices and recommended methods and policies

The development and dissemination of technical guidelines and training courses is a major feature of FAO's programme. Many are world standards. The range covers the whole gamut of requirements for rural development.

A number of technical guidelines and reports have already been produced or are under preparation by the various FAO technical services. They are available from FAO distribution and sales section and cover all subjects such as soil conservation, irrigation, pasture and livestock management, forest conservation, sand dune fixation, etc. More than 100 of these publications are now accessible on the CD-ROM distributed at COP-2 and 3 and much more is available on the new FAO Web site on desertification.

In addition, as part of the contribution to the CCD, some specific publications of immediate value to the implementation of the CCD were recently produced such as:

3. 2. 2. Information systems

FAO maintains an incomparable range of information systems and databases which are constantly developed and upgraded. They are made available to developing countries, international agencies and NGOs using them as a basis for well-designed programmes to combat desertification. Details of the main relevant ones may be seen on the Internet FAO home page, but a brief indication of the scope of such programmes is given below:

As a contribution to the CCD, FAO is proposing to play a facilitating role by offering its data bases and expertise in information systems on both natural sciences and sustainable development. To begin, FAO made a compilation of existing statistical data related to desertification and aggregated at national level.

FAO also participated in the preparation of the general recommendations from the CST and the ad hoc working group on benchmarks and indicators (finalized in Geneva in September 1998) which emphasized the need to implement adequate, well defined, information systems, with clear maintenance and monitoring responsibilities, at national levels.

Finally, at the request of the UNCCD Secretariat, FAO has been leading the preparation of the design of an "Overall assessment of desertification" (OAD) at a one to two million scale, which would aim to provide at global, regional and national level a reliable assessment of the level of desertification occurring in countries and of its possible trends in the near future. This preliminary design involved extensive discussions with several institutions. Before it can be proposed to member countries signatories of the CCD, the OAD design is still to be validated through an expert consultation to be organised by the UNCCD Secretariat and through a pilot programme in 2 or 3 countries. The OAD is also meant to provide a homogenised information base which could be very useful to the NAP teams.

3. 2. 3. Networks

FAO has established or participated in the monitoring of international networks for the exchange of ideas and proven technology. Examples are: ASOCON (Asia Soil Conservation Network), which is now an independent training and information exchange collaboration between more than 60 national institutes in 7 countries; WOCAT (World Overview of Conservation Approaches and Technologies) which has compiled a database and updated land degradation and rehabilitation maps of more than 200 reported successful soil and water conservation techniques and institutional implementation approaches from almost 30 countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia and the Pacific (recognising that conservation advice is more easily adopted if it has already been tested and shown to be effective); the soils networks for East and West Africa, now being superseded by the African soil science society; and forestry networks such as Silva Mediterranea, comprising 26 countries and the European Union, which has been proposed as a framework for combating desertification in the Mediterranean countries through its six research networks. More recently FAO offered to support the three thematic networks launched by the UNCCD Secretariat in Asia. These are the networks on desertification assessment and monitoring (TPN1), on Agro Forestry and Soil Conservation (TPN2). and on Range management and Sand Dune Fixation (TPN3).

3. 2. 4. Action programmes

FAO technical divisions and Investment Centre provide assistance to governments and departments in formulating action programmes, policies and plans. The framework of several of these plans was initiated and developed at international level by FAO. Examples are the Special Programme for food security, the national forest programmes the soil and water national strategies, water resources master plans, etc.

3. 2. 5. Awareness activities

FAO maintains a wide range of activities aimed at promoting awareness of potential problems and opportunities and disseminating information on what is available from FAO to deal with them successfully. They provide simplified accounts suitable for various audiences: the general public, the media, technicians and policy makers. They include technical publications, pamphlets, brochures, booklets, position papers, posters, photographs, videos, films, CDs, Internet pages and also interactive activities such as press releases, seminars, television appearances (notably Telefood in 1997 and 1998), provision of technical advice to the media and the public, group visits and a range of information both direct to enquirers and via Internet.

