Overgrazing and irresponsible agriculture had led to major losses in soil fertility and ecosystem functionality. Around 1,5 billion people are currently affected by land degradation around the world. During the Rio Summit of 1992 major decisions were made to restore the fragile ecology of the planet. One of the main conventions launched was UNCCCD which obliges the global community to take collective action on the challenges of desertification.
The majority of both governments and civil society have been in the doldrums about this issue. At the same time, in some corners of the world, there have been some amazing stories of hope.
One of them is the Chinese restoration of the Loess plateau, which has been documented by John Liu in his film ‘Hope in the Changing Climate’
. This project showed the process of restoring completely degraded land to a thriving ecosystem. In turn, a functional ecosystem led to the restoration of the carbon, hydrological and nutrient cycles, as well as that of natural soils, which made it possible to carry out agriculture in the area and created a major carbon sink.
There is a similar story about Yacouba Sawadogo, popularly known as ‘The man who stopped the Desert,’
an ordinary farmer from rural Burkina Faso. He rediscovered Zai, an ancient farming technique of agroforestry, a natural resource-efficient way of farming. His village was suffering from drought, and many people fled to cities, but he stayed on and transformed hundreds of acres of Sahel into a healthy agroforestry zone. His story and work is deeply inspiring and is worth spreading across the degraded lands of the world.
We have worked over the years with both John and Yacouba over the years in Initiatives for Lands, Lives and Peace, a programme of Initiatives of Change, an international NGO present in sixty countries over the world.