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Arusha, Tanzania
11-15 December 2006

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PowerPoint Presentations and Abstracts

SESSION 2: Trends in Land Degradation

SESSION 3: Weather and Climate Information for Monitoring and Assessing Land Degradation

SESSION 4: Strategies for more Efficient Use of Weather and Climate Information and Applications for Reducing Land Degradation

SESSION 5: Case Studies on Successful Measures to Manage Land Use, Protect Land and Mitigate Land Degradation

SESSION 6: Improving Implementation of National Action Programmes (NAPs)

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Global Trends in Land Degradation by Uriel Safriel

Several major attempts have been made over the past fifteen years to assess land degradation at global scale. GLASOD (Global Assessment of Soil Degradation) and Dregne and Chou (1992) covered the whole globe but specifically addressed the drylands. NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service) and the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment's LUCC (Land Use and Cover Change) addressed the drylands only. Following the UNCCD, these assessment defined land degradation in the drylands as "desertification". Each of these assessments came up with a different estimate of dryland degradation, i.e. in the extent of desertification. The earlier assessments resulted in 70% and 20%, the latest – in 10% of drylands being desertified. This large range is partly due to differences in methodologies as well as in quality of data and in their spatial coverage. Another drawback is that maps produced by these assessments often carried misleading titles, what promoted a common interchangeable use of the terms "drylands", "desertification" and "desertification risk".

This rather poor state of the art is probably due to a prevailing disagreement about what precisely "land degradation" is. Adopting the conceptual framework of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) project, land degradation can be viewed as a syndrome of impairment of terrestrial ecosystem services, culminating in persistent reduction in biological productivity, as expressed in primary production. This syndrome is of major significance in the drylands, which are defined by having an inherently low biological productivity; hence further lowering of their productivity is of serious consequences to their inhabitants. This syndrome may be partly responsible to the highest infant mortality and lowest GDP in drylands than in other major global ecological-societal systems.

Inasmuch as the global extent of desertification is controversial, some trends already emerge. Desertification peaks at the mid-section of the aridity gradient, i.e. at the semiarid drylands, and tails off towards the least and the most dry drylands. Assuming that human pressure on land resources increases with population density (which declines with aridity) and that the sensitivity of the land to human pressure increases with aridity, then a peak of degradation at medium aridity is expected. At the global scale, this peak in degradation also coincides with a peak in low indices of human well-being. Whereas it is difficult to establish desertification trends during the last several decades (except delimiting currently degraded land), MA projections for the coming 50 years are of increasing desertification driven by both socio-economic and climate change trends, and accelerating under a regionalized world, and environmentally reactive society.

A promising approach (developed by S.D. Prince) for assessing desertification is to identify regions with uniform environmental attributes, inspect time-series of their net primary productivity (NPP) detected by space-borne sensors, scale this NPP by the local rainfall and allocate and define those land units with NPP persistently lower than the maximal for this region as desertified. This approach already supported the proposed definition of land degradation (and in the drylands – desertification) as a persistent reduction in primary productivity. Next challenge is to determine where desertification is irreversible. This will require consulting information on past and current land uses in areas defined as desertified, and demonstrate that the reduced NPP is maintained after pressure has been removed.

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Combating Desertification and Promoting sustainable development: Assessing Current Land Degradation status and trends in the Asia Region by Ma Hong and Hongbo Ju. Institute of Forest Resource Information Technique, Chinese Academy of Forestry.

Land degradation, defined as lowering and losing of soil functions, is becoming more and more serious worldwide in recent days, and poses a threat to agricultural production and terrestrial ecosystem. It is estimated that nearly 2 billion ha of soil resources in the world have been degraded, namely approximately 22% of the total cropland, pasture, forest, and woodland. Globally, soil erosion, chemical deterioration and physical degradation are the important parts amongst various types of land degradation. Asia is the first big continent in the world.The total area of the Asia Region is about 4 4,000,000 square kilometers, composition world land total area 29.4%. Asia has the largest area under drylands. In Asia, the desertification mainly occurs in arid and half arid area, Failures of resource management policies are aggravated by overgrazing, overexploitation of water and land resources, overcultivation of marginal lands, and the rapidincrease in population. 90% of it lies within arid, semi-arid and dry subhumid areas.

Desertification has come to the forefront of global concerns, as demonstrated in the number of international conferences and conventions, most recently, the Convention to Combat Desertification. The Convention defines desertification as a process of land degradation resulting from various factors including both climatic variation and change and human activities. Guided by the provisions of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), The Asian Regional Thematic programme Network on Desertification Monitoring and Assessment, abbreviated as TPN1, was launched in July, 1999 in Beijing, China.  The Task Group Meeting on Benchmark and Indicators for Desertification Monitoring and Assessment under the TPN1 was held in Chinese Academy of Forestry .A proposed common set of benchmarks and indicators has been agreed upon at the meeting for comments, suggestions and further development. China has been identified as the host country to coordinate TPN1 activities among the member countries in establishing the Asian Regional Desertification Monitoring and Assessment Network.  Many countries and institutions have made achievement in this area. All of the efforts and results will contribute to combat desertification, the serious hazard to our planet. Keeping desertification form expanding is an important aspect for co-existence of human and nature. To containment desertification, is the global common responsibility and the duty. Fruitful and successful implementation of TPN1 will assuredly facilitate Asian countries actions for combating desertification and improve Asian natural environment toward sustainable development.

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Trends in Land Degradation in Latin America and Caribbean by F. Santibanez

The loss of biodiversity and a significant deterioration of soil productivity has been the result from a number of causes as agricultural practices, ecosystem fragility, human pressure and climate aggressivity. In tropical areas, sugar cane cultivation during the last three centuries and especially in the late 18th century, was the primary cause for forest cover removal to install unsustainable production systems. Much of this land had only shallow and fragile soils highly erosion prone due to the steepness of the slopes it occupied. Consequently it was observed a loss of significant amounts of topsoil from many areas, especially in the volcanic soils of Meso America occured. Although the worst affected areas are no longer in cultivation, the natural vegetation that has recolonised these areas is much poorer in species composition and accumulated biomass than the original vegetation In arid and semiarid parts of the continent, low rainfall and frequent periods of drought stress generally produce poor stands of sparse vegetation, which provide ineffective protection to the soil from the erosive effects of rainfall. The same low rainfall reduces the rates of weathering that lead to soil formation, thus tilting the balance towards a shallower soil. Argentina has significan soil erosion in La Rioja, San Luis and La Pampa Provinces. Overgrazing has been severe, causing erosion and river sedimentation. In the West, salination due to unsound irrigation practices become a serious problem.

The semiarid North East of Brazil supported cotton plantation for centuries, this moved to sugar cane in the last decades. The small size of exploitations, poverty and the high climatic variability make this extensive area highly vulnerable. Periodic droughts and land degradation provoked massive migrations to the South and the Amazonian states. The Andean region going from Venezuela to the Patagonia, is very sensitive to climatic extremes due to the presence of populated human settlements in the highlands, and the complex topography and hydrology. Land slides and avalanches are a permanent threat. In some areas of Chilean Andes, having a Mediterranean climate with a long dry spring and summer, the first precipitations in winter fall over a dry bare soil, provoking erosion and massive sedimentation transported by the rivers to the lower land of the Central Valley. This phenomenon was exacerbated in the last century as a consequence of the change of natural shrubs cover by degraded annual herbs. In some areas close to the cities, the Andean piedmont has been urbanized provoking a rapid run off and flooding during intensive precipitations. Populated highlands of Bolivia, as higher as 3800 m in the border of Titicaca Lake, support intensive agriculture (potatoes, quinoa). Also this highlands support a grazing pressure from risers of Lamas and Alpacas. Soils are moderately to intense degraded by water and eolian erosion. The intensive extraction of water from the small watershed is pushing rich and biodiverse wetlands to desiccation.

The Valdivian Forest in Chile is one of the last two extensive temperate rainforests on Earth. After a century of logging, under 2600 km2 of Alerc forest remains (in the rugged, rainy coastal mountains south of Puerto Montt). Today 18% of the original Alerc forest survives; this is the second oldest forest in the world (trees aged of more than 2500 years). The rain tropical forest continues to be cleared to open land for pastures. The fire continues to be used for this purpose. Amazonian. In 2000, more than 12,260 km2 of rainforest were cut in the Amazon. In the South Western coast of Brazil, the Mata Atlantica vegetation has been reduced to small patches. In Central America about 36% of tropical forest losses seem to be attributable to grazing. Tropical South America's share of total tropical deforestation is 610,730 km2/decade, while Central America and Mexico's share is 111,200 km2/ decade. These figures indicate a total rate of tropical deforestation via grazing of 480,000 km2/ decade plus whatever occurs elsewhere in the world. Original forests of Latin America covered 6.93 million km2. Estimate for 2000: 3.66 million km2 The human drivers to land degradation interact in this continent with climatic trend every where. In the South Pacific coast of Chile, rainfall showed a clear negative trend throughout the 20Th century. At the same time this trend was positive in the Atlantic coast of Argentina and Southern Brazil. There are evidences of an increased climatic variability in the North Eastern Brazil and negative trends of water regimes of the Amazonian basin. Temperature has increased about 0.6 degree in the last century, provoking a rapid reduction in the Andean permafrost and glaciers, which moved upward their lower front about 300 meters or more in a century. All this trends are affecting the global hydrology and water availability for irrigation.

