Preventing desertification and soil erosion

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

Object 1 – 12 of 175

Improving farm productivity in Georgia through dual vocational education and training

Three people in a greenhouse.

01.09.2018 - 31.08.2022

Agriculture is Georgia's most important sector. However, farming remains uncompetitive as farmers' skills are out of step with the job market and technological developments. Switzerland is continuing to support vocational education and training to improve productivity, farm income and the employment situation for students of agriculture.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Georgia
Vocational training
Agriculture & food security
Employment & economic development
Vocational training
Agricultural services & market
Rural development

01.09.2018 - 31.08.2022


CHF 7'210'140



Improved Access to Markets for Female and Male Fresh Fruits and Vegetable (FFV) Small Scale Producers

Improved access to markets for fresh fruits and vegetable (FFV) small scale producers (men and women), occupied Palestinian territory

01.12.2017 - 30.11.2021

With focus on private sector-led agriculture and agribusiness, this program pursues systemic change in the agriculture sector and supports business modalities that favor small scale producers in the occupied Palestinian territory. The overall goal is to contribute to build a resilient economy with equitable agricultural growth, whilst contributing to protect small scale producers’ entitlements to natural resources and access to markets.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Palestinian Authority
Agriculture & food security
Agricultural development
Agricultural services & market
Agricultural policy

01.12.2017 - 30.11.2021


CHF 4'700'000



Higher Income in the South Caucasus Thanks to Competitive Agricultural Products

A man in a protective suit holding a honeycomb full of bees on the roof of a high-rise building.

01.04.2017 - 31.03.2022

Livestock farming is an important source of income for a large part of the rural population in Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. But many farmers live from subsistence farming and produce just enough food for their own needs. The aims of the project are to strengthen smallholder farms and to provide them with access to markets. This way, farmers can sell their honey, meat, cheese and wool products, and sustainably increase their incomes.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
South Caucasus
Employment & economic development
Agriculture & food security
SME development
Agricultural development

01.04.2017 - 31.03.2022


CHF 5'100'000



Reform and Development of Markets, Value Chains and Producers’ Organisations

Reform and development of markets, value chains and producers’ organisations, occupied Palestinian territory

01.03.2017 - 31.08.2021

Private sector-led agriculture and agribusiness in the Palestinian occupied territory (oPT) can play a key role in building a resilient economy towards economic growth and in safeguarding rights and entitlements to natural resources and markets. This program aims at improving income and productivity in the agriculture sector, through improved access to markets, increased share of local market, enhanced competitiveness and profitability of Palestinian agribusinesses.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Palestinian Authority
Agriculture & food security
Agricultural development
Agricultural policy
Agricultural co-operatives & farmers’ organisations

01.03.2017 - 31.08.2021


CHF 3'000'000



Sustainably managed pastures and healthy animals: Mongolia's 'green gold'

A woman holding a blue bucket tends to a herd of yak in a vast grassland landscape.

01.01.2017 - 30.09.2021

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the number of livestock in Mongolia has nearly tripled – to the detriment of the country's grasslands. The SDC is supporting an array of measures to encourage the sustainable use of pastureland, and to improve animal health and the marketing of livestock products. These efforts are helping to safeguard the livelihoods of nomadic herder families.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Mongolia
Agriculture & food security
Employment & economic development
Agricultural land resources
Agricultural co-operatives & farmers’ organisations
SME development
Agricultural policy

01.01.2017 - 30.09.2021


CHF 8'676'000



Supporting livestock traceability in the South Caucasus

The image shows a close-up of a calf with an identification tag in its right ear.

