December 15, Washington DC - The Land Degradation Assessment in Drylands (LADA) project is an important flagship in the land degradation focal area. With UNEP and FAO as Implementing Agencies, the project has played an important role in advancing the focal area agenda globally by generating knowledge and tools to support activities of parties to the UNCCD. LADA also exemplifies several key principles of the GEF, such as partnership between scientific institutions and civil society organizations, direct support to countries including the six that were also partners, and support to implementation of the UNCCD.
The outputs of LADA have also contributed to work of the GEF under the LD FA, such as the indicators used to generate the global benefit index used the STAR model. But LADA has also shed light on the myriad of challenges that the global community must address to bring LD and desertification under control. And certainly a lot has happened during the years that LADA has been under implementation to warrant new ways of thinking about the issue.
The project is now approaching closure at the same time when the UNCCD is gearing toward indicator-based reporting. The workshop and meeting of the Steering Committee at FAO on Dec 6-8 was therefore focused on exploring options and directions for strengthening the value of LADA in supporting UNCCD parties. The workshop was attended by more than 50 experts from at least 20 institutions, including representatives from the six pilot country partners: Argentina, Cuba, China, Senegal, South Africa, and Tunisia.
The workshop reviewed LADA achievements during six years of implementation at global level and at national and local level in the six pilot countries. At the global level, new methodologies have been developed for mapping and interpretations of LD and desertification, based on assessments using remote sensing tools. The Global Land Degradation Information System (GLADIS) is now being finalized for deployment as an interactive resources to inform decision-making on global level actions. GLADIS is based on an ecosystem/Land use system approach, and the Beta version currently accessible at www.fao.org/nr/LADA offers basic analysis on status of land resources and degradation or improvement processes at multiple scales.
At the national level, all six pilot country partners have completed assessments at national level and tested field applicability of the tool in various localities. There is complete ownership of the project and achievements in each of the countries, and modest efforts have been made by them to support other countries in the regions through workshops, training programs, expert exchanges, etc.. The combination of baseline assessments, capacity strengthened, and institutional frameworks established has now positioned the pilot partner countries as important "hubs" for regional application of the tools. For example, Senegal is well-placed to support the knowledge and assessment needs for the Great Green Wall initiative countries.
LADA Steering Committee Meeting
Building on these achievements, the LADA Steering Committee (SC) discussed priorities for further action as the project approaches closure. A team of experts already commissioned to initiate terminal evaluation of LADA made a presentation of their preliminary findings, which highlighted the following important actions as priorities:
- Ensure peer-review of knowledge products through publication in scientific journals
- Ensure identical (standardized) methodology for land cover change analysis at national level for consistency and ease of aggregating results
- Include socio-economic considerations in the methodologies to balance the inherent bias toward biophysical aspects of LD
- Include participatory planning in a research/development approach
- Involvement of donors and other funding mechanisms to improve value-added of the assessments for decision-making on SLM investments
- Reinforce the linkages with UNCCD to support the paradigm shift in reporting by Parties
The SC agreed that the LADA approach remains invaluable for both the GEF LD focal area and UNCCD programs, and therefore warrants consideration for follow-up investment by the GEF and partners. The follow-up will harness and build on the ownership now established in the six pilot partner countries and interests generated by many other countries in dryland regions (UNCCD Annexes). It will also emphasize stronger alignment with UNCCD Secretariat to ensure consistencies with the new reporting requirements by parties. FAO as the executing partner is also prepared to institutionalize LADA as part of its global agenda for knowledge to improve management of production landscapes in the context of agricultural development and food security.