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Trends in Land Degradation in Europe by Luca Montanarella - European Commission, Joint Research Centre

The adoption of the EU Thematic Strategy for Soil Protection by the European Commission on the 22nd of September 2006 has given formal recognition of the severity of the soil and land degradation processes within the European Union and its bordering countries. The Strategy includes an extended impact assessment that has quantified soil degradation in Europe, both in environmental and economic terms. Available information suggests that, over recent decades, there has been a significant increase in soil degradation processes, and there is evidence that these processes will further increase if no action is taken. Soil degradation processes are driven or exacerbated by human activity. Climate change, together with individual extreme weather events, which are becoming more frequent, will also have negative effects on soil.

Soil degradation processes include:

·      Erosion: the EEA estimates that 115 million ha, or 12% of Europe’s total land area, are affected by water erosion, and that 42 million ha are affected by wind erosion, of which 2% severely affected.

·      Organic matter decline: soil organic matter (SOM) plays a major role in the carbon cycle of the soil. Indeed, soil is at the same time an emitter of greenhouse gases and also a major store of carbon containing 1,500 gigatons organic and inorganic carbon. Around 45% of soils in Europe have a low or very low organic matter content (meaning 0-2% organic carbon) and 45% have a medium content (meaning 2-6% organic carbon). The problem exists in particular in the Southern countries, but also in parts of France, the United Kingdom, Germany and Sweden.

·      Compaction: estimates of areas at risk of soil compaction vary. Some authors classify around 36% of European subsoils as having high or very high susceptibility to compaction. Other sources speak of 32% of soils being highly vulnerable and 18% moderately affected.

·      Salinisation is the accumulation in soils of soluble salts mainly of sodium, magnesium, and calcium. It affects around 3.8 million ha in Europe. Most affected are Campania in Italy, the Ebro Valley in Spain, and the Great Alföld in Hungary, but also areas in Greece, Portugal, France, Slovakia and Austria.

·      Landslides often occur more frequently in areas with highly erodible soils, clayey sub-soil, steep slopes, intense and abundant precipitation and land abandonment, such as the Alpine and the Mediterranean regions. There is, to date, no data on the total area affected in the EU, but this problem can be due to population growth, summer and winter tourism, intensive land use and climate change.

·      Contamination: due to more than two hundred years of industrialisation, Europe has a problem of contamination of soil due to the use and presence of dangerous substances in many production processes. It has been estimated that 3.5 million sites may be potentially contaminated, with 0.5 million sites being really contaminated and needing remediation.

·      Sealing: on average the sealed area, the area of the soil surface covered with an impermeable material, is around 9% of the total area in Member States. During 1990-2000 the sealed area in EU15 increased by 6%, and the demand for both new construction due to increased urban sprawl and transport infrastructures continues to rise.

·      Biodiversity decline: soil biodiversity means not only the diversity of genes, species, ecosystems and functions, but also the metabolic capacity of the ecosystem. Soil biodiversity is affected by all the degradation processes listed above, and all driving forces mentioned apply (equally) to the loss of soil biodiversity.

Though difficult to estimate, several studies demonstrate significant annual costs of soil degradation to society in the ranges of:

  •  erosion:                               €0.7 – 14.0 billion,

  •  organic matter decline:        €3.4 – 5.6 billion,

  •  compaction:                         no estimate possible,

  • salinisation:                          €158 – 321 million,

  •  landslides:                           up to €1.2 billion per event,

  •  contamination:                     €0.6 – 17.3 billion,

  •  sealing:                               no estimate possible,

  •  biodiversity decline:            no estimate possible.

No assessments of costs of compaction, soil sealing and biodiversity decline are currently available. The total costs of soil degradation that could be assessed for erosion, organic matter decline, salinisation, landslides and contamination on the basis of available data, would be up to €38 billion annually for EU25. These estimates are necessarily wide ranging due to the lack of sufficient quantitative and qualitative data.These costs do not include the damage to the ecological functions of soil as these were not possible to quantify. Therefore, the real costs for soil degradation are likely to exceed the estimates given above.

On the other hand it must be highlighted that these costs of soil degradation do not take into account the effect of standards adopted in January 2005 under cross-compliance, nor the effect of other measures recently taken by Member States. Nevertheless, as changes in soil are very slow, it is likely that the current estimate of the extent of the problem is an appropriate reference. Evidence shows that the majority of the costs are borne by society in the form of damage to infrastructures due to sediment run off, increased health-care needs for people affected by contamination, treatment of water contaminated through the soil, disposal of sediments, depreciation of land surrounding contaminated sites, increased food safety controls, and also costs related to the ecosystem functions of soil. The Soil Thematic Strategy of the European Union paves the way towards adequate measures in order to reverse the negative trends in soil and land degradation in Europe and will have also an extensive impact at the global scale by promoting similar actions in the framework of internationally binding agreements related to land degradation, like the UNCCD, UNFCCC and CBD.

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Climate and Land Degradation - An Overview by M.V.K. Sivakumar and R. Stefanski. World Meteorological Organization, Switzerland

The definition of land degradation in the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) gives explicit recognition to climatic variations as one of the major factors contributing to land degradation. In order to accurately assess sustainable land management practices, the climate resources and the risk of climate-related or induced natural disasters in a region must be known.  Land surface is an important part of the climate system and changes of vegetation type can modify the characteristics of the regional atmospheric circulation and the large-scale external moisture fluxes.  Following deforestation, surface evapotranspiration and sensible heat flux are related to the dynamic structure of the low-level atmosphere and these changes could influence the regional, and potentially, global-scale atmospheric circulation.  Surface parameters such as soil moisture, forest coverage, transpiration and surface roughness may affect the formation of convective clouds and rainfall through their effect on boundary-layer growth.  Land use and land cover changes influence carbon fluxes and GHG emissions which directly alter atmospheric composition and radiative forcing properties. Land degradation aggravates CO2-induced climate change through the release of CO2 from cleared and dead vegetation and through the reduction of the carbon sequestration potential of degraded land.   

Climate exerts a strong influence over dry land vegetation type, biomass and diversity.  Precipitation and temperature determine the potential distribution of terrestrial vegetation and constitute principal factors in the genesis and evolution of soil.  Precipitation also influences vegetation production, which in turn controls the spatial and temporal occurrence of grazing and favours nomadic lifestyle.  The generally high temperatures and low precipitation in the dry lands lead to poor organic matter production and rapid oxidation.  Low organic matter leads to poor aggregation and low aggregate stability leading to a high potential for wind and water erosion.    The severity, frequency, and extent of erosion are likely to be altered by changes in rainfall amount and intensity and changes in wind.  Impacts of extreme events such as droughts, sand and dust storms, floods, heat waves, wild fires etc., on land degradation are explained with suitable examples.    Current advances in weather and climate science to deal more effectively with the impacts of different climatic parameters on land degradation are explained with suitable examples. 

Several activities promoted by WMO’s programmes around the world help promote a better understanding of the interactions between climate and land degradation through dedicated observations of the climate system; improvements in the application of agrometeorological methods and the proper assessment and management of water resources; advances in climate science and prediction; and promotion of capacity building in the application of meteorological and hydrological data and information in drought preparedness and management.
The definition of land degradation adopted by UNCCD assigns a major importance to climatic factors contributing to land degradation, but there is no concerted effort at the global level to systematically monitor the impacts of different climatic factors on land degradation in different regions and for different classes of land degradation.  Hence there is an urgent need to monitor the interactions between climate and land degradation.  To better understand these interactions, it is also important to identify the sources and sinks of dryland carbon, aerosols and trace gases in drylands.  This can be effectively done through regional climate monitoring networks.  Such networks could also help enhance the application of seasonal climate forecasting for more effective dryland management.

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Extreme Events and Land Degradation by Michele Clarke (School of Geography, University of Nottingham, UK and Helen M Rendell (Department of Geography, Loughborough University, UK)

The frequency of occurrence of climate extremes (for example, heat waves, droughts, heavy precipitation) is expected to increase during the next century (Easterling et al., 2000). Here we examine the impact of climate extremes on processes of land degradation including floods, mass movements, soil erosion by both water and wind, and salinisation. Extreme events vary in space, and in time at inter-annual to decadal scales. However, the land degradation impacts of climate-driven extreme events have lacked systematic study. Case studies of particular events and their impacts on society are relatively common, but examples which combine daily meteorological records spanning decades with individual event impact records are rare.

Whilst there are various methods of classifying extreme events, not every extreme event will have an similar impact on land degradation. Indeed there are limitations in using thresholds to define individual events, as the intensity of the event may be temporally and spatially variable, and certain land degradation phenomena are effectively mitigated against by  anthropogenic intervention measures.
In order to assess the nature of changes in extreme events, the global analysis of trends in daily climate extremes for the 20th century is reviewed together with the coverage of baseline daily temperature and precipitation data for arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas. Future trends in the frequency of extreme events, based an ensemble of general circulation models or on regional climate models, are examined. This presentation will use a number of case studies to explore the impacts of individual events on land degradation and decadal scale temporal and spatial variability. Implications for future modelling will be discussed.

