Fertile Ground for the Future

BES-Net at UNCCD COP 15’s Land Restoration Day

June 7, 2022

Photo: UNDP


Land degradation, biodiversity loss and climate change are pressing issues that burden ecosystems worldwide. The fifteenth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 15) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) was organized on 9–20 May 2022 in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, to discuss these issues.

The session’s theme was “Land. Life. Legacy: From scarcity to prosperity,” and the critical decisions made over the 11 days live up to this banner, under which the 196 country parties and the European Union met. The most concrete of these 38 decisions is to restore one billion hectares of degraded land by 2030. The event was forward-thinking in tone, promising to future-proof land use against the impacts of climate change, promote decent land-based jobs for youth and strengthen youth participation in the UNCCD process. Crucially, indigenous, local and gendered knowledge was at the fore of the COP 15 members’ minds. Two more key takeaways from the convention were strengthening land rights and gender equality as essential enablers for effective land restoration.

Photo: UNDP


As part of UNCCD COP 15, BES-Net and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) hosted an event titled “Land Restoration for People and Planet: UNDP Ecosystem Restoration Promise” on 17 May in honour of the Rio Conventions Pavilion’s Land Restoration Day. UNDP representatives and speakers from Cameroon, Malawi and Kazakhstan met at the Hôtel Sofitel Ivoire to discuss land restoration efforts in their respective countries. The messages they brought to the table grieved the land that has been lost, reported on the inspiring work being done and fostered hope for the future.

Elie Kodsi, Senior Technical Advisor at UNDP, provided an overview of the organization’s commitment to sustainable land management through the flagship Ecosystem Restoration Promise. Kodsi highlighted that land degradation presents one of the most significant environmental challenges we face today, with over 25 per cent of the Earth’s land demonstrating declining productivity. This presents challenges to all ecosystems and food supply and results in losses of about 10 per cent of the world’s gross domestic product. Degraded landmass – beyond accounting for 23 per cent of global greenhouse emissions – poses a grave threat to global biodiversity as well. Kodsi reaffirmed UNDP’s determination to support international and collective action through a global network of initiatives, including BES-Net, such that countries help each other build restoration capacities to scale.

Photo: UNDP

Finally, the Kazakhstan team discussed the impact of climate change on land degradation in the Aral Sea region. The area has seen overnight low temperatures and overall winter temperatures rising. However, researchers in Kazakhstan have recently partnered with BES-Net to investigate ways to reverse these troubling trends and return productivity to the area’s soils. The project emphasizes a grassroots approach, utilizing key insights from farmers, other land users and local knowledge holders to inform decisions and actions. Most importantly, the project is working directly with vulnerable groups and being mindful of the gendered impacts of land degradation in its work to bring LDN to the Aral Sea region.

Land degradation and desertification are pressing problems that are at once drivers and consequences of climate change. The UNCCD COP 15 theme certainly encapsulated how the land is essential to all life on Earth: it feeds and houses animals and plants, nourishes human populations and represents important cultural and spiritual ties for many cultures. The presentations demonstrated how this collective and holistic approach is essential to our survival. Going forward, humanity needs to recognize and return to its interdependence with nature to restore land. Each story told at the land restoration event represented a gust of hope for this greener future created in the present.


The efforts of the three countries highlighted during the event are supported by BES-Net’s BES Solution Fund through the financial contribution of the Government of Germany through the International Climate Initiative.