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You are here: Home Magazines Global edition From desertification to vibrant communities

From desertification to vibrant communities

last modified Jan 16, 2015 10:12 AM

Sustainable agriculture in dry and degraded areas is about the resilience of farmers and ecosystems. With examples from different parts of the world, issue 28.4 of Farming Matters shows the importance of local knowledge and appropriate policies.

Desertification and land degradation are not just natural phenomena. They are the outcomes of a long-term over-exploitation and mismanagement of fragile ecosystems. Eighteen years after the creation of the UNCCD, the world's deserts would seem to be growing. Yet "we know what to do and how to do it" - and we can see many positive examples, and many efforts to scale up the results.

Farming Matters | 28.4 | December 2012

Featured articles

Table of contents:

  • 2 - 2
    Deadline: March 5th, 2013
  • 3 - 3
    Most of those who stop working after having had a job for several decades see their incomes decline drastically. In Mapepe, close to Zambia’s capital, former senior civil servants have transformed their lives by becoming dairy farmers and organising themselves in the Mapepe Dairy Co-operative. One of them is Colonel Cosmas Mazuba, who became the co-operative’s Chairman after retiring from the army.
  • 5 - 5
    Sustainable agriculture in dry and degraded areas is about the resilience of farmers and ecosystems. Increasing the soil’s organic matter content is the most essential thing that dryland farmers can do to increase the stability of their farm.
  • 7 - 7
    Farming Matters welcomes comments, ideas and suggestions from its readers. Please contact us via e-mail at or write to P.O Box 90, 6700 AB Wageningen, the Netherlands.
  • 8 - 9
    Desertification and land degradation are not just natural phenomena. They are the outcomes of long-term over-exploitation and mismanagement of fragile ecosystems. To address these problems, we cannot pursue the same ways of thinking that have led to this situation. We need to take a different perspective - one which is already presenting itself.
  • 10 - 13
    The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, UNCCD, is celebrating its first 18 years in 2012, which means that, according to UN definitions, it has now reached adulthood. This provides a perfect opportunity to turn on the spotlights and look at the period covering the Convention’s childhood and youth – and to present recommendations for an even more successful adulthood.
  • 14 - 17
    Interview > Chris Reij - Working as a sustainable land management specialist at the Centre for International Cooperation of the Free University in Amsterdam, and as a Senior Fellow at the World Resources Institute, in Washington, Chris Reij is the facilitator of “African Re-greening Initiatives”. This is a platform that supports farmers in the process of adapting to climate change and in developing more productive and sustainable farming systems. This platform was launched to help scale up the results of the efforts of those farmers and communities in Burkina Faso and Mali who have shown enormous success in the fight against desertification.
  • 18 - 19
    The combination of a degraded landscape and climate change is having a severe impact in many places. In the Peruvian Andes, a water harvesting approach is proving to have positive results – especially when the construction of dams and canals goes hand in hand with an approach that leads to stronger local organisations and the involvement of all villagers and support from other local stakeholders.
  • 20 - 20
    People and communities can be amazingly resourceful and innovative when adjusting to change, yet the challenges today are hugely complex. How can we work together to make the changes needed if we are to feed 9 billion people while taking care of the environment?
  • 21 - 21
    (December 2012) Eric Holt-Gimenez argues the need for a pro-active movement based on land sovereignty to fight land grabbing.Farmers’ organisations, social movements and development NGOs need to find “common ground” to protect peasant farmers, forest dwellers, indigenous communities, family farmers and urban agriculture from the devastation of dispossession.
  • 22 - 23
    Farmers’ knowledge and experience has not been adequately translated into policies and strategies by governments, the private sector or civil society organisations. In general, not enough is known about these transformation processes. Is there a glass ceiling that limits the spread of good agrobiodiversity practices? The agrobiodiversity@knowledged programme, started by Oxfam Novib and Hivos, aims to collect and disseminate ideas from all over the world to add insights and evidence to current debates and to strengthen good practices worldwide.
  • 24 - 26
    Since the 1980s, some 6 million hectares of agriculture land in the Sahel have been covered with trees. Yet, this area could be much larger. The support provided to the rural areas of most Sahelian countries depends on public funding and on the contributions of international donor agencies, so the number of projects, or the number of farmers that can be involved, is limited. Since it took 30 years to cover 6 million hectares, many argue that it might take too long to cover the entire Sahel. Does scaling up depend only on the national and international funds for rural development? Or would there be other ways of reaching out and involving many other farmers?
  • 27 - 27
    Many different local strategies are being employed to combat and prevent desertification and degradation. By linking these with scientific insights relevant to the local context, the DESIRE project has identified, evaluated and tried out a set of locally appropriate land management strategies. These strategies are now being shared with a range of stakeholders, from farmers to policy makers. According to DESIRE’s co-ordinator, Coen Ritsema, “it is truly a global approach, where we look at interesting local strategies that can be expanded all over the world”.
  • 28 - 29
    A wolf in sheep’s clothing? | Food security and climate change | Contested agronomy | Crops of the future | Food security: Communications toolkit | The land grabbers | More on desertifications
  • 30 - 31
    Livestock production is the most important economic activity in the Butana region of eastern Sudan. In this region, women of the town of As-Subagh took the initiative to improve their community’s fodder production – while at the same time helping to restore degraded lands in their area. They have been supported by the Butana Integrated Rural Development Project (BIRDP), implemented by the Government of Sudan and IFAD.
  • 32 - 33
    Farmers around the world are experimenting with strategies to cope with and restore dry and degraded environments. These may focus on tree planting, or enhancing soil fertility. The following stories are just a few examples of how farmers in different regions use a variety of techniques to enhance ecosystem resilience and protect their livelihoods.
  • 34 - 36
    Kaluchi Thakarwadi is a small, remote settlement in the district of Ahmednagar, in Maharashtra, in the semi-arid zone in the rain shadow of India’s western mountains. Rainfall is unreliable, so there is chronic water scarcity, with recurring shortages of food and fodder. Six years ago a broad watershed management programme was established, which has already had an enormous impact: a transformation from desert to a replenished watershed.
  • 37 - 37
    (December 2012) David Millar looks at some of the obstacles to tree-planting in northern Ghana and identifies other strategies for combating climate change.Better grassland management provides an opportunity for northern Ghana to participate in the global efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, benefit from the Clean Development Mechanisms (CDM), provide income generation opportunities and efficiently contribute to the fight against desertification.
  • 38 - 39
    Defining “the future we want” for the planet we rely on, world leaders at Rio+20 resolved to achieve a land-degradation neutral world. Forging a global partnership to reverse and prevent desertification/land degradation and to mitigate the effects of drought in affected areas in order to support poverty reduction and environmental sustainability, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), one of the three international treaties called for by the 1992 Earth Summit, remains at the core of today’s most pressing development challenges.
  • 40 - 41
    Following over a half-century of “technology transfer” and “participation”, the paradigm of agricultural modernisation appears to have reached a limit. Directly related to growing concerns over the world’s food systems, there is a sense of welcomed change taking place. At the centre lays a commonly neglected resource: the creativity embedded in peoples’ daily practices and self-organisation.
  • 42 - 43
    During the past 27 years, our magazines have shown many of the ways in which farmers and organisations are fighting desertification. Combined with scientific knowledge, the approaches based on farmers’ ancestral knowledge and inventiveness can make a real difference, helping to conserve natural resources and give high yields. A quick review of the hundreds of articles published by the AgriCultures Network shows some aspects worth highlighting.
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