Reference: Easterling, D.R., Meehl, G.A., Parmesan, C., Changnon, S.A., Karl, T.R., Mearns, L.O. 2000 Climate extremes: observations, modelling, and impacts. Science 289, 2068-2074.

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Effects of Some Meteorological Parameters on Land Degradation in Tanzania by Eliakim E. Matari - Tanzania Meteorological Agency

The impact of some meteorological parameters  to land degradation in Tanzania is analysed. The parameters used were: rainfall, which is responsible for floods in case if it is in excess and drought in case of deficit.In recent years parts of Tanzania have experienced recurring droughts. The most devastating were those of 1983 - 1984 and 1993 – 1994.

According to Tanzania historical data, we have droughts every four years which affects 3629239 people. The most frequent hit areas are, central areas of Dodoma,  Singida and  some parts of Pwani, Shinyanga, Mwanza and Mara. These regions receive 200 –600mm of annual rainfall. Experience of the past twenty years 1980-2000 has shown that floods occurred 15 times and killing 54 people and affecting 800271 people.  Flood prone regions are Tanga, Mbeya, Pwani, Morogoro, Arusha, Rukwa, Iringa, Kigoma and Lindi. The impact of El-Nino rains is discussed and the probability and the probability of rainfall exceeding specific thresholds is analysed. Wind erosion is discussed. The impact of climate change on Tanzania is analysed and its impact to land degradation.. Finally the impact of solar radiation, temperature and evaporation is discussed. The paper concludes that climate and weather contributes significantly to land degradation in Tanzania.

The use of climate information must be applied in developing sustainable practices as climatic variations  contributes to to land degradation and there is a clear need to consider carefully how climate induces and influences land degradation. The paper recommends that there is a need to: Make an inventory of national land resources; assess potentials and constraints in dryland farming, identifying agricultural options to safely increase cropping intensity and yields, adopt more sustainable forms of land use, including contingency crop planning in the case of droughts., studying the reasons behind poor land use, encourage pastorists to reduce their herds of stocks and finally encourage the use of indigenous knowledge in land  preservation.

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Land Degradation and Rainfall by Leo Stroosnijder

The complexity of the notion ‘land’ and its scale features leads to many different definitions of land and land degradation. Desertification, soil degradation, erosion are components of land degradation. A wealth of literature exists claiming that land degradation is serious. These so-called doom papers are based on ‘hard’ facts: RS, GIS & computer models. However, there is also a history of papers that raise the question ‘how serious is land degradation?’ There are four spatial-temporal scales that should be distinguished in a discussion on land degradation: the regional, watershed, field and point scale. At each scale level one may use different proxies for land degradation which will be discussed. It seems that the common assessment by 'experts' of land degradation may very well be overestimating the phenomenon. In the future they need to deal better with the spatial and temporal dimensions of land degradation. A major reason for the overestimation of land degradation is the underestimation of the abilities of local farmers; many of them have been able to adapt!

In order to study land degradation at multiple scales it is necessary to also study rainfall at multiple scales. Rainfall can be analyzed for land degradation at five different scales, from the ‘small’ annual scale to the ‘large’ rainfall intensity scale. Besides scales one may also distinguish between average values and temporal and spatial variations. For each of the scales one of more examples are be presented of rainfall data and their interpretation with respect to land degradation. At the annual scale, isohyets, trend analysis, spatial analysis and rainfall probabilities are given. The monthly scale is used to find a possible shift in long and short rains in a bi-model climate. The decadal scale is especially suitable for calculating varying lengths of the growing season. At the daily scale, size classes of showers, return period (design storm), hydrological and agronomic modelling and dry spell analysis will be discussed. At the rainfall intensity scale, erosivity in El Nino and La Nina years.

Rainfall and land meet at the soil surface. Rainfall is divided over several hydrological compartments. Green water is that part of rainfall that is stored in the soil and available to plants. Land degradation decreases infiltration, water-holding capacity and transpiration and enhances runoff and soil evaporation. These ago-physical processes decrease the Green Water Use Efficiency (GWUE; the ratio transpiration / precipitation). Special attention will be given how to estimate the effects of land degradation on ‘computing soil moisture’ in order to understand what farmers perceive as drought. Rain falling on the land may be intercepted by vegetation, run off the ground surface, or infiltrate into the soil, reflected in the rain water balance. Infiltrating water may be stored in the root zone or drain below the root zone to groundwater and stream base flow, contributing what is nowadays called ‘blue water’. These processes are reflected in the infiltration water balance. The maximum amount of stored water in the root zone available for plant growth is a very important soil quality because it determines the potential survival of plants in case of a dry spell. Water stored in the root zone may be lost as evaporation from the soil surface into the atmosphere or taken up by plants and lost as transpiration. This is reflected in the soil water balance. GWUE in drylands in sub Saharan Africa ranges from 5-15%. In East Africa it may reach 20% but in comparable climates in the USA the GWUE may be above 50%. Land degradation mitigation concepts are derived from the rain water balance. After a number of conclusions is drawn, 10 recommendations are given to improve our understanding of land degradation through improved rainfall data availability at multiple scales.

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Frequency of Wet and Dry Spells in Tanzania by F.F. Tilya and M.S. Mhita - Tanzania Meteorological Agency

Forty one years of daily data (1960-2000) have been used to investigate the spatial and temporal distribution of wet and dry spells during the rainfall seasons of Tanzania. The frequency characteristics of wet and dry spells were based on the threshold of 1.0 mm of daily rainfall events. The observed frequency of wet and dry spells during the rainfall seasons over the period of study showed that at both bimodal and unimodal locations the frequency of occurrence of one-day wet and dry spell was highest at all locations then reduced smoothly as the length of the season progressed. The analysis gave an indication that the longest run of wet spell of 25-days occurred during March – May rainfall season at Lushoto over the north eastern highlands on the bimodal regime. Similarly, longest run of wet spells of 28 days was also observed at Mbeya and Mahenge over the southwestern highlands on the unimodal regime. Longest dry spells run were noted over the semi arid parts of Tanzania including Dodoma, which registered the longest run of 249 days that occurred in 1999 and coincided to a cold El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) event.

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Climate Variability, Climate Change and Land Degradation by Beverly Henry, Jozef Syktus, John Carter, Ken Day, Greg McKeon, David Rayner, Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Water, Australia

Climate and management have major impacts on the condition of natural resources and on agricultural production.  Effective response by government and individuals to the risk of land degradation requires an understanding of regional climate variability and climate change.  We describe an approach to providing climate science information to support better management of the risk of land degradation based on: (i) understanding and modelling of climate systems and providing climate projections on seasonal and longer-term timescales (e.g. 3 months to 50 years); (ii) modelling of rangeland systems for historical, present and future timeframes; (iii) maintaining a comprehensive program of monitoring land and vegetation condition using a combination of remote sensing and field assessment; and (iv) informing government and the community about current resource condition and risks of degradation.

In Australia, grazing of domestic livestock is the principal land use for over 40% of the continent.  This discussion focuses on Queensland (northeast Australia) where over 85% of the 173 M ha land area is managed for grazing domestic animals.  Much of this area is semi-arid to arid grasslands and woodlands with high natural climate variability associated predominantly with state of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO).  A dominant feature of Australia’s rangelands is extended periods (more than three years) of below normal rainfall necessitating a capacity to monitor drought and degradation risk.  The Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Water (NRW) in collaboration with the Australian Bureau of Meteorology has developed high resolution daily climate surfaces for monitoring and analysing current conditions in an historical context.  Seasonal rainfall ranked relative to historical values provides a simple assessment of the severity of drought.  However, simulations of pasture growth, which integrate daily rainfall, climate and environmental factors that affect plant growth (e.g. temperature, nitrogen, initial soil moisture, grazing intensity) provide a better indicator of the severity of drought and potential impacts on resource condition. Consequently, NRW has developed an operational spatial modelling framework (AussieGRASS) which provides data and map products in near-real time, and for historical periods and the season ahead.  AussieGRASS runs a process model, which has been extensively calibrated and validated using grazing trials, remote sensing and ground truthing, operationally on a 5km grid for all of Australia.

Based on a review of historical degradation and recovery episodes in Australia’s rangelands over the past hundred years, some recommendations can be made for more sustainable grazing land management that take into account the impacts of climate on characteristics such as carrying capacity.  However, better climate risk management requires improved understanding of climate systems and the drivers of variability and change.  Research has demonstrated that the interaction of inter-annual (ENSO) and inter-decadal (Pacific Decadal Oscillation) fluctuations has a strong influence on Queensland’s climate, but also that further research is needed in such areas as: (a) the potential to improve statistical systems for rainfall outlooks using Pacific Ocean Sea Surface Temperatures; (b) the atmospheric feedback of low soil moisture in prolonging drought conditions; and (c) the importance of stratospheric ozone depletion, greenhouse gases, aerosols and natural variability in understanding trends in rainfall and providing improved projections for climate impact studies.

