“Don’t Let Our Future Dry Up.” These words tried to capture a sense of collective responsibility for sustainable use of land and water as Monday marked the 18th annual World Day to Combat Desertification. With 2013 designated by the United Nations as the International Year for Water Cooperation, and resilience to water scarcity becoming an ever-greater concern in light of climate change and a growing global population, the day serves to promote public awareness around international cooperation to counter desertification and the effects of drought.
In conjunction with this observance, the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) also announced the recipients of the Land for Life Award, recognizing innovation and leadership in furthering sustainable land management. Restoring degraded lands and building soil health are part of this, but the award also emphasizes gender equality, international cooperation, and a supportive political environment. In fact, co-organizers Conservation International (for their watershed work in Indonesia) and EcoAgriculture Partners were both semi-finalists for the award.
The winner and runners-up of this year’s award have particularly holistic mandates regarding sustainable land management, incorporating many elements of a landscape approach. The Foundation for Ecological Security (FES) in India focuses on placing the management of forests and other natural resources within the broader economic, social, and ecological dynamics of a landscape. Explicitly recognizing the fragmented approach often taken by government arms or administering bodies when it comes to managing common property rangelands, forests, and water resources, the organization facilitates multi-stakeholder platforms and builds capacity for community governance mechanisms.
Consejo Civil Mexicano para la Silvicultura Sostenible (CCMSS), one of the runners-up, operates in the Amanalco Valle Bravo Basin, helping smallholder families on 15,200 hectares in the region to manage their agricultural and forest lands to preserve the important water and forest resources. The organization is also playing a vital role in exploring carbon finance and payment for ecosystem services schemes to help support these rural communities. And finally, World Vision Australia has offered training for farmers in West Africa (and elsewhere) on Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration, which has contributed significantly in regreening the Sahelian region of Africa.
Organizations such as these, who are addressing water scarcity and land degradation with a landscape approach, offer encouragement that we won’t “let our future dry up.”