A Central Asia regional trialogue on land degradation, biodiversity and climate change started in Almaty on October 9th. The Trialogue is a face-to-face threeway communication and capacity building methodology promoted by the Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Network (BES-Net). 

It is aimed at enhancing national capacity to integrate findings and policy-relevant options from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services’ (IPBES) thematic assessments into policy, planning and on-the-ground programmes and projects by strengthening the interface between science/traditional knowledge holders, policymakers and practitioners.

Desertification and land degradation is a global environmental, social and economic problem, since they result in fertility reduction and efficiency of soil, which, in turn, have a negative impact on the agricultural sector. According to UN data, drought-ridden territories account for nearly third of lands in over 100 countries. Under the current tempo of desertification, in several years every fifth human being on the planet will live in drought-ridden territories. Up to 90 per cent of people living in drought-ridden territories are citizens of developing countries. Their hardship may become even worse because of drought, reduction of fertile topsoil and water scarcity. In least developed countries, desertification, aggravated by climate change, is fraught with famine.

Regions with arid and subarid dry climate conditions are subject to a high risk of desertification. Central Asian countries are no exception.

"Central Asia and Azerbaijan are facing a common challenge of land degradation and desertification. Natural landscapes and traditional fallows have rapidly been converted to agricultural and industrial landscapes, following the dissolution of the USSR and disintegration of collective farms. Although estimates vary and are imprecise, land degradation is claimed to be extensive, ranging from 4-10 % of cropped land, 27-68 % of pasture land as much as 8 % of forested land. In total, as much as half of land area is degraded across each country," said UNDP Deputy Resident Representative in Kazakhstan Mr. Vitalie Vremis.

UNDP partners with the government to implement a number of projects in the area of biodiversity and ecosystem services aimed at mitigating land degradation and climate change in Kazakhstan. 

"To-date, our work in Kazakhstan materialized into a number of results such as: rehabilitation of degraded pasture ecosystems —  an area of 247 000 ha, with 4000 hectares afforested with drought resistant plants, restoration of irrigation systems on 148 000 ha of previously abandoned land, introduction of solar and wind energy for irrigation of 10 000 ha in the Aral Sea region. We also supported the establishment of protected areas covering 2,5 mln ha of Kazakhstan’s territory. However as we know this is not sufficient. With existing efforts, and business as usual, we risk to miss climate targets, which Kazakhstan has set at min 15%", said Vitalie Vremis.

"In line with the Sustainable Development Goal # 15.3 – prevention of land degradation, the countries in the region have pledged to combat desertification, restore degraded lands, including lands affected by desertification, droughts and floods. It is necessary to take solutions on effective land management on the region and local levels and organise efficient interaction between structures to help realise those solutions. Central Asia has rich biodiversity, lots of endemic and endangered species grow and live here. Our task is to preserve and enrich nature," said Deputy Minister of Ecology, Geology and Natural Resources of Kazakhstan Mr. Yerlan Nysanbayev.

The Central Asia Regional Trialogue  convened six USSR countries within the region: Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The three-day event is hosted by the Ministry of Ecology, Geography and Natural Resources of the Republic of Kazakhstan. It is held in collaboration with IPBES, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). The Trialogue will bring together 50-60 participants from the three communities of government policymakers, academic scientists and practitioners – including some with indigenous and local knowledge - working in agriculture, environment, health, climate and related fields.

Read full statement by Mr. Vitalie Vremis  here

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