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Fire Weather and Land Degradation by Pauline Dube (University of Botswana, Botswana) and Cheikh Mbow (Institute des Sciences de l’Environment, University of Dakar, Senegal)

 Recent years have witnessed a global increase in more intense, widespread and frequent fires that threaten human security and ecosystems and contribute to green house gas emissions which result in climate change with feedbacks on both fire patterns and land degradation. The interplay between fire weather-risk and land degradation is complex and involve several non linear interactions that influence trends in both fire patterns and land degradation processes. Majority of fires are lit by humans but the influence of humans on fire patterns is closely related to fire weather. Weather conditions are the main factor of fire readiness in a given fire prone area. Frequent and more intense fires reduce biomass supported in an area, affecting the productive soil layer which leads to soil erosion, change in species composition and general decline in biodiversity and hence land degradation. In that case fire is an agent of land degradation which is defined here as a persistent reduction in the capacity of ecosystems to supply services.  In arid to semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas, extensive burning may be followed by low rainfall periods thus exposing soil to erosion agents such as heat, and wind and subsequent encroachment of the area by fast growing weeds when normal rainfall return which increases fire risk in that area than before.

 Of major concern is how climate change will influence the interaction between fire weather and land degradation. Observations in different regions already link more intense fires witnessed in the past decade to climate change generated hotter and drier summer weather experienced, in addition to fire suppression practices.  Prolonged drought under climate change is likely to intensify land degradation due to land use pressure setting conditions for the spread of more fast growing highly flammable weeds during the onset of rainfall. Current evidence suggests that in arid to semi-arid lands, invasive highly flammable herbaceous species associated with degraded lands may out-compete native vegetation during abnormally wet periods under climate change.  And with increased fire weather-risk these areas will undergo increased hot fires facilitated by accumulated dry highly flammable biomass of these invasive species and hence putting the landscape under a perpetual cycle of increased susceptibility to land degradation and fire. Future land degradation studies need to put greater emphasis on the role of fire weather for a better assessment of burning conditions and interaction with land degradation processes.

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Importance of Drought Information in Monitoring And Assessing Land Degradation by Moshe Inbar, University of Haifa, Israel

Drought is a normal feature of climate, but also one of the most common and severe of natural disasters.  In most world regions the economic damages caused by droughts are greater than those caused by any other events such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. World-wide population growth has intensified the pressure on water resources and increased the vulnerability to drought. Prolonged drought cycles are a major factor in land degradation processes and affect extensive geographical areas. While such a natural hazard may strike any climatic region, its occurrence is more frequent in arid and semiarid regions. According to long term rain measurements, Israel with its Mediterranean climate, has experienced three consecutive dry years for every 50 years period. The recent drought of 1998-2001 in northern Israel was the most extreme during the last 130 years. It affected the water flow of the Jordan River and brought the level of Lake Kinneret to its  lowest point in historical periods.

Changes in land-use, water pumping and flow diversion, have exacerbated the negative impact of droughts and caused land degradation, such as the drying of wetlands and salinization of freshwater aquifers. The increased use of urban treated waste water for irrigation, with its significantly higher salt content, is another cause of soil degradation, and has a major economic impact on irrigated farming schemes. Wetlands and aquatic environments around Lake Kinneret and other regions of the country, were practically dry for six consecutive years, affecting fish-breeding and endemic aquatic species. Various solutions have been applied: drip irrigation, recycling of wastewater, reduced allocations and increased pricing of water supplies, desalinization plants, etc. However, the failure by successive governments to introduce drought contingency planning and sustainable management of water resources, has already damaged agriculture and nature conservation. The imminent dangers of drought are liable to lead to a major crisis in the country's water resources and affect all sectors of society.

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The Agriculture-Environment Nexus in Land Degradation by Anna Tengberg and Isabelle Batta-Torheim, UNEP

The relationship between agriculture and environment could be viewed as conflicting (win-lose) or as synergistic (win-win). A win-lose situation is occurring when agricultural activities such as clearing forest for cultivation is leading to environmental degradation or when environmental protection prevents agricultural activity. A synergistic approach, on the other hand, assumes that sustainable environmental management and agricultural production can be achieved simultaneously. One central goal of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and UNEP is to mainstream sustainable land management into sectors such as agriculture and forestry, thus assuming that win-win situations are possible. The different conceptual frameworks that UNEP has applied and developed in its GEF-funded land degradation projects highlight different aspects of the relationship between agriculture and environment.

The paper draws on 10 years of UNEP/GEF experience in working at the environment-agriculture nexus starting with the People, Land Management and Environmental Change Project (PLEC). PLEC illustrates the potential for synergies between environmental and developmental objectives by developing sustainable and participatory approaches to biodiversity management and conservation based on farmers’ technologies and knowledge within agricultural systems. The Land Use Change, Impacts and Dynamics Project (LUCID) developed a model on how to use land use change analysis in combination with social and economic variables as a tool to assess biodiversity loss and land degradation across landscapes. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) assessment framework offers a mechanism for decision-makers to: (1) identify options that can better achieve core human development and sustainability goals; and (2) better understand the trade-offs involved in decisions concerning the environment. The Land Degradation Assessment in Drylands (LADA) uses the Driving Forces-Pressures-State-Impact-Responses (DPSIP) framework in analysing the environment-agriculture nexus in drylands.

This overview shows how the relationship between agriculture and environment can be analysed using different models and approaches depending of scale and level of analysis. The PLEC model is useful at the local level in reconciling environmental and livelihood goals. Land use change analysis is a useful tool at the landscape level in analysing drivers of land degradation and biodiversity loss. The ecosystem services approach by the MA provides a tool for decision-makers at national level to make informed decisions about trade-offs between agriculture/human well-being and the environment. Finally, LADA will use the DPSIR framework for integration of information collected at different scales, from the local to the global.

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Using Weather and Climate Information for Landslide Prevention and Mitigation by Roy Sidle, Professor & Head of the Slope Conservation Section, Geohazards Division, Disaster Prevention Research Institute, Kyoto University, Japan

Extended and intense rainfall is the most common triggering mechanism of landslides worldwide. Mountainous regions with heavy snowfall also experience landslides during the melt season, sometimes accompanied by rain-on-snow. Antecedent soil moisture greatly affects the stability of hillslopes during individual rainfall events, extended sequences of storms, and during earthquakes, depending on the type of potential landslide. Typically deep-seated, slow moving landslides (e.g., earthflows, slumps) are triggered or reactivated by an accumulation of precipitation over several days or weeks. In contrast, shallow, rapid landslides (debris avalanches, debris flows) usually initiate during an individual intense or large storm event that may be preceded by wet conditions. Successfully predicting landslide hazards in large regions greatly depends on our ability to link meteorological conditions with various types and extents of slope failures. Four available methods for linking available weather and climate information to landslide initiation are described: (1) simple rainfall – landslide relationships; (2) real-time warning systems; (3) multi-factor empirical assessment methods; and (4) distributed, physically-based models. Each of these methods has certain strengths and weaknesses related to landslide hazard assessment.

Mean storm intensity – duration relationships have been developed for global data sets as well as for regional applications. Recent advances have incorporated effects of antecedent rainfall to improve such relationships. Regional rainfall – landslide relationships can be incorporated as one component into real time warning systems for landslide hazards. These relationships are mostly developed for shallow, rapid landslides and do not include the effects of vegetation management or other anthropogenic effects. Multi-factor landslide hazard assessments are useful to describe the general susceptibility of various areas, but the utility of such methods highly depends on the how closely the evaluation factors are linked to the landslide triggering processes. Additionally, most available methods do not differentiate amongst various landslide types, and thus, different climatic triggering responses or thresholds. While such methods can include aspects of land cover, they are generally not suitable for detailed assessments of anthropogenic impacts on landslide behavior. Distributed, physically-based landslide models require extensive data inputs, but represent the most accurate scenario for incorporating climate dynamics into landslide hazard assessments. Design storm scenarios or long-term synthetic sequences of climate can be incorporated into these models to examine such important system functions as: (1) timing of landslide occurrence related to rainfall inputs; (2) effects of land cover change (both short and long term); and (3) effects of various site parameters on slope stability. All of the dynamic, physically-based landslide models developed to date can be applied only to shallow, rapid failures. Both models and empirical approaches are needed to assess deep-seated mass movements and related hazards, as these can have significant economic impacts. Additionally, linking real-time climate data with physically-based landslide models may prove beneficial for real-time landslide hazard assessment in high risk areas. Nevertheless, mountainous areas of developing nations which are at highest risk and have sparse precipitation gauging networks, must continue to rely on using improved multi-factor landslide hazard assessments that are linked to triggering processes together with on-site investigations for establishing hazard protection areas, better sites for mountain road location, and area where residential settlement is prohibited. 

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Adaptation to Climate Change: GEF-UNDP Strategic Directions by Nyawira Muthui


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Drought Hazard and Land Degradation Management in the Drylands of Southern Africa by Juliane Zeidler and Reagan Chunga, Integrated Environmental Consultants Namibia (IECN), Namibia

Significant climatic variability continues to be a common phenomenon in southern Africa. Frequent and persistent droughts, unpredictable and variable rainfall and temperatures are considered normal climatic conditions, especially in the drylands. Additionally predictions of long-term climate changes for the sub-region suggest that by 2050 temperatures will be significantly higher and rainfall greatly reduced over extensive areas of southern Africa. Land degradation is a threat to the sub-region, and recent findings of the Southern African Millennium Assessment (SAfMA) identify high risk areas. Innovative drought hazard and land management responses are being implemented in the southern Africa sub-region. Best practices and clear shortcomings that have been identified and lessons learnt can feed into future response development. The adaptive response capacities of farmers, pastoralists and natural resource managers for example have to be strengthened in anticipation of worsening climatic conditions for crops and livestock productivity, conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and land management, as a matter of priority. Concurrently capacities at the regional and national decision-making levels need also to be addressed.

