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Dryland Systems 2015 Annual Report: Towards Sustainable Livelihoods in Drylands released

Aug 03,2016

“In 2015, war and political instability ravaged many countries in the Middle East and North Africa. A growing body of scientific evidence suggests a strong correlation between climate change, land degradation, conflict, and migration. The case for continuing to support research in rural drylands of the developing world is stronger than ever. Our hope is that the global commitment to reducing the negative effects of climate change and land degradation will be matched with increased investment in the years to come. Investment in systems approaches is critical to tackle climate change adaptation and mitigation, and to combat the land degradation that affects the lives of millions of smallholder producers and consumers in developing countries.” - Harry Palmier, Chair of the Independent Steering Committee

The CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems launches its 2015 Annual Report: Towards Sustainable Livelihood in Drylands.

In 2015, we produced critical scientific evidence, multidisciplinary knowledge and integrated systems tools to help improve agricultural livelihoods and sustainable development in the rural drylands of the developing world. Our research contributed to the formulation of the Sustainable Development Goals, the landmark Paris Climate Change Agreement and the Ankara Agreement on Land Degradation Neutrality.

Our integrated systems approach to land degradation shaped the thinking and recommendations of the 3rd Scientific Conference of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and the 12th Conference of the Parties to UNCCD. The 195 Parties agreed to a global deal that set a new environmental target: achieving “land degradation neutrality” by 2030. The UNCCD Bureau of the Committee on Science and Technology has endorsed our systems approach to meet the target.

Four years of rigorous scientific work that we coordinated in the framework of the global Economics of Land Degradation initiative culminated in publication of The Value of Land. An accompanying report, Reaping Economic and Environmental Benefits from Sustainable Land Management, summarized significant issues for policy and decision makers.

The 70th Session of the UN General Assembly on adopting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) approved Target 15.3 on Land Degradation Neutrality. Notably, the private sector is now using the business brief, Opportunity Lost: Mitigating risk and making the most of your land assets, to assess exposure to the risks of land degradation and to evaluate opportunities in sustainable land management.

From improved livelihood options to increased incomes and production to providing research insights and incisive policy recommendations for adopting sustainable land management practices, developing value chains, promoting conservation agriculture, empowering women and young people to build better agricultural livelihood futures for themselves, to establishing and maintaining 55 open access geospatial databases, and producing an impressive body of literature (567 publications), this report outlines progress made towards three specific goals we have set for ourselves to: (1) reduce poverty, (2) improve food and nutrition security, and (3) ensure sustainable resource management in rural dryland communities, which are home to 1.3 billion people.

Our 2015 Annual Report features several success stories of how Dryland Systems is working with communities, civil society actors and policy makers to develop innovative research-for-development interventions, and with our dedicated donors and partners, bring them to scale. Some early successes are the re-greening of silvopastoral systems, integrating small holders in agricultural value chains, gender empowerment through village-based seed enterprises in Afghanistan, the adoption in Nigeria of a policy promoting new, high yielding, heat-tolerant wheat varieties, and Index-Based Livestock Insurance in Kenya and Ethiopia.

Year 2015 saw real on-the-ground impacts in poverty reduction in drylands. For instance, through the identification of the main drivers of poverty and the adoption of more productive and profitable agricultural practices, we increased the incomes of many farming households across Algeria, Egypt, Eritrea, Kenya, Morocco, Sudan, Tunisia, and Yemen. We also enhanced market access of smallholder farmers; In Kenya alone, 20,000 livestock owners benefited from better market infrastructure, fodder groups and women’s milk cooperatives as a result of our research. Dryland Systems places sustainable natural resources and ecosystems management at the core of environmental and human development; in 2015 more than 16,000 hectares across North Africa were managed under conservation agriculture options, and more than 134,000 hectares reaped the benefits of enhanced natural capital as improved wheat based technologies were employed across Ethiopia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria and Sudan.

Big efforts were made to help vulnerable rural dryland communities adapt to climate change and increase their resilience. With our partners, we helped develop insurance schemes, like the Index-Based Livestock Insurance in Kenya, and introduced drought-resistant crops and intercropping techniques to build agrifood systems resilience to increased climate variability.

Empowering women and young adults was one of the cornerstones of our activities in 2015. In addition to several gender studies and systems-perspective research on the gender gap, we targeted gender inequality in dry areas by involving women in training seminars and agricultural information programs. This led to establishment of women’s networks, such as the Rural Women Learning Alliance in Uzbekistan.

Our 2015-2017 Youth Strategy was updated to promote a transformative environment through the involvement of young people within the agricultural sector.

You can read about these stories and more by browsing online or downloading the report here:

2015 Annual Report: Towards Sustainable Livelihoods in Drylands

“With the international community setting out actions for implementing the new Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, agricultural research in the drylands remains critical as ever. Without it, it would be difficult to imagine how the development aspirations of millions of people in Africa, Asia and the Middle East can be realized, while solutions to global challenges, including poverty, climate change, food and water security, nutrition, land degradation would be practically impossible.” - Dr. Richard Thomas, Director of the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems

On the other hand, measuring the results and impact of systems research is not straightforward. To establish greater transparency and accountability for our results, we continued to develop and refine our user-friendly, interactive Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning (MEL) system. In capturing and analyzing research outputs that deliver development outcomes, the MEL system sets the standard for effective results-based management to track progress across CGIAR. Three other CGIAR research programs and two CGIAR research centers have adopted the system, widening the scope for sharing knowledge and information and spurring greater innovation and interdisciplinary collaboration.

The unique legacy of Dryland Systems – in terms of its key research knowledge, data, tools, and lessons learned – will be taken forward into the new, second phase of CGIAR global research programs. It will inform the way in which these programs will integrate the holistic systems perspective into agrifood systems research, to take into account both biophysical and socio-economic factors that shape agricultural livelihoods in both rural drylands and other ecosystems globally.

These represent a mere snapshot of our achievements in 2015. To learn more about our research activities and development outcomes and impact on the ground, please visit our interactive online 2015 Annual Report site or download the full document (pdf) here.