Preventing desertification and soil erosion

Woman walks in desert with child in her arms.
The SDC is committed to preserving soil fertility, forest and water resources in countries affected by desertification. ©CGIAR

Desertification and soil erosion cause the land to lose vital elements such as nutrients and minerals. As a result, people lose their means of agricultural production, their source of food and income, and even their entire livelihoods. In a bid to prevent this, the SDC works to promote sustainable land, forest and water management in affected areas.

The SDC's focus

The SDC supports the preservation of soil fertility and water resources through sustainable agriculture and forest management, primarily in arid regions such as the Sahel, the Horn of Africa and Central Asia. It imparts knowledge, supports research projects and provides assistance with institutional reforms. The SDC's activities to combat desertification and soil erosion include the following:

Protecting pasture land

In Mongolia, one of the countries most affected by desertification, the SDC has been working to protect pasture land since 2004. It promotes pasture user groups (PUGs), groups of herders that jointly manage grazing lands. The local government grants PUGs the rights to use the land. These groups draw up pasture management plans and use the meadows in rotation. PUGs are independent bodies increasingly recognised and supported by local governments. To date, 960 PUGs and 67 marketing cooperatives have been supported by the Green Gold project, involving more than 53,000 herder households (30% of all herder households in the country).

Sustainable forestry

Charcoal is an important fuel in many developing countries. Its production requires large quantities of wood, which can lead to deforestation, soil erosion and, ultimately, desertification. Sustainable forest management and the energy-efficient production of charcoal are measures that can be introduced to prevent desertification.

In Tanzania, the SDC supports a project called Transforming Tanzania's Charcoal Sector, in which residents of eight villages in the district of Kilosa draw up plans to manage the forest and carry them out on a community basis. At the same time, they are taught how to produce charcoal sustainably. As well as protecting the forest and wood resources, this also improves the quality of the charcoal, leading to higher incomes for charcoal producers.

Convention to Combat Desertification

Switzerland, represented by the SDC, has been actively involved in the design and implementation of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). The primary objective of the Convention is to combat desertification and mitigate the effects of drought, particularly in Africa, through effective action at all levels.

WOCAT – Sharing information on sustainable land management

The SDC supports the World Overview of Conservation Approaches and Technologies (WOCAT), a global network led by the University of Bern's Centre for Development and Environment. Partners collect, evaluate and document information about sustainable land management (SLM) technologies and approaches, in particular in areas severely affected by desertification and drought. The data is used to facilitate decision-making on land use and to combat erosion, among other purposes.

Since early 2014, WOCAT has been recognised by the UNCCD as the global platform for documenting SLM best practices. WOCAT supports the 197 signatory countries in sharing their land management practices on the platform so that they can learn from each other quickly and easily. The SDC, for example, shares successful practices and valuable know-how on combating desertification, in a quick and cost-effective way.

Background

During desertification, the natural potential of the land deteriorates, meaning that it loses productivity, biological diversity and its ability to regenerate. The UNCCD thus defines desertification as 'land degradation'. The climatic and human factors of overgrazing, overexploitation, deforestation and unsustainable or environmentally-damaging irrigation systems contribute to desertification.

Approximately one third of the world's agricultural land has degraded. Every year, 12 million hectares are lost to desertification, an area three times the size of Switzerland. 2.7 billion people suffer from the ecological, economic and social consequences of desertification and soil erosion. Desertification is often linked to the poverty of the people living in the affected areas. In order to survive, the only option they have is to overexploit the land. Other contributing factors to overexploitation are international market imperatives and a lack of awareness about natural resources in some regions.

Switzerland ratified the UNCCD in 1996. It is the only legally binding document linking environment and development to sustainable land management. The 197 parties to the Convention work to improve the living conditions for people in drylands, to maintain and restore land and soil productivity, and to mitigate the effects of drought.

The UNCCD recommends a bottom-up approach to achieve its objectives, encouraging the participation of local people in combating desertification. The two other UN conventions agreed at the 1992 Earth Summit – the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – are also crucial to the fight against desertification.

Documents

Current projects

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Horn of Africa: One Health Units for Humans, Environment, Animals and Livelihoods

01.09.2024 - 30.06.2032

The project aims at improving the well-being of targeted pastoral communities challenged with inadequate access to basic health/veterinary services and environmental conditions in Somalia, Ethiopia and Northern Kenya through integrated health service delivery for both pastoralists and their livestock. The project will contribute to stability and vulnerability’s reduction of citizens in the region, thereby reducing their displacement/migration which is in the interest of Switzerland and the international community.


Programme d’appui à la commercialisation du bétail en Afrique de l’Ouest

01.07.2023 - 31.12.2028

Dans la région ouest africaine, le secteur de l’élevage est une grande opportunité d’intégration économique et de création de richesses pour les populations et les pays. En complément au soutien au secteur dans les pays prioritaires, ce programme vise le renforcement de la chaine de valeur régionale des produits animaux au profit des éleveurs. L’accent est mis sur le renforcement du secteur privé et l’amélioration des politiques et pratiques régionales d’échanges en  produits animaux.