Some of the principal awareness publications related to desertification are as follows: the position paper "Sustainable development of drylands and combating desertification" (1993) which details FAO's experience and policies; "Land, food and people" describing potential population supporting capacities; "Protect and produce" describing soil erosion and conservation; "How good the earth" describing the land resources; and "Cherish the earth" outlining the modern approach to land management.

4. FAO field activities related to desertification

Hundreds of FAO field projects have, over the past years, contributed to the battle against degradation of land, water and vegetation and loss of productive capacity. In 1999, some 100 FAO on-going field projects have a direct relationship to the assessment and control of desertification. They cover a very wide range of activities such as erosion control, improvement of water, forest and pasture management, local rural development through extension and participative approach programmes, assistance for the implementation of national information systems and statistics, formulation of investment projects. Emphasis is on Africa, but work is in progress worldwide.

The FAO Investment Centre has formulated numerous investment projects for international and regional banks (more than 40 in the last ten years), with elements of desertification control mainly within agricultural development programmes. The emphasis has been on soil conservation, dune stabilization and forestry and agroforestry, but some include livestock management and desertification control.

The underlying theme of much of FAO’s field programme is to strengthen countries’ capacities for the sustainable management of natural resources and the fight against desertification. Short accounts of activities are given below by region, including those directly in support of CCD.

4. 1. Desertification-related activities in Inter-regional projects

Inter-regional activities can be illustrated by the Inter-regional Project for Participatory Upland Conservation and Development in Bolivia, Burundi, Nepal, Pakistan, Tunisia, carried out by FAO and financed by Italy. This project promotes people’s participation in the integrated conservation and development of upland catchments. Rural populations in selected watersheds were involved in planning and implementation of improved land husbandry, natural resource management and community organization geared to fragile upland areas, and training (study-tours, courses, workshops and farmers’ field days). The second phase consolidates the participatory process in selected sub-watersheds and in governmental rural development policies.

4. 2. Desertification-related activities in the Near East and North Africa

The Arab region’s share of the FAO field programme in 1999 consisted of almost 100 projects and programmes, including regional (inter-country) projects in 15 countries, of which a third are nationally executed. Of the numerous activities and projects related to combating desertification implemented with FAO expertise and assistance and various sources of finance, particular importance in this context is placed on activities related to land and water management and sand dune stabilisation, integrated management of rangelands and other natural resources and management of wood resources and reforestation.

Land and water management and sand dune stabilization comprise a whole range of projects, notably: integrating watershed management, rehabilitation of degraded land, soil conservation, agro-ecological studies, and natural resource assessment. Of special note are the regional "Dune stabilisation and afforestation" project which covered eight countries having serious sand-encroachment caused by harsh climate and misguided use of natural resources. The project "Lutte contre l’ensablement des palmeraies dans le Sud Marocain" was implemented to define the most efficient and adaptable strategy to fight against dune-movement and desertification affecting southern Morocco.

Integrated management of rangelands and other natural resources. FAO and UNEP developed the international Cooperative Programme on the Ecological Management of Arid and Semi-Arid Rangelands (EMASAR), a demonstration programme that supported the training of technicians and development of water-use techniques and agriculture-range-livestock systems. Among the projects implemented were the Regional Rangeland Management Project, which is the combined effort of six governments to protect their pastoral heritage, the Regional Arid Lands Pasture Development Project, covering four North African countries which assisted production of seed and planting material for regeneration and two national projects in Tunisia for the design of plans for natural resources and for co-ordination of everyone concerned with water and soil conservation.