At the local community level it has been demonstrated that intensive support progammes addressing development needs in a more integrated manner are more successful than isolated actions. The capacity of such communities and individual resource users to manage their land and related resources more sustainably should ultimately be supported, and major investments at these levels are needed. Institution-building, targeted training, improved access to markets, larger investment capital and alternative livelihood opportunities, mitigation of the impairing effects of HIV/AIDS and other social and economic challenges, must take place at the level of the resource user. Case examples from the sub-region demonstrate that intensive support to individual farmers and communities can significantly improve land management practices, responsiveness to climatic variability and improve livelihood security. Furthermore, it is clear however that pilot approaches need to be “up-scaleable”. Pilot studies may not be success stories if lessons learnt are not integrated in a wider systems context. It is also clear  that local level interventions on their own will do little to address the issues of land degradation, desertification, sustainable land management, and drought hazard in an integrated way that reaches across to the regional and national decision making levels.

 The cases selected provide examples of (i) an early warning system (EWS), and (ii) drought and/or desertification policy. These examples are being analysed based on experiences from southern Africa. Short narrative descriptions are provided and salient lessons learnt synthesised –

(i) For EWS, strong scientific research and knowledge generation is required to generate sufficiently accurate information. Although the SADC (Southern African Development Community) region has a competent authority dedicated to ESW, updated data from national sources is a major deficiency. Significantly, existing information is not reaching the end users – local level decision makers like farmers whose livelihoods depend on such information. Critical questions posed thus are: what is the key bottleneck? Where do we need to put our efforts to successfully operationalise the research information that is available? Would locally grown EWS’s be a more suitable tool for informed local level land and resource management? Where should efforts be concentrated to improve sustainable land management – whilst managing drought hazard and expected long-term climatic changes?

(ii) Drought and/or desertification policy instruments exist in the region. Whilst a number of countries (e.g. Tanzania, Botswana, Namibia) have developed strong policy instruments, including the use, application and monitoring of weather data, the impacts of drought are still devastating. Severe productivity losses among farmers, increasing land degradation and even human catastrophes such as famines continue to occur. A major short coming of environmental management policies developed in southern Africa is the difficulty of implementation and enforcement. Further questions on this glaring disconnect are: What type of policy instruments can be effective? Where must investments be directed to ensure that people at all decision-making levels are prepared to effectively handle drought and sustainability manage livestock, crops and other resources, especially in drylands?

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Drought Monitoring in the SADC Centre by Bradwell Garanganga, SADC, Zimbabwe

The Drought Monitoring Centre (DMC) is a specialized institution in climate diagnosis, prediction and applications for the Southern African Development Community (SADC) comprising 14 member states with well over 220 million inhabitants. SADC is largely semi-arid to arid. The SADC countries, therefore, experience recurrent vagaries of climatic extremes such as droughts, floods, tropical cyclones and tsunamis. Consequences of these tend to have far-reaching negative impacts on socio-economic development of the Member States and the well being of most of the inhabitants of the region. Impacts can easily exacerbate land degradation. SADC is also susceptible to epidemiological diseases such as malaria and cholera that are also influenced by climatic factors.

The main objective of the DMC is to contribute to minimizing negative impacts of the climatic extremes on the socio-economic development of the region. And the rational use of natural resources. This is achieved through the monitoring and diagnosis of near real-time climatic trends, and generating medium-range (10-14 days) and long-range climate outlook products on monthly and seasonal (3-6 months) timescales. These outlook products are disseminated in timely manner to the communities of the SADC principally through the National Meteorological/Hydrological Services (NMHSs) regional organizations, relief and development partner agencies. The provision of early warning for the formulation of appropriate strategies to combat the adverse effects of climate extremes affords greater opportunity to decision-makers for development of prudent plans for mitigating the negative impacts.  The main activities of the DMC include the following:

  • Collecting, creating and updating regional climatological and semi-processed global ocean-atmosphere databank;
  • Developing tools seasonal climate forecast products, conducting joint research on climate application areas such as health, agriculture, water resources, etc;
  • Disseminating medium- and long range climate outlook bulletins
  • Training SADC NMHSs staff on attachment at the DMC through conducting research in climate diagnosis and prediction techniques;
  • Providing training to SADC NMHSs staff and climate users through workshops and Southern Africa Region Climate Outlook Forum (SARCOF); 
  • Helping ensure the correct use of climate information in strategic and tactical decision-making; and
  •  Strengthening links with users from sectors such as health, universities, food security (early warning systems), water resources management, tourism industry, etc.

The DMC is continuing to transform itself into a centre of excellence in climate analysis, prediction and applications with particular emphasis on the extremes across the SADC. It develops the capacity of the SADC NMHSs scientists on climate diagnosis and prediction; and users in climate applications. 

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Carbon Sequestration and Land Degradation by Alan Franzleubbers ( USDA–Agricultural Research Service, Georgia, USA) and Paul Doraiswamy (USDA–Agricultural Research Service, Maryland, USA)

This presentation describes (1) carbon sequestration concepts and rationale, (2) relevant management approaches to avoid land degradation and foster carbon sequestration, and (3) a summary of research quantifying soil carbon sequestration.  The three primary greenhouse gases (CO2, CH4, and N2O) have increased dramatically during the past century.  Rising concentration of greenhouse gases has been largely attributed to expanding use of fossil fuels as an energy source, resulting in emission of CO2 to the atmosphere.  Management practices to sequester carbon and counter land degradation include: tree planting, conservation-tillage cropping, animal manure application, green-manure cropping systems, improved grassland management, cropland-grazingland rotations, and optimal fertilization.  Examples of research quantifying soil carbon sequestration rates with these practices will be presented.  Strategies to sequester soil carbon will likely restore degraded land and avoid further degradation.

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Global Environment Facility Soil Organic Carbon (GEFSOC) Modeling System by Mohammed Sessay (UNEP Programme Officer, Nairobi, Kenya) and Eleanor Milne (Dept. of Soil & Crop Science, Colorado State University, USA)

Soil Organic Carbon (SOC) is vital for ecosystem functions. Playing a major part in determining the amount of water a soil can hold, the fertility of the soil and the soils and the soils susceptibility to erosion and degradation. Appropriate management of soils to increase SOC levels can therefore increase the productivity and sustainability of agricultural systems. In addition to this signatory countries to the United Nations Framework convention on Climate Change are obliged to make estimates of emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) resulting from land use change, including changes in land use such as deforestation. Estimating SOC stocks and changes is therefore essential for the development of appropriate future land management plans and for developing GHG inventories.

Simple accounting methods can be used to do this, but are unreliable as they fail to take into consideration the dynamic nature of change in soil organic carbon (SOC) following change in land use. Soil organic matter models offer a more dynamic approach and can be linked to spatial databases via Geographical Information Systems (GIS) to give spatially explicit results. A Global Environment Facility co-financed Project “Assessment of Soil Organic Carbon Stocks and Change at National Scale” implemented by UNEP and Coordinated by Department of Soil Science, The University of Reading and Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory, Colorado State University has developed a system for estimating soil carbon stocks and changes at the national and sub-national scale using datasets from four contrasting areas, The Brazilian Amazon, Jordan, The Indian part of the Indo-Gangetic Plains and Kenya. The system accounts for the effects of soil type, land use, land use history and climate on SOC stock changes over large heterogeneous areas. The resulting GEFSOC Modeling System can be applied to a range of different soil types and climates, allowing countries to make realistic estimates of SOC stock changes under a range of different land use scenarios. Results will be useful for land use planners, national and regional governments and bodies responsible for producing greenhouse gas inventories.

The GEFSOC Modeling System is available for download free of charge via the project website and the UNEP website and is accompanied by a user manual.

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Seasonal Variation of Carbon Dioxide, Rainfall and NDVI and their Association to Land Degradation in Tanzania by Juliana Adosi (Tanzania Meteorological Agency)

In recent years there has been global concern over extreme weather events like droughts and floods which are linked to climate change. This concern has arisen from both observed and modeling studies that have indicated a possible climate change. Carbon dioxide which is principally linked to climate change, is a green house gas that has been blamed to be the driving force. How ever extreme weather events have been observed to cause land degradation in different parts of the globe. While studies on global scale show significant increase in CO2  resulting to global warming, few regional studies have been carried out to demonstrate changes at regional level. In this study trends  and variability of CO2, rainfall and NDVI over Tanzania were investigated to find out  their association on  land degradation. Results reveal that CO2 exhibits a bimodal distribution, with a maximum in March and December, while minimum values are observed in January and May. This pattern can be associated with annual cycle of vegetation cover. During maximum CO2 season the land is bare thus subjected to land degradation. NDVI has maximum in May and January/December for bimodal areas and March/April for unimodal areas.  NDVI observes minimum in March and October for bimodal areas and September/October for unimodal areas. A decreasing trend in NDVI is evident in most stations in different seasons over the country. This is a signal for land degradation and should be arrested. Rainfall, a very important factor in environmental sustainability has proved to be decreasing in different seasons over the country. As it decreases it hinders vegetation and other hydro related factors. Decreased rainfall results to decreased vegetation hence land degradation. Excessive rainfall also contributes to land degradation by washing away loose and exposed soil in some parts of the country by floods.

