Woman walks in desert with child in her arms.
The SDC is committed to preserving soil fertility, forest and water resources in countries affected by desertification. ©CGIAR

Desertification and soil erosion cause the land to lose vital elements such as nutrients and minerals. As a result, people lose their means of agricultural production, their source of food and income, and even their entire livelihoods. In a bid to prevent this, the SDC works to promote sustainable land, forest and water management in affected areas.

The SDC's focus

The SDC supports the preservation of soil fertility and water resources through sustainable agriculture and forest management, primarily in arid regions such as the Sahel, the Horn of Africa and Central Asia. It imparts knowledge, supports research projects and provides assistance with institutional reforms. The SDC's activities to combat desertification and soil erosion include the following:

Protecting pasture land

In Mongolia, one of the countries most affected by desertification, the SDC has been working to protect pasture land since 2004. It promotes pasture user groups (PUGs), groups of herders that jointly manage grazing lands. The local government grants PUGs the rights to use the land. These groups draw up pasture management plans and use the meadows in rotation. PUGs are independent bodies increasingly recognised and supported by local governments. To date, 960 PUGs and 67 marketing cooperatives have been supported by the Green Gold project, involving more than 53,000 herder households (30% of all herder households in the country).

Sustainable forestry

Charcoal is an important fuel in many developing countries. Its production requires large quantities of wood, which can lead to deforestation, soil erosion and, ultimately, desertification. Sustainable forest management and the energy-efficient production of charcoal are measures that can be introduced to prevent desertification.

In Tanzania, the SDC supports a project called Transforming Tanzania's Charcoal Sector, in which residents of eight villages in the district of Kilosa draw up plans to manage the forest and carry them out on a community basis. At the same time, they are taught how to produce charcoal sustainably. As well as protecting the forest and wood resources, this also improves the quality of the charcoal, leading to higher incomes for charcoal producers.

Convention to Combat Desertification

Switzerland, represented by the SDC, has been actively involved in the design and implementation of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). The primary objective of the Convention is to combat desertification and mitigate the effects of drought, particularly in Africa, through effective action at all levels.

WOCAT – Sharing information on sustainable land management

The SDC supports the World Overview of Conservation Approaches and Technologies (WOCAT), a global network led by the University of Bern's Centre for Development and Environment. Partners collect, evaluate and document information about sustainable land management (SLM) technologies and approaches, in particular in areas severely affected by desertification and drought. The data is used to facilitate decision-making on land use and to combat erosion, among other purposes.

Since early 2014, WOCAT has been recognised by the UNCCD as the global platform for documenting SLM best practices. WOCAT supports the 197 signatory countries in sharing their land management practices on the platform so that they can learn from each other quickly and easily. The SDC, for example, shares successful practices and valuable know-how on combating desertification, in a quick and cost-effective way.

Background

During desertification, the natural potential of the land deteriorates, meaning that it loses productivity, biological diversity and its ability to regenerate. The UNCCD thus defines desertification as 'land degradation'. The climatic and human factors of overgrazing, overexploitation, deforestation and unsustainable or environmentally-damaging irrigation systems contribute to desertification.

Approximately one third of the world's agricultural land has degraded. Every year, 12 million hectares are lost to desertification, an area three times the size of Switzerland. 2.7 billion people suffer from the ecological, economic and social consequences of desertification and soil erosion. Desertification is often linked to the poverty of the people living in the affected areas. In order to survive, the only option they have is to overexploit the land. Other contributing factors to overexploitation are international market imperatives and a lack of awareness about natural resources in some regions.

Switzerland ratified the UNCCD in 1996. It is the only legally binding document linking environment and development to sustainable land management. The 197 parties to the Convention work to improve the living conditions for people in drylands, to maintain and restore land and soil productivity, and to mitigate the effects of drought.

The UNCCD recommends a bottom-up approach to achieve its objectives, encouraging the participation of local people in combating desertification. The two other UN conventions agreed at the 1992 Earth Summit – the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – are also crucial to the fight against desertification.

Documents

Current projects

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CABI PlantwisePlus

01.01.2024 - 31.12.2027

PlantwisePlus is a global programme that is supporting countries and farmers to predict, prevent and prepare themselves for plant health threats in a changing climate. This will allow farmers to reduce their crop losses and produce more and safer food using agroecological and climate-smart practices that safeguard human health and biodiversity. The programme is implemented by CABI, a leading intergovernmental research and development organization in plant health, with research facilities in Switzerland.


Colombia: MIRE+, Assistance to Victims of Violence

01.10.2023 - 31.03.2025

The humanitarian crisis in Colombia continues despite growing efforts towards peace. Armed groups fighting for territory and valuable natural resources inflict extreme harm on rural and ethnic communities. In line with the Swiss interest to respond to humanitarian crises, SDC remains dedicated to supporting these communities, enhancing their individual and collective resilience. The project integrates humanitarian action with a developmental and peace orientation (nexus).


