Over 12 million hectares of productive land are lost each year due to desertification and drought, resulting in a further loss of 20 million tons of grain that could have been grown. Every year the international community marks 17 June as World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought to raise awareness of this global threat.
With a global population of 9 billion by 2050, combatting desertification and drought is a global issue with serious implications for poverty eradication, socio-economic stability, food security, and sustainable development.
IUCN is working with its partners and Members to combat desertification and drought, and to support resilience of communities to drought through sustainable land and water management. One such example is the ‘Building Drought Resilience’ project in Kenya and Uganda. Drought in Eastern Africa has increased in recent years, causing heavy losses to natural resource dependent communities. A severe drought in 2000 resulted in the loss of over a quarter of livestock in Kenya, a tremendous blow to the livelihoods of pastoralists.
In past centuries, pastoral communities managed climate variability through the use of traditional coping mechanisms. More recently however, an uncoordinated approach to resource management by government departments and the exclusion of local communities in planning and execution is making the communities more vulnerable. In addition, the effects of climate change, water scarcity and landscape degradation worsened the situation.
The IUCN ‘Building Drought Resilience’ (BDR) project was established in East Africa in 2011 and initially conducted over a three-year period. The project aimed to support communities in improving their resilience to drought through improved environmental planning by adopting a water catchment approach, and diversification of socio-economic opportunities through a Community Environment Conservation Fund (CECF). The project also focused on strengthening natural resource governance through capacity building of local organisations and institutions, and sharing experiences and lessons across sectors.
Funded by the Austrian Development Cooperation, the project worked in the Lower Tana Sub-Catchment in Kenya and the Upper Aswa-Agago Sub-Catchment in Uganda. Following its implementation, communities in these regions benefited from enhanced ecosystem services, improved livelihoods and access to water, and reduced conflict over scarce natural resources.
Equipped with new access, knowledge, and awareness, community members became stewards of their natural environment once again. A short film ‘Stewards Rising’ was produced towards the end of the first project cycle.
The BDR project proved such a success that a second phase was recently signed at the IUCN Eastern and southern Africa Regional Office. Over the next three years (2015-2018), Phase II of the ‘Building Drought Resilience’ project will focus on inclusive governance and the implementation of by-laws formulated in phase I, further improve water access through sustainable water infrastructures, continued diversification of livelihoods, and enhancing the coordination of activities through action-learning.
“The extension of the project into a second phase, has the additional benefit that there is an increased interest and awareness amongst policy makers in the region who see IUCN’s catchment management approach as a sustainable solution to grapple with drought, particularly as the approach simultaneously improves people’s livelihoods and resilience, making them more robust in the face of climate change”, said John P. Owino, IUCN Programme Officer.
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