KEYWORDS: Carbon dioxide, global warming, green house gas.

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Land Degradation Control in North Africa by Ismail El Bagouri (Emeritus Professor – Soil and Water Conservation, Desert Research Center, Egypt)

North Africa sub-region represents the entire range of aridity index. The major issues of concern in the sub-region are rainfull variability, recurrent droughts, and possible impacts of climate change. Aridity is manifested by scarcity of water resources and arable lands which represent 26.4% of the total land area with extremely varied distribution among the countries of the sub-region. Presently cultivated areas occupy 45 million ha mostly rain-fed areas with 8 million ha of irrigated lands. Rangelands occupy about 13% and forest / woodland represent 8% of the total land area of the sub-region. All land use categories are subject to land degradation processes, through more than three decades, due to several pressures including; rapid population growth, climatic stresses, human mismanagement practices, and inappropriate agricultural policies. Land degradation processes are varied and diversified under the conditions of rain-fed, irrigated, range and forest lands. Land degradation processes are conducive to serious productivity losses, reduction in return from capital investment, lower income of rural and bedwin households, spread of poverty and increased rural to urban migration.

Through the last decade all countries ratified UNCCD and formulated NAPs. Most governments adopted reform agricultural policies. Measures were taken to curtail losses due to inefficient use of water resources in irrigated lands, activating water harvesting practices, enhancing the use of groundwater resources, and supplementary irrigation under rain-fed conditions. Enhanced activities to establish protective belts of trees and shrubs, formulating and implementing projects for better management of rangeland and forestland. Setting up of coordination committees, enhancing the role of women and NGOs, and encouraging research activities to varied extents. However, the execution of the aforementioned activities does not replace the dire need for adoption of the holistic approach to combat land degradation including formulation of integrated strategies for short, medium and long-terms based on priorities. The adherence to ecosystem integrated approach is a must, in addition to activation of synergies among the major three environmental conventions, i.e., UNCCD, CBD and UNFCCC.

The integrated strategy should be planned to accomplish tasks of prime significance including; the elaboration of thematic databases, adoption of sub-regional indicators, activating unified networking for all six countries to facilitate the exchange of knowledge, experience, and lessons learned To participate in establishing Drought Early Warning System. Elaboration and coordination of activities to establish genebanks for indigenous plant species adapted to the harsh environment, and facilitate the use of agro-biodiversity to combat desertification. Arrange for national and sub-regional preparedness to mitigate the adverse impacts of drought. Formulate rational guidelines for the use of vast but non-renewable groundwater resources, available in huge aquifers with varied water qualities. Focus on demand driven and coordinated research activities in multiple institutions throughout the sub-region. Carry out concerted efforts to curtail conflicts and local wars presenting formidable constraints to development and enhancing degradation. Implementing meaningful sub-regional projects. Coordinate international funding and transfer of needed technologies, capacity building and collecting indigenous knowledge in a sub-region of very similar conditions.

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Adaptation, SIDS and Sustainable Land management: The Case of Mauritius by S.A. Paupiah (Project Manager UNDP/GEF/GoM project onCapacity Building for Sustainable Land Management)

The Republic of Mauritius is a small island developing state. With a population of 1.2 million inhabitants and a total land area of only 2000 km2, it is of the most populated countries of the world.  Land is a very scarce resource and there is a high demand from all the land-based sectors.  Mismanagement of land resources in the past has led to severe land degradation on almost every type of land uses – forestlands, pasturelands, agricultural lands, coastal areas and even residential zones. The root causes of land degradation are all related to human activities.  As a signatory to the UNCCD, Mauritius has taken several initiatives to address the issue of Sustainable Land Management and to meet its obligations, under the Convention.  Mauritius has recently obtained financial support through the UNDP/GEF Targeted Port folio Approach for LDC and SIDS for a Medium size Project on Capacity Building for Sustainable Land Management.  The implementation of the project has started since July 2006.

The effects of climate change, climate variability and sea level rise will further exacerbate the land degradation problems already being faced.  Recent observations and studies over the past 30 years carried out by the National Meteorological Services confirms that there is an increase in the Average Max and Min. Temperatures and in cyclones intensity. The disasters associated with climate change are hydro-meteorological in nature (torrential rains, droughts, cyclones, floods). The effects of these extreme weather conditions are already being felt in certain areas in the form of receding shore-lines, landslides, sheet and gulley erosion.  Mauritius has developed a Climate Change Action Plan and several actions are being undertaken at the field level.  The main land based sectors – Agriculture, forestry, livestock, Housing etc. are developing mitigation measures to minimize the effects of extreme weather conditions associated with climate change.  These adaptation measures can be classified as follows:

  •  Studies and creation of database

  •  Mainstreaming of climate change and Sustainable Land Management concerns into policy and regulatory Frameworks

  • Capacity Building (Institutional and individual)

  • Field level intervention

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Environmental and Financial Synergies on Afforestation of Degraded Lands - a Case Study by Viorel Blujdea (Forest Research and Management Institute Bucharest) and I. Abrudan (Faculty of Forestry, Transylvania University of Brasov)

Significant area of unproductive and marginal lands creates important economic and environmental unbalances at local, regional and Romanian national level. Even from scientific, technological and practical point of view there are solutions for their economical and environmental enhancement, the approach on needed large scale proves itself as extremely difficult because of the lack of major financing. Above all, the historic and actual lack of coherent background and framework for integrated land use hampers the balancing land use and thus subsequent benefits at local, regional and national level. In Romania, rural society needs a bust of the life standard, by resurrection of the tradition and local cultural values, but also through environmental tools offered within the context of national and international political framework.

Once the Earth climate change process was politically recognized by establishment of the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change in 1992, the interested of countries (parties in the convention) to approach practical and especially environmental efficient mechanisms increased steadily. A significant and certain step forward of the Climate Change Convention was achieved by setting up of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, where they set the theoretical and practical basis of some “flexible mechanisms” whose applying should lead to the efficient mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions, through set of certain targets of emission reduction for the developed and economy in transition countries. Even Romania owns a huge potential for emission trading schemes actual approach focus on joint implementation. This environmental and financial tool challenges to construct durable partnerships between parties with different interest, out of them at least one is compulsory interested to get the emissions reduction generated by their common approach. Emission reduction marketing acts as an incentive for national resource mobilization (both in terms of funds allocation and other resources identification, institutional construction) and it could significantly improve the economic return of some activities. Also, it offers multiple opportunities for land use improvement by the stimulation of the reconsideration of the land use approach at local, regional and national level and by reconsideration of the benefits from land use changes (afforestation of degraded lands, forest belt establishment, biomass and energetic plantations), by stimulation of rural business environment, by warning about the gaps and flexibility of the decisional capacity, warning on the understanding of the national structure position on the European and international stage, reflecting the understanding and support the CCC, CCD and CBD implementation at national level.  

Marked by important uncertainties generated by the lack of knowledge related to the bioacumulation of carbon over early stages of forest trees plantations, the projections of sequestration are still possible. Romanian forestry owns a comprehensive database on the stands, forests and wood features, what allows to conveniently approach both GHG national inventory and carbon sequestration projects. According the assessment on carbon sequestration potential, which has been done recently the forest species are grouped according the wood density and annual increment potential in three groups: fast grows and high wood density (like Robinia sp.), fast grows and low wood density (Populus sp.,Salix sp.) and slow growth and high wood density (Quercus sp.). Existing plantation carried out along the time allows comfortable validation of the carbon sequestration projections, reduce uncertainties and ensure the project feasibility and finally allow the transfer of the verified and certified emissions to the partners.

The assessment of the overall progress of projects is done through monitoring, which focus on accurate emission reduction estimation due the activities occurring in the project. Above all, the collateral effects of the project should be avoided as biodiversity loss or social ones. Forestry projects oriented toward carbon sequestration are exposed to multiple risks due to their long run. Amongst the risks, the forest fire is a major threat (especially in case that forests are established in dry areas). To that it adds the increased vulnerability to illegal cutting (due to poor wood resource and the lack of awareness), risks associated to unsustainable management practices or those related to climate change itself.

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The EU-Funded MEDCOASTLAND Thematic Network and its findings in Combating Land Degradation in the Mediterranean Region by Pandi Zdruli (International Centre for Advanced Mediterranean Agronomic Studies CIHEAM-Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Bari, Italy), Giuliana Trisorio Liuzzi, (University of Bari, Faculty of Agriculture, Italy) and Cosimo Lacirgnola, CIHEAM-Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Bari, Italy.

The Mediterranean is home of more than 430 million people and the holiday target of some 300 million tourists per year. Much of the population is concentrated in the coastal areas (50 to 70 percent of the population lives within 60 km from the coast). Drastic land use changes have occurred over the last fifty years with urbanisation and soil sealing covering extensive arable prime lands. The region is regarded as the cradle of European civilisation and possesses an enormous cultural heritage. The history of land management however shows both excellent examples of sustainable land use as well man-made catastrophic events. Land degradation yet remains a threat to natural resources with direct consequences on food security, environmental and political stability. Many North African and Middle Eastern countries are water stressed and land suitable for agriculture is a finite resource. Soil erosion by water and wind, salinisation (often accelerated by inappropriate irrigation practices), overgrazing and vegetation degradation, loss of organic matter and biodiversity are some of the most alarming land degradation factors. For worst these countries drain considerable amounts of their financial resources to fulfil their food needs. These resources otherwise could be used for social and public health improvement programmes. Controversially the population trend in Southern Mediterranean is still high with population expected to reach as much as 300 million people by 2030. Consequently addressing the problems of land degradation and desertification should become strategic priorities of national and regional importance.