Global Measurement of Diet Quality

01.01.2023 - 31.12.2025

Diets are the number one risk factor in the global burden of disease and multiple forms of malnutrition co-exist with overweight and obesity being the fastest growing form, particularly among poor populations in developing countries. Routinely collected information on Diet Quality is necessary to better understand dietary trends, help to create awareness, and inform policies to improve diets and health outcomes. Therefore, SDC supports an international initiative to develop diet quality measurements.


Financement des fonds agricoles nationaux du Bénin (FinAgri)

01.12.2022 - 30.11.2030

Au Bénin, il n’existe pas de dispositif national pour le financement du secteur agricole (agriculteurs, éleveurs, artisans et entreprises agricoles). Par la présente initiative, la DDC veut soutenir l’Etat béninois et le secteur privé dans la mise en place des dispositifs communs et pérennes de financement du secteur. Le but est de renforcer la productivité, la compétitivité des productions agricoles et la résilience des systèmes de productions aux effets des variations climatiques.


Soutien au Dispositif National de Sécurité Alimentaire -PRESA-

01.07.2022 - 31.12.2025

Malgré l’excédent céréalier enregistré durant ces deux dernières décennies, l’insécurité alimentaire touche près du ¼ de la population du Mali. La DDC veut renforcer les capacités institutionnelles et organisationnelles du dispositif national de sécurité alimentaire en vue d’améliorer la prévention et la gestion des crises conjoncturelles et accroître la résilience des populations vulnérables à l’insécurité alimentaire et nutritionnelle.


Sustainable Natural Resources Management (NRM) for Enhanced Pastoralist Food Security in the Borana Zone, Ethiopia.

01.01.2022 - 31.12.2027

Natural resources, particularly water and pasture, are among the key determinants of pastoralist livelihoods’ sustainability. The proposed Project contributes to the outcomes of the SDC’s Food Security Domain as stipulated in the Swiss Cooperation Strategy Horn of Africa. It aims at improving pastoralist food security and adaptive capacities in the lowlands of Borana Zone, Southern Ethiopia, through enhancing the sustainable management of natural resources.


International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) 12 Core contribution 2022 - 2024

01.01.2022 - 31.12.2024

IFAD aims at transforming rural economies and food systems by making them more inclusive, productive, resilient and sustainable. During 2022-2024, IFAD plans lifting 68 million poor rural women and men out of hunger and poverty, en route to doubling its impact by 2030. IFAD is one of the 15 priority multilateral organizations of the Swiss international cooperation and shares its priorities of leaving no one behind; addressing issues of climate change, nutrition, gender and youth; and engaging more with the private sector and promoting innovation.


Rural Markets

01.01.2022 - 30.09.2023

The political and health crisis in recent years has affected the economic activity of the Family Production Units (UPFs, in Spanish), which is why their resilience needs to be strengthened. The market development approach, applied in phases I and II of the project, has proven its potential to solve major bottlenecks.  In the last phase, the proposal is to consolidate and scale up the achievements in the market systems, as well as of the public and private services supporting them, focusing on knowledge management and sustainability mechanisms.


FASL - Food-security and Agricultural Sustainability for Livelihood improvement

01.01.2022 - 31.12.2025

Poverty and food insecurity are widespread all over Afghanistan and even more accentuated after the political change after the takeover of the Taliban in August 2021. Therefore the support of the poorest farmers in the most remote areas by improving and securing their livelihoods is crucial in order to strenghten sustainable natural resources management and the communities’ resilience. It is interwoven with the humanitarian appeal of Aga Khan Foundation supported by Switzerland. 


LURAS - Lao Upland Rural Advisory Services

01.12.2021 - 30.11.2025

Laos is an agriculture-based country in transition. Farmers in the Northern region require additional knowledge, skills and access to resources to organize themselves within the ongoing agricultural socio-economic changes. Switzerland’s expertise in inclusive economic development, climate change and environment will support rural advisory services during this final phase to sustainably stimulate climate resilient and lasting improvements in agricultural production and income generation for these farmers.


Enabling development through landmine clearance in the Sengwe Wildlife Corridor

01.11.2021 - 31.10.2023

Switzerland will contribute to achieve Zimbabwe’s 2025 landmine-free deadline by supporting a demining operation in the Sengwe Wildlife Corridor. The project implemented by APOPO seeks to return 84% of the remaining suspected contaminated area to local communities which will be used for agricultural development, ecotourism, and conservation, as well as to provide mine risk education so that food security is enhanced, general wellbeing is improved, and accidents are avoided.


BIOREST - Appui au développement d’une agriculture biologique durable et résiliente dans un contexte de changement climatique en Tunisie

01.11.2021 - 31.10.2025

A travers cette l’intervention, la Suisse consolide les efforts du gouvernement tunisien pour la résilience au changement climatique en accompagnant le développement des systèmes d’agriculture biologiques appliquant les principes de l’agriculture intelligente face au climat. L’appui portera sur les axes de la production végétale et animale, l’encadrement des acteurs et le système de contrôle de l’agriculture biologique. L’approche territoriale adoptée consolide la résilience alimentaire et environnementale des régions ciblées et de la Tunisie.

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