Exploring, strengthening and reviving dryland ecosystems
After over a year living with the COVID-19 crisis, there is a greater appreciation globally of the crucial role that forests, including dryland forests and agrosilvopastoral systems, play in combating a range of health, environmental and socioeconomic issues from zoonotic diseases to climate change to conflict.
The launch of the United Nations (UN) Decade on Ecosystem Restoration in June 2021 shines a spotlight on the change needed – a shift from destructive – to restorative and resilient practices.
Degradation is already affecting the well-being of an estimated 3.2 billion people – i.e. almost 40 percent of the world’s population. As outlined in FAO’s recent State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World in 2021 (SOFI 2021) report, the urgency of the action needed is unparalleled in human history due to the combined impacts of COVID-19, climate change and conflict. Nearly 2.37 billion people did not have access to adequate food in 2020 – an increase of 320 million people in just one year.
This means that this is a battle that cannot be fought on one front, but requires a systems approach, along the lines of what is being called for at the UN Food Systems Summit 2021. Restoring 350 million hectares of degraded or deforested landscapes by 2030 could sequester between one and three billion tonnes of CO2 per year. It could also generate about USD 170 billion per year in other benefits from ecosystems.
While there is a growing body of literature and documented experience outlining how a humanitarian–development–peace (HDP) nexus approach can contribute to better, more lasting outcomes, there is a lack of consensus on exactly what the key attributes of success are in applying this approach in varying contexts.
The UN Food Systems Summit provides an opportunity to build on the momentum being generated for food system transformation by developing the evidence base for the best models, so as to achieve the needed transformation. FAO, CARE International and CGIAR are contributing to this transformation by pooling their experience and sharing lessons learned, in order to identify key areas to explore further in addressing the interlinked issues of climate change, land degradation and conflict in dryland ecosystems.