The European Commission (EC) has been active in the region for decades through the implementation of many projects. However, their impacts have not always been as expected as they were hampered by lack of coordination and information gaps between policy and decision makers, researchers and rural communities. To bridge these gaps the EC funded the MEDCOASTLAND Thematic Network (ICA3-CT-2002-10002) that includes in itself partners from 13 Euro-Mediterranean countries totalling 36 members that represent three levels of decision-making. The project's operational period is 2002-2006. Results show that the combating land degradation could be successful if the right balance between bottom-up and top-down management approach enhances income-generating activities. All of these have to be supported by policy instruments and appropriate national/regional guidelines. Last but not least policies and guidelines must be implemented. MEDCOASTLAND has made visible many good examples of sustainable land management and rural development through the publication of 5 volumes and an extensive work on retrieving existing information. This information is available on-line from the Knowledge Database of the project available on the web:

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Case Study from Tanzania on Managing Land Use, Protecting Land and Mitigating Land Degradation by Richard Muyungi


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Management of Land Use, Protecting Land and Mitigation of Land Degradation in the Philippines by Rodrigo Fuentes

Climatic change and land degradation are serious environmental issues for the Philippines given their implications to economic growth and millions of people, particularly the marginal poor. The location and topographic configuration of the Philippines makes it more susceptible to climatic anomalies. For years its people have developed coping mechanisms to the climatic changes in the country, in particular drought during dry spells and flooding during monsoon seasons. These capacities however, are becoming inadequate as the drive for economic growth, uncontrolled population increase, urbanization and changing consumption and production patterns are combining to create intense pressure on the country’s limited carrying capacities. The government fully recognizes the imperative for addressing these issues and has formulated strategic frameworks with the involvement of critical stakeholders that are directed to responding to these concerns. Current efforts are being pursued which are within the ambit of the climate change, land degradation and desertification and, biodiversity conventions. However, in all of these efforts, the role of scientific information particularly the collection, analysis and dissemination of climatological data cannot be understated. Not only is it critical for predicting climatic events but, more significantly the application and use of scientifically derived information is critical to devising adaptive measures especially for rural communities that would enable individual farmers cope with climate induced disasters including the arrest of further land degradation.

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Successful grassland regeneration in a severely degraded catchment: A whole of government approach in North West Australia by Paul Novelly and I. Watson Department of Agriculture & Food, Western Australia

A significant proportion of the Ord River catchment (46,700 sq km) in north-west Australia was severely degraded in the 1950s. Since then, there has been spectacular rehabilitation. This was wrought by a combination of changed government land use priorities, legislative and regulatory backing, feral animal control, reclamation works and a sequence of years of favourable rainfall.  The catchment is in the East Kimberley region of Western Australia. Since European settlement in the mid 1880s, predominant use has been extensive cattle grazing. Land tenure is “pastoral leasehold”, rather than freehold ownership, with average pastoral lease size around 300 000 hectares (3 000 sq km).  Despite a relatively short cattle history, the catchment has suffered from significant overgrazing well beyond carrying capacities (3 to 5 adult cattle/sq km) and consequent rangeland degradation, particularly in more fragile soil-vegetation complexes.  By the 1950s, there was virtually complete grassland loss and significant sheeting and gully erosion on over 1.5 million hectares (15 000 sq km), while average sediment load in the Ord River was estimated at 29 million tonnes per annum.

Rehabilitation costs are often much greater than potential returns, and management and timeframes associated with large scale rehabilitation often too daunting to allow full or even partial recovery.  Most importantly, it is difficult to gather the institutional support to initiate a rehabilitation program.  In the Ord River catchment, the catalyst for change was externally driven, through a change of land use in the lower catchment.  The Government proposed to dam the Ord River and develop a potential area of over 40 000 hectares for irrigation.  This development proposal was associated with the need to reduce sediment flow in the Ord River, calculations suggesting that, without upstream rangeland rehabilitation, water storage capacity of the proposed reservoir (Lake Argyle) would be reduced by over 30% within 100 years.  A ‘whole of government’ approach to rehabilitation was taken by the Western Australian Government in the 1960s.  This included resumption by the State government of all or part of five grazing leases (following an initial abortive attempt at rehabilitation while cattle production activities continued), a complete destocking program to remove both cattle and feral donkeys, and the initiation of a Government-funded grassland replanting program.  In particular, the Government passed specific legislation, the Ord River Dam Catchment Area (Straying Cattle) Act, 1967, which passed control of all cattle in the rehabilitation area to Government.

A reseeding program using kapok bush (Aerva javanica) as a colonising species (to assist development of a favourable seedbed for native and sown species), buffel grass (Cenchrus ciliaris) and Birdwood grass (C. setiger) in contour ploughed bands began in 1960.  However, establishment was limited, with little spread out from seeded bands. Even after 20 years (late 1980s), further seeding was done between the original bands to increase grass coverage. Only with a sequence of favourable seasons in the 1990s was regeneration finally successful.  Successful rehabilitation of extensive areas of degraded grassland requires a combination of factors.  Some factors such as rainfall are outside management control.  Overall, timeframes are long, and significant commitment is required to achieve long-term goals.  Regeneration of the Ord River catchment was the largest and most ambitious of its kind in Australia, and one of the few successful examples of such wide scale rehabilitation. This program demonstrated the need for such an integrated approach.  Its success can be seen in the recent inclusion of the regenerated area into the Western Australian conservation estate.

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Land Degradation Management in Southern Africa by Josephine Phillip Msangi (University of Namibia)

In all eight out of the ten countries constituting Southern Africa region most people live in rural areas and depend on subsistence agriculture for their livelihoods. In the region land degradation occurs mostly from soil erosion, chemical degradation (loss of nutrients, depletion of organic matter and acidification) and biological depletion.  Other factors which contribute to land degradation in the region include compaction from overgrazing of rangelands, uncontrolled burning and improper cultivation of steep slopes, alternating flooding and crusting, salinization and pollution which all combine to cause degeneration of the fragile ecosystems covering large expanses of the region.  Landscapes devoid of vegetative cover deeply incised by gullies that are difficult to reclaim, characterize large land expanses in the region classified as drylands. The portions classified as sub-humid or humid (highlands and wetlands) are prone to rapid soil loss from flash floods or periodic flooding. With a cycle of 2-3 and sometimes 5-6 years, droughts that have occurred in the region for over a century, worsen the land degradation problem making land management a formidable task particularly during the critical moisture deficient periods.  Differing land tenure systems combined with high poverty and low literacy levels common among the rural population complicate land management process.  Low technological capacity, poor governance, poorly conceived management policies and their implementation further complicate land management issues.  Technology development, technology transfer and low adoption rates further exacerbate the situation.  Pressure on the land and competition for land is of main concern throughout the region.  Governments in the region as well as private organizations (including the numerous NGOs operating in the region), some communities and individuals (including researchers and academicians) have all identified the need to conserve land and reverse degradation to restore its productivity and improve the quality of life for those who depend on it for their livelihoods.  The paper examines the nature and causes of land degradation in the region, linking it to population characteristics, land ownership, low technological capacity, poverty, poor governance, low literacy and inappropriate land management practices.  The paper points out that numerous interventions targeted at reducing poverty and improvement in land resource management have not achieved their targets due to lack of coordination, rigidity and imposition which culminated in failure of the interveners to recognize and incorporate indigenous knowledge and peoples’ preferences and/or indigenous age-old land management strategies.  Linkages to trade and unequal market access that encourages poverty and unwise use of the land resources are discussed.  Adopting “people centered” interventions is recommended together with smart partnerships between the participating partners both from the north and those from the south.  Solutions will largely depend on willingness to change and sharing information that will guide appropriate regional action.  The region faces an enormous challenge part of which is to come up with viable solutions that will reverse the degradation of land and manage it sustainably.

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Successful Experiences of Sustainable Land Use in Arid and Semiarid Zones from Peru by Juan Torres Guevara (CIZA-UNALM, Peru)

Three experiences of successful measures of sustainable use of arid coastal and semiarid Andean mountain ecosystems from Peru, are presented. The first experience is located in the northern arid coast (Piura), where agroforestry and silvo-herding systems had been promoted, as well as the El Niño event had been advanced, specially the mega 97-98 (December to May) event, throughout the temporal agriculture and the conservation of the natural regeneration areas of tree species occurred in broad zones.

The second experience is carrying on in the northern (Piura and Cajamarca) and central (Huánuco y Huancavelica) Andean mountain ecosystems from Peru, which is  related with the in situ conservation of the agrobiodiversity of the Andean crops and their wild parents. With this experience not only the crop areas and the conservancy culture of the traditional farmers had been conserved, but also their natural environment, that is, the soils, fauna and the plant communities that surround them (pastures, bushes and forests), contributing with this to guarantee the continuity of the conservancy activity of the Andean cultures and, therefore, of the northern and central Andean mountain semiarid ecosystems from Peru.