Management of wood resources and reforestationhas includednumerous FAO field projects implementing the management and use of existing wood resources, the creation of new wood resources and products by individual or communal reforestation, the promotion of trees in rural lifestyles, the use of trees in agroforestry and in combating wind and water erosion and the introduction of energy substitutes. Some examples of such projects are Forestry Development in Sudan, Restocking of Gum Belt for Desertification Control in Darfur State, Advisory Assistance in Agricultural Development, for integrating trees in cropland; Forestry and Range Development and Strengthening Forest and Range Management, for enhancement of forest and rangeland productivity. The list is not exhaustive, but illustrates some of many FAO activities in desertification control.

FAO has also made a direct technical contribution to several CCD meetings and workshops that have been organized, for example, in Marrakech on information systems and in Tunis on energy.

4. 3. Desertification related activities in sub-Saharan Africa

Almost all the countries of Africa with drylands or desertification have had projects and assistance in controlling and reversing degradation of the soils or vegetation. In 1999 there are more than 60 national or regional projects.

Countries where FAO was involved in activities specifically related to the combat of desertification are Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cote d’ Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Kenya, Mali, Mozambique, Senegal, Sudan, The Gambia, Tunisia, Uganda. These activities vary according to countries from a direct support to a NAP (e. g. : Mali, Burkina Faso, Uganda) to the implementation of forest ands rural programmes in drylands areas particularly affected by desertification.

In addition, one could mention the FAO regional initiative for Southern Africa that serves directly the countries of the subregion in the development of national plans and activities to combat desertification and drought. The FAO programme intends to introduce and implement an integrated approach to drought management, using catchment areas as spatial units for programme planning, and for promoting soil and water conservation activities through community participation in decision-making, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of land treatment activities in the catchment. The programme’s long term goal is to raise agricultural productivity on a sustainable basis in drought-prone areas of southern Africa, by building on current livelihood strategies and practices of farm households which reduce their vulnerability to the effects of recurring droughts. An equally important goal will be to build the capacity of catchment communities to manage their own development in partnership with all stakeholders.

Although subject to modification during programme formulation, broad objectives being considered are:

  1. Test and implement a simple framework for community participation in integrated catchment management for drought mitigation at two benchmark sites (micro-catchments) in each country bordering the Limpopo Basin;

  2. Empower catchment farmers to improve whole farm performance and productivity under highly variable climatic conditions, through better land husbandry.

Programme formulation comprises two phases: (i) a situation analysis, which includes an in-depth assessment to capture existing information and knowledge on the biophysical and socio-economic and policy environment of small scale farmers in the Limpopo Basin, that will provide background material and a starting point for the participatory formulation exercise and (ii) a participatory formulation which will involve national representatives and FAO experts and donors as observers.

Other examples of initiatives in Africa are, for example, the special programmes for food security, which have begun in Senegal and Ethiopia. In Senegal some selected small low cost projects are carried out through steady participation of local agricultural communities. The development objective is to preserve and enhance local water resources in areas of scarcity. Specific objectives include implementation of water resources management techniques appropriate to ecological, social and economic local conditions and conservation management of natural resources and ecosystems. The Ethiopian project supports a new pilot irrigation component through demonstrations of improved irrigation technologies in areas vulnerable to droughts and crop failures, but having a good potential for increased cropping intensity through water-harvesting techniques.

The regional project GCP/RAF/303/ITA can also be mentioned: Forests and Food Security in Sahelian Africa, funded by Italy and executed by FAO in Burkina Faso, Cape Verde and Mali, and which has contributed to mitigating desertification effects, and to developing knowledge and skills to protect agriculture lands and optimise soil productivity, among other results.

Another illustration is the project for Land Cover Mapping of Eastern Africa based on satellite sensing, funded by an Italian trust fund, as part of the AFRICOVER programme, and which aims to strengthen the capabilities of 12 East African and Riparian Nile countries for sound planning of natural resources for sustainable management. Its activities concern the production of reliable 1:250 000 scale land cover and land systems maps and strengthening the national capacities for operational applications of remote sensing and information technology for land planning, in particular in drylands. To date, most East African countries have been successfully mapped and many applications are under development.

