The first digital conference on the restoration of drylands in Africa to take place
From June 2-3, the Global Landscapes Forum will host the first-ever digital conference devoted entirely to Africa’s drylands and how integrative restoration practices can see them flourish again.
Drylands are an important biome, occupying more than 41% of the world’s land area and comprising grasslands, agricultural land, forests and urban areas.
The trees and forests of arid zones generate a multitude of environmental services. They provide habitats for biodiversity, protect against water and wind erosion and desertification.
The drylands of Africa, in particular, are the birthplace of some of the world’s most extraordinary civilizations and species, from ancient kingdoms to wild elephants to “wonder grains” like millet and sorghum.
Unfortunately, these arid areas are degrading rapidly due to climate change. Far from climatic variations, arid zones are vulnerable to human activities such as deforestation which is the large-scale removal of trees in the forest.
At least 340 million hectares woody vegetation in arid areas of Africa has degraded due to overgrazing, agricultural expansion, and overexploitation of fuelwood and timber.
Overall, 2.9 billion people in developing countries still use traditional fuels such as firewood to make their food over open fires, which contributes to increasing rates of deforestation.
This is even when UN climate change data shows smoke from cooking fires accounts for eight deaths per minute worldwide, mainly affecting women and children.
In developing countries, health problems resulting from smoke inhalation, including respiratory infections, eye damage, heart and lung disease, and lung cancer are a major cause of death in children under five and women.
In order to tackle the various factors contributing to land degradation, the World Landscapes Forum has established the “Restoring Africa’s drylands: accelerating action on the ground”Conference to be held prior to the official launch of the United Nations Decade for Ecosystem Restoration, which runs from 2021 to 2030.
As part of the preparations for the conference, a group of 50 journalists was selected from among Africa receive hands-on journalism training to cover the conference and also write about the challenges of the drylands in their countries in Climate monitoring, an international non-profit organization committed to telling climate-related stories on a global scale.
In addition to journalism training, thematic training sessions were organized during which experts from the Global Landscapes Forum team gave presentations on the causes and drivers of landscape degradation and the bewildering influence of change. climate in the African context.
Experts also examined biodiversity in African dryland ecosystems, the economic impact of landscape degradation, climate-induced migration, supply chains, sustainable value chains and global perspectives.
During one of the presentations, a senior scientist from the World Agroforestry Center, Peter Minang, reaffirmed that Africa is one of the continents most vulnerable and most affected by land degradation, as around 500 million hectares have already been affected so far.
He said desertification affects at least 45% of Africa’s land area; 55% of these areas present a high or very high risk of further degradation, while the continent loses at least 56 billion euros per year.
According to Peter Minang, the increase in population, poverty, agricultural activities, demographic factors, expansion of infrastructure, economic factors and poor government policies are among the main factors contributing to the increase in land degradation.
Minang suggested that huge investments in alternative energy sources such as efficient stoves, for example, would reduce over-reliance on fuelwood, thus facing the challenge of deforestation.
Other experts who made presentations at the thematic training sessions were Jonathan Davies, Global Drylands Coordinator and Senior Agricultural Advisor at the International Union for Conservation of Nature, Salima Mahamoudou, Research Associate at the World Resources Institute , and Birguy Diallo, Senior Project Officer with the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification.
The conference will be held virtually and that means anyone who is actively engaged, interested and dedicated to scaling up dryland restoration in Africa can participate.
There is no better time for Africans to tell their own stories, especially when it comes to the massive loss of drylands and climate change which has often caused conflicts between farmers and herders, destroyed lives and lands. livelihood, that now.