The third experience is located on the  southern coastal desert from Peru, on a likewise oases ecosystem locally called as: "Lomas", which is inhabited by the Atiquipa peasant community. During the winter seasons (June-October), the Atiquipa Lomas support a strong presence of fog water, which is being "harvested" through disposals called "atrapanieblas" (“fog catcher”), that permit to precipitate the fog water with a noticeable increment of its volume. This harvested water is used for the reforestation of the high zones of the community for livestock, human consumption, as well as for  food crops that contribute to the food security of the community. So, the bases for a sustainable use of the desert resources of the southern coast from Peru, are establishing. These three experiences are cases of successful measures for the sustainable land use in the arid coast and semiarid Andean mountain from Peru.  

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Role of organic agriculture in preventing and reversing land degradation by Sue Edwards (Director, Institute for Sustainable Development, Ethiopia) 

Soil erosion and desertification are the physical expressions of land degradation, while the social and economic impacts are degraded lifestyles and pernicious poverty. An understanding of how to maintain healthy soil is essential to reverse and prevent land degradation. Healthy soil carries a good plant cover and enables rain water to infiltrate and recharge both soil water and underlying aquifers.  Organic agriculture is a whole system approach based upon a set of processes resulting in sustainable ecosystems, safe food, good nutrition, animal welfare and social justice. It is more than just a system of production that includes or excludes certain inputs, particularly agro-chemicals, because it builds on and enhances the ecological management skills of the farmer, the fisher folk and the pastoralist. Practicing organic or agro-ecological agriculture requires ecological knowledge, planning and commitment to work with natural systems, rather than trying to change them.

Subsistence agriculture has been referred to as ‘organic by default’, because the farmers usually cannot afford to pay for external inputs. But this label does a disservice to the ecological management skills needed by farmers to become effective organic farmers. It also equates organic agriculture with deficit subsistence agriculture, making it very difficult for policy makers and others to see the potential for improvement in an organic approach. Examples will be given where organic farming is already contributing to improved land management and food security. The role of IFOAM in promoting organic agriculture will be explained.

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Using Better Climate Prediction in the Implementation of NAPs - Eastern Europe by Vesselin Alexandrov (National Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology, Sofia, Bulgaria)

According to the UNCCD (United Nation Convention to Combat Desertification) affected country Parties have to prepare, make public and implement National Action Programmes (NAPs) as the central element of the strategy to combat desertification and mitigate the effects of drought. NAPs should incorporate long-term strategies to combat desertification and mitigate the effects of drought and enhance national climatological, meteorological and hydrological capabilities. In order to prepare for and mitigate the effects of drought, NAPs could include strengthening of drought preparedness and management, including drought contingency plans at the local, national, subregional and regional levels, which take into consideration seasonal to interannual climate predictions.   In this paper the question on application of climate predictions in Eastern European countries is discussed. Results from a survey on CLIPS (Climate Information and Prediction Services) activities in the NMHSs (National Meteorological and Hydrological Services) from Eastern Europe are considered.  Capabilities of certain Eastern European countries in the development of own seasonal to interannual predictions or adaptation and interpretation of predictions issued by specialized climate prediction cеnters are also listed. Attempts to improve climate predictions in Eastern Europe based on the NAO impacts are taken into account. Various programs, projects and centers related to the development and application of climate predictions for the considered European region are discussed. Finally, climate change scenarios for Eastern Europe and their relation to the UNCCD and NAPs are mentioned, as well.

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NAPs Implementation through the Effective Use of Early Warning by Reuben Sinange

The principle purpose of an early warning system is to collect an appropriate array of data and information regularly, in a consistent manner so as to provide a sense of trends and enable prediction of events on a timely basis. This is with a view to have the populations are in a state of disaster preparedness, prevention and response. It enables them improve response, save lives and property, reduce damage to property and reduce human suffering from such events and processes. So one has to examine the past and current trends and predict the future.  The concepts, sciences and technologies for early warning systems have substantially improved and refined over the last 30 years. Institutional arrangements and networks have equally developed tremendously during the same period. Even if not always perfect, the systems have globally proven to have given indications and trends that should have attracted interventions. Unfortunately it has not always been the case in many countries. Through various international forums, states are being urged to address the issue as a risk management business for the states.

However, it requires conviction, statute(s) and other instruments like development strategies and programmes that include NAPs to implement interventions that have scientifically been proven by the existing EWS. There are many examples in our region where early warnings were issued but “ignored” and regretfully many governments and responsible institutions are blamed for not having done enough before, during and after the disastrous events and processes like desertification, droughts, famines and floods. Redressing the situation has proven costly.

It is demonstrated in this paper, by use of historical development of the science and events in the region, that the solutions lie in strong policies and legal frameworks backed by strong institutional changes that must be in place to utilize the available science and technological capabilities. This will save our environment, reduce disastrous processes and events and promote the culture of risk assessments and management by the state. One of the appropriate vehicles to promote this can be the NAPs.   Emphasis is placed in the regularization or legalization of the gathering, analysis, publishing and utilization of data and information for early warning. This is with a view to influencing decision making and policy on the management of risks in our environment. It is proposed that some of the legal areas that can be targeted are those of national statistical services, disaster management laws, and environmental management laws.

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The role of drought monitoring and management in implementing NAPs by Hossein Badripour (Forest, Range and Watershed Management Organization, Islamic Republic of Iran)

Land degradation is of high importance to the human being thus the international community decided to develop a convention to force countries to take measures to control land degradation process. Since, drought is a climatic feature that exacerbates land degradation thus “mitigation of drought impact” was added to UNCCD. Drought is a very common phenomenon all around the world especially in those countries located in the arid and semi arid areas. Like other countries in the arid zone, I.R.Iran suffers from drought. Researches reveal that every 2.5 years, country experience drought with different severities. Apart from the impacts that drought imposes on natural resources and environment, huge amount of economic losses are induced to the people i.e. the amount of losses caused by drought just in rain-fed crops reached to 6% GDP in 2000. Drought is also one of the causes of poverty and poverty causes land degradation. Thus, in NAP formulation, drought is a main matter that should be focused on. In order to control the impacts of drought in land degradation, an integrated management model is needed. Since drought is a multi-faced phenomenon, the model should be quite comprehensive and cover from hydrological and agricultural to socio-economic aspects. In order to develop the strategies to manage drought, one should be aware of drought occurrence, in this regard lots of indices such as PDSI and SPI have been developed and many countries have localized the indices to their own circumstances to measure the drought severity and area. As different sectors of the community and environment suffer from drought not as same so each sector should have its own indices to monitor drought precisely. Unfortunately, although drought is a slow and creeping disaster, but since no clear and definite strategy have been developed, countries suffer a lot, while at the best situation, they would have a fairly good crisis management system which is usually late and costly. Some models to manage drought have been developed such as 3 phase management model (before, during and after drought), 10-step drought management model (1990) and recently a more comprehensive one has been developed for the disaster management (Whilhite , 1996). The latter consider both crisis management and risk management which the former ones lack some components of this model. Once, the model for each sector suffering from drought have been formulated, all stakeholders including managers and farmers can follow the strategies of the model leading to mitigate drought impacts and control land degradation.

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Climate And National Action Programs In Latin America by Gertjan Beekman (Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture-IICA)

The Program to Combat Desertification and Mitigate the Effects of Droughts in South America is being implemented at a regional scale. The general objective is to provide a sound basis for addressing dry land degradation and drought in, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador and Peru, in accordance with the UNCCD principles. Other countries, such as, Colombia, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela  have manifested their interest in participating in the Program and to share experiences and expertise among the countries in the Region. The Meso-America countries, are also willing to engage in the same approach of the Program, significantly expanding the basis for south-south and north-south cooperation. In Latin America, the vast majority of the 34 countries that have adhered to the UNCCD have laborated their National Action Plans-NAP’s in accordance with their commitments towards the Convention. Currently, a number of them are engaged in the process to have their respective NAP’s fully implemented and guided by national policies targeted to control the continuous land degradation associated either to natural  climatic variations or anthropogenic activities.  

The main objective of the Convention is to secure the long-term commitment of its Parties to combat desertification and mitigate the effects of drought through effective action at all levels, with a view to contributing to the achievement of sustainable development in affected areas. The Convention calls on the affected countries to develop National Action Programs to Combat Desertification and Drought (NAPCD), within the framework of national development plans. These include strategies and priorities, paying special attention to the related socioeconomic factors, addressing the underlying causes of dry land degradation, promoting the participation of local populations particularly women and youth, and providing an enabling environment by issuing as necessary new laws and policies. Through the Program a set of  socio-economic and environmental indicators were identified in all participating countries and a common base line of indicators was derived in order to establish a common ground for the simulation of future scenarios. This is particularly of importance regarding the climate indicators such as temperature, precipation and evaporation that constitute components of the aridity index used to delimit the arid, semi-arid and the dry sub-humid areas in the region. The global warming trend is likely to change  the distribution patterns of such indicators and redefine the boundaries of the aforementioned areas. These changes, as predicted by future scenarios, should be taken into account in NAP implementation and be given due consideration in the formulation of public policies towards combating desertification.

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