Activities directly in support of the CCD began with the Mali Government’s establishment of the institutional structure to implement the NEAP-NAP process under an Inter-ministerial Committee. The pioneer project to apply the recommended environmental protection and desertification control planning process to combat desertification in Mali was assisted by FAO’s TCP (project TCP/MLI/6615) beginning in 1996 in partnership with Germany which provided very generous contributions and helped to organize other donors. This partnership was important because the project was ambitious and proved costly. The project benefited from integration of the activities of several government departments breaking away from traditional sectorial divisions. The local land users and all social groups were involved from the beginning in a series of local and regional workshops and with the subsequent elaboration and testing of the plans. The project was valuable experience and benefited from FAO support both in Headquarters and field offices.

FAO took part in the inter-agency meeting organized in Washington at the World Bank on 16 June 1999 where the drylands strategy of the World Bank was discussed and where concrete means of harmonisation and collaboration among agencies in support of relevant ongoing programmes in African countries were proposed. The countries suggested were: Ghana, Senegal, Niger, Namibia, Burkina Faso and Kenya. In addition, two regional initiatives were retained in the framework of the GEF portfolio: the Nile River Basin and the Niger River Basin. It was suggested that FAO take the lead in coordinating activities under the SPFS and the Soil Fertility initiative (SFI) in Ghana and Senegal. In this context of harmonisation, FAO is also organizing early December in Lusaka, a regional seminar on soil and nutrient management in support to the Soil Fertility Initiative which in itself is viewed to be linked closely to the CCD national programmes.

As a follow up of its support to the UNCCD Secretariat started in 1997, in 1999 FAO participated in several regional meetings organized by Secretariat, respectively in Harare on regional action plans and networks and in Nairobi October on the preparation of COP 3.

4. 4. Desertification related activities in Asia

In 1999, in Asia there are more than 20 national projects assisted by FAO on management of natural resources and the environment, farming systems, soil and water conservation and support to the regional network on agroforestry (APAN) and to soil conservation in 17 countries (ASSOD and CLASP).

The FAO Regional Office carries out a range of activities which are of interest or direct use in combating desertification. Those mainly concerned with natural resources management include assistance in assessment and planning, soil management and fertilisers, farming systems development, water development and management, and conservation and reclamation. Some indications of specific activities are outlined below.

The Assessment of Human-Induced Soil Degradation in South and Southeast Asia, the result of collaborative efforts of the Asian Network on Problem Soils, FAO, UNEP and ISRIC, was published by ISRIC in 1997. It covers 17 countries and presents the current status of human-induced soil degradation. Since 1991, FAO has worked with 11 Asian countries to advance agroforestry development, with many aspects relating to combating desertification. A Regional Workshop on Land Vulnerability Assessment for Food Security in Asia Using Land Resources Information Systems, in co-operation with the Asian Network on Problem Soils, was held in 1997 and the report published in 1998. A report on issues and strategies relating to sustainable agricultural resource management was prepared for the Review on Food Security Issues and Challenges in Asia and the Pacific Region (RAS/95/01T), the summary report and the companion volume on land resources and which were published in 1999. Assistance was provided in the utilization of an AEZ database for agricultural development in Bangladesh and in land use planning at catchment level in China. A project on environmentally sustainable food security and micro income opportunities in the Dry Zone of Myanmar aims at improving the living conditions of 11,000 of the poorest households in the area.

