FAO Regional Office for Africa

Drylands matter – Experts unite to accelerate a trailblazing Global Environment Facility impact program to transform Dryland landscapes in harmony with its people and nature

GEF-7 Dryland Sustainable Landscapes Impact Program (DSL-IP) launches the Regional Exchange Mechanism for Southern Africa through its first workshop

Delegates attending the DSL-IP regional stakeholders meeting pose for a photo at the end of the meeting

27 May 2023, Harare – The Dryland Sustainable Landscapes Impact Program (DSL-IP), led by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and financed with support from the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), organized its first Regional Workshop in Southern Africa on 22-26 May, bringing together over 100 experts in forestry, agriculture and environmental management. The objective was to jointly plan, learn, share knowledge and accelerate implementation of the Southern African cluster priorities and roadmap for sustainable forest and land management, covering the Miombo and Mopane drylands to reach impact at scale.

The five-day workshop brought together representatives from nine DSL-IP child project countries, implementing partners (the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Centre for Development and Environment World Overview of Conservation Approaches and Technologies (CDE/WOCAT), the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and the International Institute of Rural Reconstruction (IIRR), technical divisions within FAO headquarters, GEF Operational Focal Points, and representatives from the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), the Great Green Wall Initiative (GGWI), and more. Under the five-year endeavour, 11 countries (Angola, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Malawi, Mongolia, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania and Zimbabwe) are working together at country and transboundary scale through knowledge exchange, peer-to-peer learning, and tailored capacity development support on topics of common interest.

The workshop included highly interactive sessions, practical demonstrations, discussion groups and a field-demonstration, providing an excellent opportunity for the global, regional and country teams of the DSL-IP to reflect on the identified common management challenges, country champion themes and regional transboundary priorities while developing a roadmap for implementation.

Speaking during the opening session of the workshop, the FAO Subregional Coordinator for Southern Africa, Patrice Talla underscored the importance of partnerships and collaboration and building on ongoing programs and projects such as the SADC GGWI.

Talla affirmed  FAO’s commitment to working with all partners and stakeholders in implementing the program to achieve inclusive, resilient and sustainable agri-food systems for better production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life - leaving no one behind.

“As we implement these initiatives, I would like to emphasize the need for enhanced cooperation and coordination across sectors, stakeholders, partners, countries, regions, and sub-regions. I urge us to work together in harmony, through partnerships and by engaging all stakeholders. When we collaborate, we leverage each other's knowledge and expertise, and in doing so, we achieve more impact and increased value for resources and time,” said Talla, asserting the subregional office’s commitment to support implementation of the next phase of the DSL-IP.

Furthermore, the opening included remarks from Paul Elvis Tangem, Coordinator for the Great Green Wall Initiative (GGWI), African Union Commission stating the key alignment between the DSL-IP and the SADC GGW Initiative for Southern Africa. Zimbabwe's Ambassador Raphael Tayerera Faranisi, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry opened the event recognizing the importance of such fora for the country, the region and drylands overall.

The DSL-IP Global Coordinator, Fritjof Boerstler and the Regional Coordinator for Southern Africa, Zipora Otieno, presented the global and regional objectives of the program, as well as the regional alignment and programmatic entry points for collaboration to maximize synergies, cross-pollination and strategic leveraging opportunities (i.e. SADC GGW Initiative, GEF-7 Food Systems, Land Use and Restoration Impact Program and more). This overview presented the unique DSL-IP “country docking process” that links the global project technical support structure with the child projects including the ‘one theme-one country champion approach.' Furthermore, the introductory presentation provided the foundation for the subsequent four days interactive workshop which included additional transboundary thematic deepening of the DSL-IP including drought and fire management. Subsequent contributions to the week showcased key partners, IUCN and WOCAT as well as featured innovative approaches on gender responsiveness (WeCaN) and participatory process documentation (MEV-CAM). 

In the spirit of “seeing is believing”, the Community Technology Development Organisation (CTDO), a local partner of the DSL-IP, organized a field expo enabling participants to experience the integrated “Sustainable Landscape Production Framework (SLPF)'' pioneered by the DSL-IP. The SLPF is an integrated approach bringing together FAO’s flagship program comprising of Community Seed Banks (CSBs), Farmer Field Schools (FFS) and the Forest Farm Facility (FFF) aiming to sustainably transform the production landscapes through sustainable land and forest management, green value chains and crop diversification. Fair demonstrations included community seed bank concepts, seed selection in the fields, seed deposition, seed exchange, seed fairs and community-based tools (diversity wheel, farmer field schools), which are used to assess the possibility of genetic erosion within preferred crops in the community. At the end of the field expo, the participants acquired a deeper understanding on how the SLPF will be implemented in practice within the DSL-IP.

Ulrich Apel, the Senior Environmental Specialist at the GEF Secretariat concluded the meeting commending the outcomes from the first DSL-IP regional workshop for Southern Africa while also asserting GEF’s commitment to continue investing in productive and prosperous drylands in harmony between people and nature.

“In programs designed like the DSL-IP, no repetition of business-as-usual approaches will happen. Drylands are hubs of profound traditional and innovative knowledge and good practices, that they hold the key to reversing degradation, improving livelihoods and mitigating the effects of climate change. We are all responsible for the hard work that needs to be done to ensure community members, forest and farm producers and organizations have the tools they need to amplify their knowledge and expertise, and to come up with innovative solutions for the future. The GEF is committed to continue to invest in Drylands,” said Ulrich in his closing remarks at the one-week stakeholders meeting, reminding us all that Drylands, their landscapes and their people, matter.