Sustainable land use has a key role to play in solving many of the most pressing socio-ecological challenges of our time. Healthy and productive land can be both an engine of economic growth, and a source of livelihood for billions of people worldwide, including the most vulnerable populations. While the importance of land can hardly be overestimated, today already 33% of the Earth’s soils are degraded and over 90% could become degraded by 2050. In this context the achievement of the global Sustainable Development Goals will require reaching Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN), a state whereby the amount and quality of land resources, necessary to support ecosystem functions and services and enhance food security, remains stable or increases.
This context informs every aspect of the work of the Global Soil Week
(GSW) project, launched in 2012 and organised by TMG Research in partnership with the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). The GSW brings together a diverse range of actors to develop new policies, and strengthen existing actions, on sustainable soil management and responsible land governance. Since its launch the GSW has built a large volume of knowledge and experience from both its practical and theoretical work, while its focus has evolved in response to ongoing policy debates and land management programming. The approaching 10th anniversary of the VGGT in 2022 underlines the importance of implementing LDN measures through responsible land governance approaches, prioritising tenure security for smallholder farmers and other marginalised natural resource users. TMG’s commitment to this approach provides the thematic focus of Global Soil Week 2021: 'Creating an enabling environment for green recovery.'
There are two components to the GSW 2021. The first, action research, aims to empower civil society organisations to monitor the effects of LDN measures on the tenure rights of affected land users. The participatory use of a customised digital mapping tool empowers marginalised land users, especially women, to monitor potential or existing conflicts between forest restoration goals and their tenure rights to forest resources. The participatory tenure
mapping approach is applied in two case study regions in Kenya and Benin.
The second component, linking local knowledge with international policy making, is a direct
contribution to the UNCCD 26/COP.14 decision on land tenure. The GSW pilot studies thus provide the basis for empirically-embedded reporting on land governance and tenure rights at the upcoming UNCCD COP 15. The approach can also serve to point out the cross-cutting relevance of land governance and tenure rights in the context of the Convention on Biological Diversity and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Two recently-published info briefs introduce the GSW 2021 in general terms, and the Kenya and Benin pilot projects in particular. Each report describes the local degradation and LDN context, with a focus on the pilot forest locations: the Three Rivers Gazetted Forest in Benin, and Kereita Forest in Kenya. In each of these forests TMG and its local partners are implementing a pilot process with the aim of facilitating the greater involvement of marginalised communities in participatory forest management, and enhancing the accountability of all stakeholders with respect to the enforcement of rights and duties.
At the heart of both pilots is a participatory tenure mapping approach which systematically draws on the active participation of the local communities to help identify legitimate tenure rights and monitor potential conflicts. Sharing detailed accounts of both local contexts in terms of policy landscapes, resource conflicts, land degradation challenges and LDN initiatives, both reports provide a valuable and succinct introduction to the latest phase of the GSW project. Both info briefs can be accessed via the publications tab of the Global Soil Week project page
Image: Degraded land in northern Benin, where land use is under scrutiny in the context of LDN initiatives. Charles Tamou / TMG