In 1995 FAO, in cooperation with ASOCON, published "Conservation of Lands in Asia and the Pacific (CLASP) - a framework for action". Regional follow-up was organized by ASOCON in Malaysia in 1996, Vietnam in 1997, and China in 1998. Assistance was provided to Thailand in organizing a workshop to develop a soil and water conservation inventory and database under the WOCAT initiative. This has resulted in similar workshops being undertaken in the Philippines and the southern provinces of China. Technical support was provided to the FARM Programme in the development of farmer field schools in integrated soil management (FFS-ISM) held in China, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam culminating in the publication of a facilitators manual in 1998. In China, a project to introduce management techniques for the improvement of salt-affected soils was concluded, while a project focusing on integrated desert control and sustainable agriculture continued. Country activity proposals were prepared for Asian Member Countries of the inter-regional network on the management of salt-affected soils and soils irrigated with saline water and a TCP project on the same initiated in the Philippines. In 1998 a study on research and development strategies and their implications for the prevention of soil degradation was prepared for an APO seminar on soil degradation. In 1999 support was provided to the 2nd International Conference on Land Degradation held in Khon Kaen, Thailand.

In the South Pacific island countries, a project was prepared to assess the magnitude of land degradation and its effects on the people and food security and an inventory of land resource information systems was compiled. Information was provided on a new approach towards planning for sustainable use of land resources, consistent with priorities for implementing integrated approaches to resource management within the framework of National Environment Management Strategies. Assistance was provided to some countries on integrated land resources planning and management. The Framework for Action on the Conservation of Lands in Asia and the Pacific was widely distributed to senior policy makers.

Activities in direct support of the CCD include activities in countries such as, for example in Iran, where FAO prepared the National Report of the Interagency Mission on Desertification and took part in the regional workshop on capacity building for implementation of the UN CCD and in the International Workshop on New Technology to Combat Desertification in collaboration with the UN University. FAO also relaunched in 1999 a project proposal aiming to support the National Action Plan on desertification in this country.

In China, FAO participated in the UNDP project to identify the root causes of desertification in China (SPPD CPR/97/002) and provided a background analysis of desertification as an input to the formulation of the National Action Plan.

FAO also participated in the CCD regional meetings in Beijing from 22- 27 July 1999. As a follow up, FAO offered to support the thematic network TPN1 on desertification assessment and monitoring. Concrete collaboration should start very soon and will benefit from FAO expertise and database on this matter.

4. 5. Desertification related activities in Latin America

Twenty-nine ongoing FAO field projects deal with sustainable rural development in arid, semiarid and dry subhumid zones, preventing or rehabilitating land degradation; emphasis is made on natural resources management, drought alleviation, prevention of irrigated soils salinization, sustainable forestry production, farming systems development and water development with a dryland component. Some of them are dedicated to alleviate recurrent drought effects in the eastern region of Cuba; to train farmers to prevent irrigated land degradation in the arid north coastal region of Peru; to organize community sustainable forestry management in the Andes Mountains of Ecuador; to develop sustainable rural production in the semi-arid region of south Lempira in Honduras; to promote Algaroba (Prosopis Juliflora) among farmers in the north-eastern region of Brazil, as a means to establish semi-arid agriculture and to promote sustainable and profitable agriculture in steep lands in El Salvador.

In addition, FAO technical services and the Regional Office in Santiago played an active part, together with UNDP, in the process of preparing for the Convention. Progress in its implementation is only just getting under way.

The main FAO activities in direct support of the CCD over the past years include support for a seminar for Chilean journalists in Jahuel, Chile (June 1997). The Regional Course on Desertification and Sustainable Development, Santiago and La Serena, Chile, in 1997, received contributions from the Inter-American Development Bank, IFAD, UNDP, UNEP, the Government of Chile and FAO. The course was addressed to leaders and technicians working in programmes to combat desertification and 30 Government and NGO officers from 12 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean participated. Lecturers from the University of Chile and other Chilean institutions, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and FAO presented the various subject matters. The course included several field trips to observe ways of combating desertification applied in Chile. A technical publication on the Latin American experience with rainwater harvesting is being prepared.

In Bolivia, the National Action Programme to combat Desertification was completed (emphasizing desertification on the high Altiplano) and the assistance of the CCD and other partners will be needed to ensure its implementation. In Brazil, the National Action Plan is being prepared.

