The High-Level Segment of Global Soil Week (GSW) 2019 opened on Wednesday morning. In her welcome remarks, Co-Facilitator Alice Kaudia remarked that “Africa’s soils are crumbling” and urged participants to accelerate sustainable land management (SLM) initiatives by drawing on opportunities highlighted during the technical segment of the conference. Explaining the evolution of the GSW, Co-Facilitator Alexander Müller, proposed framing discussions around three “simple” questions: Why talk about soils? Where is the action? and What do we have to do to address the situation? Noting the paradox of rising hunger in some parts of the world while one-third of agricultural land globally “is used to produce food waste,” he stressed that achieving multiple benefits for every dollar invested for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will require integrated actions at the local level that link land restoration to food security, gender equality, climate resilience, sustainable livelihoods and other targets. In his welcome remarks, Tony Simons, Director-General, World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), reiterated the economic and social value of soils, citing data which shows that the world loses 36 tons of soil each year due to erosion, equivalent to five times of Kenya’s GDP. He invited participants to recognize the urgency of land degradation while not losing sight of actions that are delivering positive impacts to both environment and livelihoods.
Ministers and high-level officials from Benin, Burkina Faso, Madagascar, Ethiopia, Kenya and Germany made opening statements. Lucy Njenga, speaking on behalf of Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Irrigation, called on participants to use this forum to share experience in order to galvanize action at the local level that is in line with global commitments, moving into an inclusive and sustainable transformation. She then declared the High-Level Segment officially open.Representing “voices from the ground,” several participants shared some takeaway messages from the first two days of the conference, including the importance of: focusing on women’s empowerment as managers of land and natural resources; providing farmer-friendly extension services; and making agriculture “cooler” in order to attract youth.In the afternoon, participants met in four parallel peer-review workshops to examine conclusions and recommendations developed during the technical segment of the conference. Issues highlighted included: capacity building of local institutions and SLM champions; involvement of stakeholders at all levels to mainstream SLM practices into policies and programmes; and the inclusion of SLM in local development plans to improve decentralized extension services. The discussions also made recommendations on concrete actions that can be implemented at different levels, such as: identifying key actors to deliver awareness raising programmes; creating multi-stakeholder platforms to facilitate meaningful consultations between communities, legal entities and other governance institutions; and building the capacity of local organizations to undertake evidence-based research to inform higher-level policy making.Concurrent to the workshops, representatives of the partner governments and other stakeholders met to review a draft text containing conclusions by the GSW 2019 Co-Hosts.
IISD Reporting Services, through its ENB+ Meeting Coverage, provided daily web coverage from GSW 2019. In addition, IISD Reporting Services has published a summary report from the meeting, which is available in HTML and PDF.
Photos by IISD/ENB | Francis Dejon
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