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In Delhi, laying the groundwork for more sustainable land investment

September 11, 2019

Women picking tea leaves in a tea plantation around Munnar, Kerala, India
Signatories to the Delhi Decclaration called for governments to support market-based conservation approaches and solutions, to engage with the private sector on land management policies and priorities, and to support sustainable land management and use through targeted crop insurance programs, among other measures. Photo: Mazur Travel/Shutterstock.

Executives from leading agribusiness and industrial companies pledged at a United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification meeting in Delhi this week to work toward more sustainable food and land use, including through an emphasis on soil health, value chain sustainability, and climate- and water-smart solutions.

Participants in the UNCCD COP14 Business Day, hosted by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and sponsored by the companies Syngenta and Nutrien, agreed on a UNCCD Delhi Declaration for Business that highlights the opportunity for business action in support of land degradation neutrality and drought resilience – issues that are vitally important in India as well as other countries facing water shortages.

“We have brought the business community to the discussion around the challenges of land degradation neutrality, drought management, climate change, and the overall theme of sustainable land management,” said Matthew Reddy, a senior private sector specialist with the Global Environment Facility, which helped organize the event.

 

The Business Day discussions included a focus on blended finance solutions and the role of “restoration entrepreneurs,” whose innovations to improve soil health and develop sustainable value chains could be supported at scale through closer public-private engagement.

UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw described land restoration investment as “very good business.”

“It is the cheapest way to remove carbon from the atmosphere. Every dollar invested in land restoration generates between $5 and $30,” he said.

Signatories to the Delhi Declaration including Jain Irrigation, UPL Limited, Tata Group, Phoenix Group, and Godrej Group pledged to invest in improved soil health, to adopt climate-smart practices, and to take a landscape approach to managing, conserving, and restoring natural resources.

In this video, Tony Siantonas, director of Sustainable Landscape and Climate Smart Agriculture for the World Business Council for Sustainable Development provides a quick overview of discussions and take-aways from the Business Day at UNCCD COP14 in India.

They also called for governments to support market-based conservation approaches and solutions, to engage with the private sector on land management policies and priorities, and to support sustainable land management and use through targeted crop insurance programs, among other measures. The document also advocated for improved legal protection of local and customary land rights, and for amended land tenure laws to include explicit guarantees for women to own land.

Gustavo Fonseca, director of programs at the GEF, stressed the importance of involving the private sector and leveraging blended financial instruments in pursuit of global environmental goals, including around land restoration and land management. “There is real potential in working with the market and supporting market solutions that can generate the benefits we are trying to achieve,” he said. “Working together can help ensure the agenda in front of us is more practical, more effective, and more scalable.”

For more information on the GEF’s engagement with the private sector, please contact Avril Benchimol Dominguez abenchimol@thegef.org (blended finance) or Matthew Reddy mreddy@thegef.org (partnerships).