Dryland Forestry

Full steam ahead for the COFO Working Group


As the end of the year draws close, the COFO Working Group on Dryland Forests and Agrosilvopastoral Systems are certainly not slowing down! Plans for 2023 are proceeding full steam ahead, including the e-Learning course, set to be launched in January 2023, and the Summer School running next summer.

The COFO Working Group held its 3rd Steering Committee on the 28th November, with discussion on the upcoming e-Learning course and the Summer School at the top of the agenda. 

So far, 17 partners including universities, NGOs, and international organizations covering all dryland regions, have approved the program for the e-Learning course, which will consist of five lessons in total. Four of these have already been finalized, and the fifth is currently under production. The Working Group are eagerly awaiting the launch, which is set for January 2023 for the English version, and are hoping for an official launching ceremony together with the FAO Learning Academy

This e-Learning programme is part of Working Group’s partnership with the Forest Rangelands and Watershed Organization (FRWO) of the Ministry of Jihad Agriculture, Iran, through the Sustainable Forest Management Rehabilitation of Forest Landscapes and Degraded Land project. In fact, through this partnership, Iran has registered its  interest in translating the Forestry Working Paper “Building climate- resilient dryland forests and agrosilvopastoral production systems” which is already available in English, Spanish, French and Arabic, into Persian. Great news, meaning that the publication will reach an even wider audience!

The Working Group has had a busy quarter in other areas too, taking a large role in two recent Global Landscape Forums. These events were used to launch a new technical paper “Grazing with Trees” during the FAO–GLF digital forum titled “Transforming agrifood systems with forests” ahead of COFO26, and the “Grazing with Trees” policy brief and white paper “A turning point for drought management: upscaling the silvopastoral approach” at GLF Climate ahead of COP 27. 

COFO Working Group’s Summer School 

There are updates too on another major part of the Group’s work plan – the highly-anticipated Summer School, set to be carried out during the upcoming 3rd COFO WG session in September 2023.This meeting will be  different to previous sessions, as it will be held in parallel with the Near East Forestry and Range Commission (NEFRC) during their 26th session and hosted by the Government of Jordan.

The e-Learning programme will be the baseline for the the first in a series of Summer Schools, which will be an excellent opportunities for professionals to deepen their knowledge and expertise on silvopastoralism and drylands. The first School will include field visits, likely organised by the Government of Jordan and FAO's Jordan office.

It will be a great chance for like-minded individuals to interact, share and gain further knowledge on how to tackle issues related to drylands forests and agrosilvopastoral  management in their landscapes and reflect on the importance of sharing knowledge about the best practices between different contexts, while validating these techniques during their fieldwork themselves. 

At the first official Summer School first official coordination meeting with partners, including the University of Jordan, Jordan University of Science and Technology, the University of Richmond (USA), the Swedish University of Agricultural Science, Sokoine University of Agriculture (Tanzania), Agricultural Research Council of South Africa, and the World Overview of Conservation Approaches and Technologies (WOCAT) participants shared ideas on the way their different expertise could complement each other and brainstormed on how best to incorporate this expertise in the School’s course.

The Summer School initiative is also a great link to the International Year of Rangelands and Pastoralists in 2026, mobilizing and deploying cross-regional expertise and promoting innovative and inter-connected sustainable agrosilvopastoral systems. It is hoped that trainees will leave the course as Dryland Champions, ready to strengthen integrated forest and landscape approaches across dryland areas! 

(c) FAO/Luis Tato