Bangladesh Microinsurance Market Development Programme

01.07.2023 - 31.12.2027

This programme takes forward Switzerland’s global and in-country experience in working on agricultural microinsurance by addressing critical climate risks, hazards and resulting economic shocks for farming people. The programme will sustainably increase resilience of farmers and related micro and small enterprises through climate change adaptation practices, and stimulate sustainable and inclusive growth across multiple agricultural sub-sectors.


Strengthening Civil Society in Myanmar – Paung Ku

01.07.2023 - 30.06.2027

In Myanmar, civic space has considerably shrunk since the military coup. In the absence of a legitimate government, networks of independent civil society organisations (CSOs) are essential actors for basic service provision and promotion of democratic values and human rights. Showing commitment to localisation, Switzerland will enable local CSOs to further support vulnerable communities and to protect the foundations of a pluralistic and inclusive society.  


Building Resilient Communities for Sustainable Development in rural Afghanistan

01.07.2023 - 30.06.2026

Afghanistan is among the most exposed countries to climate change. Prolonged drought and progressive reduction of water reserves put at risk the survival of traditional livelihoods. By integrating innovative agriculture techniques and improving the management of natural resources, this project aims at promoting the resilience of rural communities. Climate change adaptation is key for the food security, and represents an institutional priority for the Swiss international cooperation.


Enhancing Climate Resilience of Vulnerable Communities and Ecosystems in South Sudan

01.06.2023 - 31.05.2026

Local authorities and communities will be strengthened in their technical and managerial capacities to reduce people’s livelihood exposure, vulnerability and resilience to floods and drought thus increasing food production and reduce food insecurity as well as displacement of people and competition over natural resources. This will be achieved through improved communication, coordination and knowledge-sharing, early warning systems and appropriate legislation. 


PASEM 2 - Programme d’Appui au Secteur de l’Elevage au Mali

15.04.2023 - 15.04.2027

L’élevage, adapté à l’écosystème du Sahel, est crucial pour le développement des régions de Mopti, Tombouctou et Gao et ce en dépit des effets du changement climatique, de l’insécurité, de la faible productivité et de l’insuffisance des infrastructures. De par son expérience, la Suisse va renforcer la résilience de 85’000 éleveurs et pasteurs, concourir à l’apaisement des conflits et à la relance économique, et offrir des opportunités aux jeunes et aux femmes dans les filières bétail-viande et lait.


Seed and Knowledge Initiative

01.03.2023 - 28.02.2027

This initiative will address food insecurity and environmental degradation by promoting crop diversification and environment-friendly approaches. It is implemented by a partnership of 15 community-based organizations and their regional partners. The emphasis of the final phase of Swiss funding is on advocacy and movement building, while expanding the number of smallholder farmers, including women and youth, who practice and spread agro-ecology and farmer-led seed systems.


Mercy Corps: Strengthening Resilience in Agriculture, Livelihoods and Markets through Local Institutions in Greater Mundri

01.02.2023 - 31.01.2026

To sustainably move households out of chronic vulnerability, poverty and food insecurity by facilitating economic recovery and support for smallholder farmers and non-farm microenterprises. The support will consist of market system development (MSD), value chain development, vocational skills development and improved methods of agriculture, such as agro-ecology and conservation. The intervention will focus on women and youth and is highly relevant in a post-conflict context like Mundri (South Sudan).


Albania: Sustainable Rural Development

01.02.2023 - 31.12.2026

Large potential for additional value creation exists in the agriculture sector and related activities in Albania. The project will develop innovative, economically viable and inclusive business models for market actors to leverage investment and ultimately increase income and employment for the population in rural areas, especially for women, young people and returnees.


PAIE - Programme d’appui aux initiatives dans le secteur de l’élevage et à la cohésion sociale

01.02.2023 - 31.01.2026

La compétition autour de l’exploitation des ressources naturelles cause des tensions intercommunautaires, à risque d’être instrumentalisées par l’extrémisme violent. Le gouvernement du Bénin a initié des réformes pour améliorer la productivité liée à l’élevage et mieux gérer l’espace pastoral. Cette contribution au programme de promotion de l’élevage du GoB vise à renforcer la cohésion sociale par le renforcement des mécanismes de concertation, et à piloter un modèle de gestion spatiale pour une meilleure productivité et une mobilité pastorale réduite. 


Promoting Sustainable Agricultural Market Systems (PROMAS)

16.01.2023 - 31.12.2027

Agriculture is the main source of income for 70% of the population and is an important means to improve people’s livelihood. The sector suffers from low productivity and an unfavourable business environment. Thanks to better functioning markets and capacity building, smallholder farmers will improve their income and resilience through enhanced productivity, improved access to markets, climate adaptation, financial services and private sector development in northern Mozambique.

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