Forest and Farm Facility

A Resilient Future for Drylands: First Regional Workshop Held in Zimbabwe


Global stakeholders unite under the Drylands Sustainable Landscapes Impact Program to strategize sustainable dryland and forest management

From 22nd to 26th May 2023, the Drylands Sustainable Landscapes Impact Program (DSL-IP), funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and led by FAO, is holding its first regional workshop in Harare, Zimbabwe. The workshop brings together key stakeholders from 8 participating countries and several leading organizations, including the FAO’s Forest and Farm Facility (FFF). 

Drylands are home to over 2 billion people, comprising 44 percent of the world’s agricultural land production and some of the world's most vulnerable ecosystems. The pressures of climate change, a rising population, and increased global demand for livestock are set to intensify the degradation of rangeland areas. This will negatively impact the livelihoods of its residents, including 600 million impoverished small-scale farmers.

Impact on dryland and people at scale

In this context, the DSL-IP was launched in June 2021 to bring 12 million hectares of drylands under sustainable land management. For drylands to be sustainable, they must be biologically functional and effective governance conditions must exist for the services they generate. The programme further aims to restore close to one million hectares of degraded land in the drylands. This ambitious initiative intends to achieve “1+1=3” programmatic results, wherein the sum of the whole is greater than its parts.

Since its launch in June 2021, the program has made significant strides, particularly in the Southern Africa Cluster, with the establishment of a Regional Exchange Mechanism, the launch of the Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Working Group, the creation of three Communities of Practice, and the operationalization and inception of three child projects (Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Namibia). The regional workshop will take stock of the lessons learned from two years of implementation and jointly plan for future steps.

Grassroots organizations crucial for implementation

Forest and farm producer organizations are the main target stakeholders for ground implementation of DSL IP in the six FAO-led countries (Malawi, Namibia, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Angola, and Botswana). The FFF is actively involved as a technical partner in developing sustainable value chains and businesses for dryland commodities with smallholder producers and their organizations. The FFF supports the capacity of farmer organizations to help their members aggregate products and negotiate powerfully with larger buyers in higher-value markets to get fair returns from value chains.

“To agree on quality production standards, forest and farm producer organizations training programmes under the DSL IP are key to building a market reputation for honey and beeswax,” said Damian James Sulumo, Programmes Officer, MVIWAARUSHA network, Tanzania. “For value chains like honey and beeswax to reach market scale – GEF DSL IP should continue to engage and support grassroots organizations like MVIWAARUSHA”, he added – and this applies to all value chains related to the DSL IP core themes, and even GEF in general. 

During the workshop, a share fair will focus on DSL IP country core themes covering honey (in Tanzania), Integrated Food and Energy System (in Malawi), FSC-certified charcoal (in Namibia), and Non-Timber Forest Products (in Zimbabwe). In addition, products such as Miombo honey, non-timber-forest-products,  Baobab, Marula, neglected and underutilized species (NUS) – Bambara Groundnut, Finger millet, Maize/pigeon pea from intercropping systems, and charcoal from bush will be shared.

Collective efforts

This meeting will strengthen the collaboration between countries to enhance cohesion and ownership among stakeholders. Participants from governments and national and international implementing partners will identify capacity development needs and gain a deeper insight into the region's challenges and emerging priorities. The exchange of good practices and inspiring peer-to-peer learning will help to achieve concrete and sustainable changes for a resilient future for drylands.

The workshop is a testament to the global commitment towards sustainable dryland and forest management. The collective effort and resolve demonstrated promise that the sum of this initiative will indeed be greater than its individual parts.