15.06.2016 - 31.12.2021

Identifying where animals have come from and recording information about their health is essential in modern agriculture to prevent the spread of diseases and stop products from diseased animals reaching the market. A system to ensure traceability will help to improve the incomes of farmers in the South Caucasus by increasing both herd productivity and the producers’ access to markets.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
South Caucasus
Agriculture & food security
Agriculture value-chain development (til 2016)

15.06.2016 - 31.12.2021


CHF 5'935'000



Appui aux économies locales des collectivités de Youwarou et de Niafunké. Programme de Soutien aux Economies Locales du Delta intérieur du Niger

01.07.2015 - 31.12.2020

Dans les régions du delta intérieur du Niger, au centre et au Nord du Mali, les populations rurales sont confrontées à des crises structurelles multiformes dont l’insécurité alimentaire. La DDC appuie les autorités locales avec des projets économiques dans les filières agricoles porteuses pour assurer la sécurité alimentaire et réduire la pauvreté d’au moins 150'000 personnes. En plus, elle accompagne les municipalités de cette zone dans la maitrise d’ouvrage du développement territorial et la gestion pacifique des ressources naturelles.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Mali
Agriculture & food security
Governance
Climate change and environment
Rule of Law - Democracy - Human rights
Agriculture value-chain development (til 2016)
Decentralisation
Environmental policy

01.07.2015 - 31.12.2020


CHF 9'445'000



Sustainable water and pasture management to alleviate the plight of Ethiopian pastoralists

A group of Ethiopian men and women beside a half dried-up pool of water, using picks and shovels to dig new basins.

01.06.2015 - 31.12.2021

Drought, fodder scarcity and conflicts over natural resources make life difficult for pastoralists in southern Ethiopia. The SDC has taken various measures to improve their food security and their resilience to crisis situations, ranging from the rehabilitation of pastureland and water points to the introduction of land use plans and the diversification of income sources for women.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Ethiopia
Agriculture & food security
Conflict & fragility
Climate change and environment
Agricultural land resources
Household food security
Conflict prevention
Disaster risk reduction DRR

01.06.2015 - 31.12.2021


CHF 8'653'920



Livestock Development in the South of Armenia

Armenian Farmer with his calf

01.09.2014 - 31.08.2021

In the provinces of Syunik and Vayots Dzor in southern Armenia, the agricultural sector mostly comprises subsistence farming where farmers are barely able to support their households. This project aims to help farmers increase their milk and meat production, and thus their incomes, by supporting local veterinary services (to improve animal health), facilitating access to milk and meat markets, and promoting the sharing of know-how among farmers.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Armenia
Agriculture & food security
Agricultural development
Agricultural research
Agricultural services & market

01.09.2014 - 31.08.2021


CHF 10'995'756



Programme d’appui aux communes urbaines du Mali (PACUM)

01.01.2012 - 31.12.2020

Un des enjeux de la reconstruction du Mali se trouve dans la promotion de villes secondaires délivrant des services de base aux populations et redevables devant leurs citoyens. C’est l’objet de ce programme financé par la Banque Mondiale à hauteur de CHF 65’000'000. Sollicitée pour son savoir-faire en matière de développement local, la DDC apporte une contribution de CHF 18'200'000 (21% coût global) pour structurer la gouvernance à la base et soutenir les dotations d’investissement pour les villes de Koutiala et Tombouctou.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Mali
Agriculture & food security
Governance
Education
Rural infrastructure (till 2016)
Decentralisation
Public sector policy
Primary education

01.01.2012 - 31.12.2020


CHF 18'220'000



Youth-Inclusive Rural Finance (YIRF)

01.09.2025 - 31.08.2028

Millions of Tanzanian young people living in rural areas, in particular young women, are affected by vulnerable employment. Building on successful Swiss experience in youth employment, this initiative aims at increasing gainful self-employment through enhanced financial inclusion. It will support the design, market entrance and upscaling of innovative digital financial products and services tailored to rural youth, including female youth. In order to ensure scale and sustainability, a partnership with the private sector will be developed.


Horn of Africa: One Health Units for Humans, Environment, Animals and Livelihoods

01.09.2024 - 30.06.2032

The project aims at improving the well-being of targeted pastoral communities challenged with inadequate access to basic health/veterinary services and environmental conditions in Somalia, Ethiopia and Northern Kenya through integrated health service delivery for both pastoralists and their livestock. The project will contribute to stability and vulnerability’s reduction of citizens in the region, thereby reducing their displacement/migration which is in the interest of Switzerland and the international community.

Object 1 – 12 of 175