The 14th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification is being held in New Delhi (India) from 2 to 13 September with the theme "Restore Land, Sustain Future". The IRD's researchers and their partners are organising and participating in several events alongside the negotiations in order to provide their scientific expertise on land degradation.

Desertification is land degradation in arid, semi-arid and dry, sub-humid areas. It is not limited to the advance of deserts. This phenomenon is the result of various processes. Those mainly responsible include human activities and climate change which amplify the negative effects on soil and vegetation. Desertification now affects nearly half of the world’s surface area and almost two billion people.

Four years after the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit (1992), desertification was the subject of an international convention (adopted in December 1996), in the same way as climate and biodiversity. The inclusion of the concept of land degradation neutrality in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG, target 15.3) makes combatting desertification a real sustainable development issue.

COP14: highlights of the IRD's participation

Combatting desertification is a scientific priority for the IRD and its partners. As they are in New Delhi, the Institute's researchers are involved in or organising events alongside the negotiations.

  • Our Planet Urgently Needs Action: From Science to Policy Response  (5 September 9 a.m. - 5 p.m., Rio Conventions Pavilion)

This day is organised by the UNCCD Science-Policy Interface (SPI) with support from the convention's secretariat.  It will be an opportunity to discuss the planning and implementation of land degradation neutrality in the countries concerned. Among the participants, members of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). They will provide information on how the measures aiming to prevent, reduce and reverse soil degradation can also halt the loss of biodiversity and support adaptation to climate change. 

  • Gender issues in Drylands: women as important actors in restoring ecosystems (6 September 1 p.m. - 3 p.m., Room MET-10)

Considering that women are important actors of DLDD and to achieve LDN, the side event will be the opportunity to underline the capacity of women to combat desertification in many ways through contribution to biodiversity maintenance and land restoration activities, collective organizations of women at different scales, and through gender policies and implementation tools. The side-event proposal, with presentations from academics, international organizations and CSOs, will confront contexts in India and Africa to present shared issues.

  • "Adaptation of agricultural systems to climate change: Scientific approaches for decision making at local scale" - (7 September 11.30 am - 13.30pm, Room MET-10)

Researches at global scale suggest that in the context of increasing climate variability and soil and water resource degradation, food production is already affected and will decline further in the future. Therefore, meeting the food requirement of a growing population in the present century will require profound adaptations of current agricultural systems. One of the main challenge is that the impact of change is multifaceted and contextual. In order to be useful for decision making at local scale, generic scientific knowledge and technology need to be adapted to local contexts and shall account for local knowledge and capacities. This side event introduces pluri-disciplinary scientific approaches and how they can be integrated into frameworks applicable by stakeholders at local scale. It includes contribution of satellite data and remote sensing to drought monitoring and soil characterization, understanding the water issue according to stakeholders, and in particular women - and finally participatory assessment of current and alternative agricultural systems using integrated models.

Raising awareness among the general public

The "Desertification, a challenge for science" exhibition will be presented at the COP from 4 to 10 September. Produced by the IRD in partnership with the French Scientific Committee on Desertification (CSFD), this lavishly illustrated exhibition enables the general public to gain a better understanding of desertification, and its causes and extent worldwide. The complex links between desertification and climate, water management methods in arid areas and sustainable farming practices are also addressed.

The exhibition also illustrates the research conducted by scientists which, related to the traditional knowledge of farmers and the civil society, can be used to develop solutions to slow down land degradation, restore degraded soils and propose coping strategies to populations.