An International Workshop on Management of Water Quality and Pollution Control in Chile and Peru, in October 1998, studied problems of water quality and insufficient drainage causing land degradation in irrigated land and methods of prevention and rehabilitation. The workshop, organized by FAO with the collaboration of the University of Tarapaca and several agencies in Chile and Peru, was attended by more than 40 experts from 15 countries plus 20 specialists on a part-time basis.

Following the decision of the CST at COP 1 and 2, FAO is implementing a survey and a compilation of the institutions and networks related to the CCD for all Latin American countries. This activity is supported by UNEP funds and also involved the participation of the FAO Regional Office to a workshop in Bonn, where all the participants from the Consortium coming from all the regions of the World exchanged experiences and proposed ways for continuing the work.

Officers from the FAO Regional Office provided technical support to regional meetings on the Convention to Combat Desertification organized by the Secretariat, CCD, in Buenos Aires, Mexico; Havana, Antigua and Recife, Brazil.

A project to assist the rural regions of Cuba affected by severe droughts and Hurricane George is being executed. Farmers are being assisted with complementary equipment and supplies to repair damaged irrigation systems and to extend others in order to more efficiently use the scarce water resources available.

5. FAO proposals for future support to the CCD

5. 1. General recommendations

Regarding the actual development of the CCD, most of the recommendations made by FAO at the last COP 2 are still valid and would need to be re-emphasised at this COP 3.

The need to better rationalize the Convention activities at international, regional and national level in particular by:

The need to speed up activities at local level, in particular in most affected areas, by:

5. 2. FAO plan of action for the future to support the CCD process

FAO will continue to maintain and develop its regular normative activities as described above, with the highest priority given to support for Food Security within a framework of sustainable agricultural and rural development. The Programme of Work is authorized by the Governing Bodies and, as awareness increases about the seriousness of the desertification problem, it is to be expected that even greater emphasis should be given to work related to it (for example, the relevant databases). There are still a large number of FAO field projects, many aimed primarily at promoting Food Security, but with elements of drylands management and combating desertification, particularly as regards training.

With the advent of the UNCCD, FAO instituted a careful examination of how its experience can best be mobilised to support CCD work along the lines outlined above. This involved recognizing the principal problems and opportunities in cooperation with the CCD Secretariat, and determining where FAO has a comparative advantage. The fact that FAO covers multisectorial expertise and is active world-wide, with a long experience of development and conservation in drylands, clearly suggests the significant technical role that FAO can play in the process of combating desertification. Thus, priorities were identified for which FAO was well equipped to provide significant technical assistance provided that adequate external funding is assured. These formed the basis for the Memorandum of Collaboration (MOC) which was signed by FAO and the Executive Secretariat in December 1998 and which covers the six areas described below. The proposals for selected activities are not restrictive and may be adapted and added to in future by agreement.

i) Implementation of Action Plans and networks at national and regional levels

The Secretariat and FAO will co-operate in identifying priority countries and sub-regions to which FAO could provide technical assistance for the implementation of Action Plans and networks when external finance is provided. Different levels of assistance could be envisaged such as: 1) full support to the preparation and launching of NAPs in few selected countries 2) technical and programming assistance or regional training in a larger number of countries. Provided that finance is assured, the regional and country offices will implement specific project proposals with technical backstopping and supervision by the appropriate FAO technical services within the facilitating framework of the ad hoc Inter-Departmental Working Group on Desertification.

ii) Support to CCD regional networks

FAO regional and country offices, as well as Headquarters staff, would co-operate with and offer assistance to CCD regional networks under implementation, such as: i) for Asia: Desertification assessment and monitoring network (China), the Agroforestry and soil conservation network (India), the Network on dune fixation and rangeland management (Iran); ii) for Latin America and the Caribbean, the proposed networks as a follow-up of the Antigua meeting; iii) for Africa: the information systems and remote sensing network, the agroforestry and soil erosion network, the pasture management network, the promotion of sustainable farming systems network. The level of FAO assistance would have to be negotiated on an ad-hoc basis for each network and would rely on external funding for any assistance exceeding general advisory.

