COP15 desertification: a buffer farm against the advance of the desert

A little sister to the climate and biodiversity COPs, the desertification COPs benefit from much less political and media mobilization. However, the questions it raises are just as important as Alexandre Ickowicz and Eric Scopel, researchers at CIRAD and members of the French Scientific Committee on Desertification (CSFD) remind us: ” The areas affected by desertification bring together all the challenges of the three Rio Conventions *. The advance of the desert in arid areas benefits from the deterioration of resources, which is a combination of climatic aspects and the degradation of biodiversity and soil, caused by human action. »

CIRAD researchers thus note a recent turning point in the political agenda of the Desertification Convention: the addition of the concept of “land degradation”. ” Politicians have become aware that there is a gradient between desert areas and non-desert areasthey explain. It is no longer just a matter of putting a barrier of trees between two well-defined areas. »

Combine animal and plant production to stabilize the desert’s progress

In particular, the extension of the debate on land degradation has made it possible to put agricultural issues back at the heart of the negotiations. Agriculture, which is currently considered to be the main cause of soil degradation, may also be the first source of solutions, ” provided that agro-ecological principles are adopted »The researchers point out.

As an example, the researchers cite their work with Sahelian pastoral systems, which have been in balance with their environment for millennia and in areas that are nonetheless hostile to human activities: ” In regions with less than 200 mm of rainfall per year, pastoralism is the only viable form of agriculturesays Alexandre Ickowicz. A crop requires a minimum of 200 to 300 mm of rain per year, apart from being dependent on irrigation, which is dependent on unsustainable fossil reserves and whose technology is often expensive. »

Contrary to popular belief, these pastoral systems can be carbon neutral. They also ensure, thanks to the mobility of the animals, a significant role in the transfer of fertility to the soil and cultures in the periphery of the arid zones, while reducing the need for chemical fertilizers. ” By combining livestock and crops, plant production in these smaller desert areas is stabilized.supports Eric Scopel. We are reintegrating biodiversity and restoring a balance that allows us to regain control of the desert. From being a decomposing factor, agriculture thus becomes a buffer tool through which it is possible to fight against the advance of the desert.

Great Green Wall: Puts locals back in the heart of the project

This will be one of the key topics in the negotiations on this COP15 desertification: the new phase of the Great Green Wall. A titanic project launched in 2007, the first phase had largely ignored the needs of the locals, resulting in a failure fifteen years later. In January 2021, the members of the One Planet Summit began another phase of the Great Green Wall, known as the GGW accelerator, this time based on broad public participation.

For Alexandre Ickowicz, this is an opportunity to relaunch and support agro-pastoral systems: “Local livestock farming is highly dependent on the use of trees. The re-establishment of a broader biodiversity will make it possible to improve the production of e.g. feed. On one condition, however: that this establishment and management takes place with the local population “.

The two scientists are present in Abidjan at the CSFD stand and will lead debates on agroecology, pastoralism and the Great Green Wall. Find the full program for CIRAD interventions here.

* The 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, also known as the Rio Earth Summit, gave birth to three international conventions: the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The United Nations Convention against Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

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