Preventing desertification and soil erosion

Woman walks in desert with child in her arms.
The SDC is committed to preserving soil fertility, forest and water resources in countries affected by desertification. ©CGIAR

Desertification and soil erosion cause the land to lose vital elements such as nutrients and minerals. As a result, people lose their means of agricultural production, their source of food and income, and even their entire livelihoods. In a bid to prevent this, the SDC works to promote sustainable land, forest and water management in affected areas.

The SDC's focus

The SDC supports the preservation of soil fertility and water resources through sustainable agriculture and forest management, primarily in arid regions such as the Sahel, the Horn of Africa and Central Asia. It imparts knowledge, supports research projects and provides assistance with institutional reforms. The SDC's activities to combat desertification and soil erosion include the following:

Protecting pasture land

In Mongolia, one of the countries most affected by desertification, the SDC has been working to protect pasture land since 2004. It promotes pasture user groups (PUGs), groups of herders that jointly manage grazing lands. The local government grants PUGs the rights to use the land. These groups draw up pasture management plans and use the meadows in rotation. PUGs are independent bodies increasingly recognised and supported by local governments. To date, 960 PUGs and 67 marketing cooperatives have been supported by the Green Gold project, involving more than 53,000 herder households (30% of all herder households in the country).

Sustainable forestry

Charcoal is an important fuel in many developing countries. Its production requires large quantities of wood, which can lead to deforestation, soil erosion and, ultimately, desertification. Sustainable forest management and the energy-efficient production of charcoal are measures that can be introduced to prevent desertification.

In Tanzania, the SDC supports a project called Transforming Tanzania's Charcoal Sector, in which residents of eight villages in the district of Kilosa draw up plans to manage the forest and carry them out on a community basis. At the same time, they are taught how to produce charcoal sustainably. As well as protecting the forest and wood resources, this also improves the quality of the charcoal, leading to higher incomes for charcoal producers.

Convention to Combat Desertification

Switzerland, represented by the SDC, has been actively involved in the design and implementation of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). The primary objective of the Convention is to combat desertification and mitigate the effects of drought, particularly in Africa, through effective action at all levels.

WOCAT – Sharing information on sustainable land management

The SDC supports the World Overview of Conservation Approaches and Technologies (WOCAT), a global network led by the University of Bern's Centre for Development and Environment. Partners collect, evaluate and document information about sustainable land management (SLM) technologies and approaches, in particular in areas severely affected by desertification and drought. The data is used to facilitate decision-making on land use and to combat erosion, among other purposes.

Since early 2014, WOCAT has been recognised by the UNCCD as the global platform for documenting SLM best practices. WOCAT supports the 197 signatory countries in sharing their land management practices on the platform so that they can learn from each other quickly and easily. The SDC, for example, shares successful practices and valuable know-how on combating desertification, in a quick and cost-effective way.

Background

During desertification, the natural potential of the land deteriorates, meaning that it loses productivity, biological diversity and its ability to regenerate. The UNCCD thus defines desertification as 'land degradation'. The climatic and human factors of overgrazing, overexploitation, deforestation and unsustainable or environmentally-damaging irrigation systems contribute to desertification.

Approximately one third of the world's agricultural land has degraded. Every year, 12 million hectares are lost to desertification, an area three times the size of Switzerland. 2.7 billion people suffer from the ecological, economic and social consequences of desertification and soil erosion. Desertification is often linked to the poverty of the people living in the affected areas. In order to survive, the only option they have is to overexploit the land. Other contributing factors to overexploitation are international market imperatives and a lack of awareness about natural resources in some regions.

Switzerland ratified the UNCCD in 1996. It is the only legally binding document linking environment and development to sustainable land management. The 197 parties to the Convention work to improve the living conditions for people in drylands, to maintain and restore land and soil productivity, and to mitigate the effects of drought.

The UNCCD recommends a bottom-up approach to achieve its objectives, encouraging the participation of local people in combating desertification. The two other UN conventions agreed at the 1992 Earth Summit – the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – are also crucial to the fight against desertification.

Documents

Current projects

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Futuro Microbank

15.05.2024 - 31.12.2027

The microfinance institution Futuro Mcb, SA currently provides financial services (loans, savings, insurance) to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) mainly in and around Nampula city. Switzerland will continue to support Futuro with a grant for technical assistance that will help the bank to expand its impact by providing financial services to more low-income entrepreneurs in more regions in Northern Mozambique, thus allowing them to enhance their income and create more jobs.


Scaling Up Youth Employment in Agriculture Initiative

01.05.2024 - 30.04.2028

In Zambia and Zimbabwe, due to a mismatch between the skills they have and those in demand, youth cannot access or create economic opportunities and overlook those available. The project builds skills and matches youth with firms, markets and finance to create more and better (self)-employment in agri-food, renewable energy and emerging sectors, contributing to Swiss priorities on human and economic development and climate change. This is a contribution implemented by SNV.