iii) Production and dissemination of technical best practices and related awareness documents

FAO would be ready to be involved in the preparation, with several other international partners, of technical guidelines with accounts of best practices for selected priority subjects, particularly for use in National Action Plan activities. These would be linked with food security issues and follow an integrating approach, make use of traditional knowledge and lessons learnt, and be specified for different environmental and socio-economic contexts. For this purpose FAO would liaise with networks and governmental, international and non-governmental agencies and would also use all its existing technical bulletins and guidelines and expertise including the hundreds of documents and manuals that can be consulted in the FAO CD-ROM and web sites on desertification.

iv) Awareness documents

FAO may also prepare awareness documents to provide convincing information on the status, trends and costs of desertification and its control, suitable for the media and general public and for decision-makers, donors, NGOs and institutions

v) Assessment, monitoring of desertification and drought at global, regional and national levels

At the request of the UNCCD Secretariat, FAO will facilitate the definition of information products on desertification and drought which are needed at global, regional, sub-regional and national levels and for which the international community could provide important contributions. FAO intends to promote with other partners, an overall assessment of desertification, (OAD), including biophysical and socio-economic causes. An operational monitoring system is also envisaged, using a network approach, to compile data and provide indicators in order to follow trends in desertification and progress in fulfilling the Conventions aims.

To this end, FAO would make available to the CCD all its information systems, programmes and facilities, such as CCD web information system including, FIVIMS, GIEWS, FRA 2000, Aquastats, FAO STATS, ARTEMIS, AGMET, GTOS, etc. as well as its numerous data bases on soils, agriculture, forests, etc. WAICENT will also provide a mapping and visualisation system (KIMS) that will include maps and spatial databases relevant to desertification. This could include testing of indicators and decision-making tools and a study of the El Niño effect on desertification. FAO will also ensure maximum synergy between the proposed information system on desertification and drought, the major information systems listed above, and the two other Conventions on Climate Change and on Biodiversity.

vi) Technical support to the CCD bodies

FAO will provide advisory and technical support to the Global Mechanism when possible. FAO will participate and present technical papers in international, inter-regional and sub-regional meetings organized by the Secretariat.

5. 3. Conclusions

FAO has been playing its role as a technical agency to accompany the UNCCD process, in addition to its regular activities. Looking at the international scene, FAO also recognizes that the combat to desertification should today lead to quick and well-targeted actions to be implemented in the areas most affected by desertification. To achieve this objective, additional efforts would still need to be carried out at international level to build up an optimised concerted programme, which is still insufficient at the moment, despite all the declarations made during the last years. Also a stronger commitment supported by facts would need to be made by the main national actors concerned by the desertification, when this problem has been identified as a national priority. As soon as these conditions improve, FAO retains that the combat to desertification has to be rationalised and optimised by implementing and promoting demonstrative field programmes in areas mostly affected by desertification and under high population pressure. The planning of these programmes needs to be supported by a quick collection and analysis of successful experiences and techniques and by an assessment of the extent of desertification, still not consensual. Design and implementation of the CCD national programmes should obviously rely on participative approaches but would also need to be better integrated within existing national plans, even if they appear as simple components of larger development programmes.

FAO is determined to do all it can to achieve the objectives of the Convention within the limits of its resources. It has made its expertise, facilities, data and information available to those who need them. Optimization of the use of this material assistance, in order to apply it to specific problems in desertification control, is not always straightforward considering the complexity of the desertification process and FAO stands ready to assist the Secretariat and Member Governments, along the lines mentioned above, to make the best possible use of all its capabilities in order to achieve success in the battle against desertification.

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