Feature Story

The world faces huge and unprecedented biodiversity and climate change challenges. One way we can help address these challenges is through the restoration of degraded land.

Restoring landscapes—done properly in consultation with local communities, governments and scientists—has huge environmental, climate mitigation but also, importantly, economic benefits. It also contributes to many of the Sustainable Development Goals.

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Azerbaijan, nestled in the cradle of Europe and Asia, has always occupied a prime location on the trade routes linking East and West.

In the days of the Silk Road, craftsmen and merchants would trade goods such as fabrics and carpets and other technological innovations in caravanserais. 

Today cities such as the country’s capital, Baku, are re-emerging as exciting trade hubs, perfect settings for the entrepreneurial talents of modern-day merchants such as two sets of brothers, the Nakhjavanis and the Eromis.

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As local and indigenous groups across the world chart a path towards sustainable development, the Equator Prize showcases their efforts by honouring them on an international stage.

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For Thanh, the six annual tea harvests form the rhythm of family life, having raised her two children among the waist-high tea bushes that carpet the steamy slopes near her home in northern Vietnam’s Yen Bai province.

Today, Thanh is proud of the thick, green leaves her tea bushes produce, stretching in straight rows across her two-hectare plantation. But it wasn’t always this way.

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Flowing in shades of green and brown to the horizon from the curves of Kenya’s largest river as it approaches the sea, the Tana Delta is a paradise for wildlife.

Home to thousands of species of birds, mammals and freshwater fish, herds of elephant, buffalo, zebra and a variety of other wildlife that roam between Tsavo East National Park and the north-eastern rangelands, the delta has also long been home to generations of herders and farmers who depend on its rich soils to nourish their crops and livestock.

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Sometimes referred to as ‘the bread basket of Georgia’, Dedoplistskaro’s fertile soils have provided a living for generations of farmers. But today, periods of drought, compounded by strong, dry winds that erode fields and scatter seeds, are hitting local communities hard.

Ex-soldier Valeri and his family have tried to laugh off the region’s warming weather. “Maybe we should bring camels here and make a tourist centre,” the 40-year-old quips with a smile.

But Georgia’s changing climate is no longer something to joke about for Dedoplistskaro’s farmers.

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Led by the UN Environment Programme, Participatory Sustainable Land Management in the Grassland Plateaus of Western Madagascar is a GEF-funded initiative tackling land degradation and demonstrating how participatory sustainable land management can neutralize watershed degradation, restore ecosystem services, conserve biodiversity and improve agricultural productivity.

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Rosita Adalim is a farmer outside of Malaybalay City, in the Philippines’ Bukidnon Province.

Home to the biggest pineapple plantation in the world, Bukidnon Province is also the top cattle producer in the region. Known as the 'Food Basket of Mindanao,' Bukidnon is a farming economy, and therefore a major producer of rice, maize, and sugarcane. Bukidnon also boasts rich biodiversity and a vast array of endemic species of flora and fauna.

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In Southern Malawi, in the Sunuzi community, Mrs. Ephelo Bonongwe, her husband and eight children, know how rain-fed farming is making their livelihood more precarious.

With a changing climate leading to more variable rainfall patterns, relying on the rain to feed their family and support their livelihood was difficult.

The problem with relying on rain

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A UNDP-GEF partnership is promoting energy-saving stoves in rural communities in support of the government’s efforts to cut forest loss, clean up cooking, save lives and curb climate change

It’s half past midday in Kawama Village in Northwestern Zambia and Mildred Kikwanda is busy preparing ‘Nshima’ – the staple maize meal – with chicken stew and vegetables, using a non-traditional means of cooking – a wood-saving, earth-block stove popularly known as energy-saving stove.

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