UNHAS - Accès aux bénéficiaires en Afrique de l’Ouest

01.03.2024 - 31.12.2027

Dans un contexte d’insécurité alimentaire croissante et d’accès humanitaire précaire au Sahel, le service aérien humanitaire des Nations Unies (UNHAS) permet d’accéder aux populations dans le besoin grâce à un transport sûr et rapide de personnes et de biens. La contribution à UNHAS permettra d’atteindre les populations vulnérables dans les régions reculées ou enclavées et d’assurer le suivi des programmes suisses.


Restoring livelihoods and revitalizing rural communities affected by mines and explosive remnants of war

01.03.2024 - 31.12.2027

Humanitarian demining is one of the priorities of Swiss international cooperation program. The Federal Council decided that a total of CHF 100 million will be earmarked for humanitarian demining for 2024-2027. SDC will contribute to the restoration of agricultural livelihood activities in areas severely impacted by the war to reduce the need for external support for rural households, small-scale farmers and local producers in three focal oblasts: Kharkivska, Mykolaivska and Khersonska.


CABI PlantwisePlus

01.01.2024 - 31.12.2027

PlantwisePlus is a global programme that is supporting countries and farmers to predict, prevent and prepare themselves for plant health threats in a changing climate. This will allow farmers to reduce their crop losses and produce more and safer food using agroecological and climate-smart practices that safeguard human health and biodiversity. The programme is implemented by CABI, a leading intergovernmental research and development organization in plant health, with research facilities in Switzerland.


WFP: Building Resiliency & self reliance

15.11.2023 - 14.11.2024

The Swiss contribution to the World Food Programme’s Country Strategic Programme will foster and enhance resiliency through agricultural skilling and increased access to income, allowing for the Rohingya refugees to become more self-reliant and support their basic needs. As a contributor to a multi-donor framework, Switzerland can simultaneously leverage durable solutions advancement in the Rohingya response while ensuring service delivery for the most vulnerable in the refugee camps. 


ISSD Africa

01.11.2023 - 31.10.2027

Smallholders in Africa need access to affordable quality seeds of the best varieties, especially in fragile and conflict affected states. The phase 2 of the Integrated Seed Systems in Africa, a successful Swiss supported network of seed professionals, focuses on Seed Systems in the Humanitarian, Development, Peace-Nexus, aiming to strengthen resilience to shocks via the development and mainstreaming of state of-the-art tools, methodologies, and policies, adapted to fragile and conflict-affected states. 


Colombia: MIRE+, Assistance to Victims of Violence

01.10.2023 - 31.03.2025

The humanitarian crisis in Colombia continues despite growing efforts towards peace. Armed groups fighting for territory and valuable natural resources inflict extreme harm on rural and ethnic communities. In line with the Swiss interest to respond to humanitarian crises, SDC remains dedicated to supporting these communities, enhancing their individual and collective resilience. The project integrates humanitarian action with a developmental and peace orientation (nexus).


Accelerating Rwanda's Nutrition Outcomes

01.09.2023 - 31.12.2024

The recent Rwanda Demographic Health Survey showed only a slight decline of stunting from 38% to 33%, not fulfilling the target of achieving 19% by 2024. As a result, a special national-wide programme "Accelerating Rwanda's Nutrition Outcome" is needed to get closer to the set targets. In parallel, the process of developing the new Strategic Plan for Agriculture (PSTA-5) and the new National Transformation Strategy (NST-2) offers us a unique opportunity to influence their development by a world leading organisation.


BF84 - PAPEA, Phase 02

01.09.2023 - 31.08.2027

Au Burkina Faso, la hausse de la consommation alimentaire de la population se heurte ä la faible performance de production des entreprises agricoles. Pour y pallier, la DDC renforce leurs capacitës d’investissement ainsi que leur environnement ëconomique afin d’impulser des dynamiques de dëveloppement des marchës, crëateurs d’emplois et de richesses pour les plus pauvres. La dëmarche rëpond aux exigences d’une croissance durable en s’attaquant aux causes de fragilitë multidimensionnelle.


Bangladesh Microinsurance Market Development Programme

01.07.2023 - 31.12.2027

This programme takes forward Switzerland’s global and in-country experience in working on agricultural microinsurance by addressing critical climate risks, hazards and resulting economic shocks for farming people. The programme will sustainably increase resilience of farmers and related micro and small enterprises through climate change adaptation practices, and stimulate sustainable and inclusive growth across multiple agricultural sub-sectors.


Strengthening Civil Society in Myanmar – Paung Ku

01.07.2023 - 30.06.2027

In Myanmar, civic space has considerably shrunk since the military coup. In the absence of a legitimate government, networks of independent civil society organisations (CSOs) are essential actors for basic service provision and promotion of democratic values and human rights. Showing commitment to localisation, Switzerland will enable local CSOs to further support vulnerable communities and to protect the foundations of a pluralistic and inclusive society.  

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