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UNCCD to publish first ever Global Land Outlook report

Participants at the Global Land Outlook Writeshop. Photo Credit: Dryland Systems.

"Sustainable land management is a fundamentally social process," said Mark Reed, Professor of Socio-Technical Innovation at the University of Newcastle, during the discussions on managing the dynamics of trust and power as a critical success factor to scaling up best sustainable land management practices at the Global Land Outlook Writeshop.

The writeshop, held 11th-13th of April 2016 in Amman, was organized by the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems in coordination with the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and the International Center for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas (ICARDA).

Today, land degradation stands as one of the greatest issues globally, if not the greatest.  More than 250 million people are directly affected by desertification, and 1 billion are at risk. In the next 10 years, 50 million people could be displaced by desertification alone.

In this regard, agricultural scientists, policy makers and development practitioners came together to discuss and share knowledge and lessons learned on successful examples of sustainable land management practices and common challenges facing the scalability of these practices, in contribution to the UNCCD’s Global Land Outlook (GLO) report, which will be published in 2017. The GLO will be a strategic communications platform and publication that demonstrates the central importance of land quality to human well-being, and will:

  • Assess current trends in land conversion, degradation and loss,
  • Identify the driving factors and analyze the impacts,
  • Provide scenarios for future challenges and opportunities,
  • Present a new and transformative vision for land management policy, planning and practice at global and national scales.

The UNCCD commissioned the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems to develop the GLO chapter on scaling up and out sustainable land management practices.

The writeshop commenced with experience-sharing exercises on the first day. Sessions 1 and 2 had the participants circulate their wealth of knowledge, from research to implementation, through a series of short presentations and group discussions. The interdisciplinarity of the participants drew out valuable lessons learned from case studies of research and development interventions in areas of the world that are prone to or suffer from land degradation and desertification.

These discussions exposed critical factors that lead to success or failure of strategies for scaling up and out sustainable land management practices. The importance of inclusive cooperation and engagement of stakeholders was highlighted, in addition to:

  • Efficient and sustainable resource use,
  • Integrated and innovative thinking,
  • Capacity building,
  • Communication of results,
  • Clear monitoring and evaluation frameworks.

"Now we have the means and the tools to scale up, in order to increase the adoption of these techniques and begin to restore land that has been degraded, and to prevent land degradation from occurring on good land," said Dr. Richard Thomas, Program Director of the CGIAR Research Program of Dryland Systems.  

Panel discussion on key researchable questions for scaling up. Photo Credit: Marah Al Malalha/Dryland Systems.


In Sessions 3 and 4, the writeshop participants investigated the key incentives for and barriers to adopting and scaling up and out sustainable land management practices on the research, community, policy maker and private sector levels. The participants were asked to assume the roles of the specific stakeholders and encouraged to think outside the box and to view things from a perspective different from their own. The findings of this creative thinking exercise fueled the conversation in a panel discussion, which took on a "talk show" format. Some of the key incentivizing strategies suggested were:

  • Spreading awareness of the economic value of land and ecosystem services,
  • Eliminating the knowledge gap through better translation of scientific research into relevant and actionable evidence,
  • Stakeholder engagement at all levels,
  • Reducing uncertainty and risk in investment.

On the third and final day, the participants were asked to reflect on all lessons learned, ideas synthesized and solutions proposed in the previous sessions, in order to come up with a strategic research agenda that is adaptable and scaled up for success. The key elements required to organize and design this research agenda were addressed in Session 5. An idea that was placed on the discussion table was the need to develop plausible typologies of situations to define how sustainable land management practices perform in and adapt to different socio-economic and environmental contexts around the globe. This solidified the need for devising effective and timely monitoring and evaluation mechanisms and feedback loops to facilitate the scaling up and out of the practices.

Further discussions on the new research agenda were concerned with advocacy and lobbying strategies capable of bringing about desired changes and influencing key stakeholders and policy makers, as well as increasing investments in both research and development in dry areas. The need to align the research agenda with current global priorities, such as the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals, was also highlighted.

In order to raise awareness about the wide-spreading effects of land degradation and desertification, the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems produced an informative infographic indicating the causes of degradation, the figures associated with the issue, and the opportunities viable today.

"It has been a great learning experience for me. One of the things I really liked was that we got the opportunity to wear different hats and play different roles, allowing us to gain more out of the writeshop," said Mr. Arivudai Nambi, Adaptation Strategy Head at the World Research Institute India.

The CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems is an advocate of innovative knowledge sharing tools. The Global Land Outlook Writeshop employed methods from The Surprising Power of Liberating Structures, which puts accent on participation, interaction, and creative thinking, and invites individuals to step out of comfort zones and explore new horizons.

About the author

Marah Al Malalha is the Communications Intern at the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems.