The worldwide battle against desertification and land degradation has made another step forward.
The research project Desertification, mitigation and remediation of land (DESIRE) has just concluded an extensive 5 year campaign in 13 countries to develop, validate and teach a standardized approach and set of tools aimed at this problem. And a serious problem it is. With more than one billion people at risk, and more than one third of the world’s land area affected, combating degradation and desertification is essential to ensure long-term inhabitability and productivity of drylands.
The DESIRE approach, a global approach for local solutions, enables multi-stakeholder involvement in identification, evaluation and implementation of locally appropriate Sustainable Land Management (SLM) strategies to prevent and combat degradation. One of the most important achievements of the project is that it gives people, from farmers to advisors to policy makers, specific steps and tools for moving from talking about the issues to working together to take effective action for improvement of natural resource management and livelihoods.
In this project Alterra (part of Wageningen UR) led a consortium comprised of 26 partners and WOCAT. The DESIRE approach was implemented at 17 desertification hotspots around the world to address issues including erosion by water or by wind, salinization, vegetation degradation, competition for water, forest fire, drought and flash floods. The resulting output takes many forms from simple posters and info sheets, to videos, technical reports, policy briefs, step by step guidelines and a book. All output are freely available in the multi-lingual web based DESIRE Harmonized Information System (HIS). The DESIRE approach has been incorporated in publications and initiatives by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the Global Environment Facility (GEF).
A video was made to promote the DESIRE project. It illustrates the desertification problem, what DESIRE does to solve these problems, and the approach used. The video can be viewed at: The DESIRE project. A book, ‘Desire for Greener Land’, was also written to explain the DESIRE approach and includes detailed description of some of the case studies within the project. The DESIRE project was also named one of the semi-finalists for the UNCCD Land for Life Award out of over 100 applicants from more than 50 countries.
The recently initiated EU project, CASCADE, is related to DESIRE as it will investigate threshold factors that trigger catastrophic shifts in Mediterranean dryland areas with the goal of enabling policymakers and land users to more sustainably manage drylands in the region and worldwide.