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Summary report, 27–30 May 2019

Global Soil Week 2019 (GSW 2019)

Global Soil Week (GSW) 2019 convened under the theme, ‘Creating an Enabling Environment for Sustainable and Climate-Resilient Agriculture in Africa.’ The conference adopted a “bottom-up” approach that first allowed participants to discuss lessons learned from more than 20 projects in Africa and Asia that are promoting sustainable land management (SLM) at the local level. Taking place on the first two days of the conference, the aim of this technical segment was to draw broader insights for policy makers, agricultural services providers, development partners and other stakeholders on how to build an enabling environment for achieving the SDGs by strengthening the “missing middle” between global and national targets, and local realities.

The technical sessions addressed project experiences under the broad themes of: practices for empowering women’s participation in SLM and decision making; business models to strengthen financial and market inclusion for smallholder farmers and pastoralists; and mechanisms for bridging macro- and micro-level land governance structures.

Building on the case studies, ‘Dimension Workshops’ on the second and third days further distilled the lessons learned into key strategies for achieving an enabling environment for sustainable and climate-resilient agriculture. During these workshops, participants focused on insights gained on how to do projects differently in order to bridge the gap that exists between the Global Goals and action on the ground.

Following this a high-level segment bringing together officials from Benin, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, India and Germany, as well as technical experts from international and regional organizations. The discussions focused on identifying entry points to channel the results from the technical segment of GSW 2019 into national and global policy processes. In a series of peer-review workshops as well as a ‘GSW Lab,’ participants examined the final set of strategies and recommendations against the realities of day-to-day policy formulation and implementation.

During the interactive exchanges, speakers stressed that what is needed is nothing less than transforming and modernizing agriculture and associated policies for an estimated 1.5 billion smallholder farmers, “the biggest workforce on our planet.” The discussions also brought in the perspectives of diverse “voices from the ground” - representatives of women’s and farmers’ organizations and youth – who underscored the importance of, inter alia, 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 parallel to the peer-review workshops, the GSW Co-Host governments (Benin, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia and Madagascar), as well as funding and technical partners, discussed an outcome document reiterating the urgency of the climate crisis and the importance of building the case that investing in nature-based solutions – such as facilitating access to voluntary carbon markets for farmers - makes sense from an ecosystem, livelihoods and financial perspective. TMG Research informed the group that the document would be finalized with a view to providing input to the Nature-Based Solutions stream of the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit, as part of contributions being submitted by Major Groups.

GSW 2019 brought together more than 200 experts, policy makers, civil society representatives and representatives of international organizations and development partners. The event was convened by Töpfer, Müller, Gaßner - Think Tank for Sustainability (TMG Research), with support from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).

A Brief History of the Global Soil Week

The Global Soil Week is a platform and process to bring together a diverse range of actors to initiate and strengthen policies and actions on sustainable soil management and responsible land governance. In addition to organizing biennial global conferences for its international network of partners, GSW seeks to tap into relevant multilateral processes and technical meetings at various levels in order to raise the profile of soil issues in development policies and programmes and translate global targets on sustainable land management into feasible actions at the local level.

The first Global Soil Week convened in Berlin, Germany from 18-22 November 2012, launching the global platform as a forum for interactive exchange and dialogue among stakeholders from science, government, business and civil society regarding their land and soil-related experience and expertise.

The second Global Soil Week took place in Berlin, Germany from 27-31 October 2013, on the theme ‘Losing Ground.’ Discussions were organized around four thematic threads: transforming global material and nutrient cycles; upscaling SLM and soil engineering at the landscape level; integrating land and soils in the 2030 Agenda; and responsible land governance.

The third Global Soil Week convened from 19-23 April 2015 in Berlin, Germany under the theme ‘Soil. The Substance of Transformation.’ Coinciding with the International Year of Soils 2015 and taking place just months before the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change, the discussions focused on the role of sustainable soil management and responsible land governance in realizing multiple SDGs and contributing to climate action.

The fourth Global Soil Week convened from 22-24 May 2017 in Berlin, Germany, and addressed the theme, ‘Catalyzing SDG Implementation through a Land and Soil Review.’ The meeting developed five policy messages as input to that year’s session of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF). The messages addressed the need for: increasing investments in responsible land governance; linking unsustainable consumption and production to land degradation; focusing on the rural-urban continuum in an integrated way; addressing the shrinking space for civil society as land rights advocates; and building a bridge between SDG 2 (zero hunger) and SDG target 15.3 (achieving land degradation neutrality) through the rehabilitation of degraded soils and managing landscapes for people.

Key Turning Points

Linking soils to the 2030 Agenda and other multilateral frameworks: A core objective of the GSW, Global Soil Partnership and related international and regional initiatives is to raise awareness on the crucial role that soils play as enablers and accelerators of sustainable development. In the lead up to the adoption of the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement on climate change, the GSW organized a high-level event in July 2016 in New York, US, that discussed how global thematic reviews with a focus on natural resources such as land and soil can support an integrated and inclusive implementation of the SDGs.

Focus on Africa: African stakeholders at GSW 2015 expressed strong interest in creating a regional platform for sustainable soil management and responsible land governance in Africa. In response, GSW organized the first African Soil Seminar in Nairobi, Kenya, from 28-30 November 2016 to discuss the theme ‘Soil Restoration for Achieving the 2063 and 2030 Agendas in Africa: Linking Global Ambitions to Local Needs.’ Taking place against a backdrop of increased pressure on land due to a growing population, increased climate variability and resource degradation trends, the discussions aimed to contribute to improved coordination, exchange and mutual learning by diverse African and international initiatives and programmes that work to restore and rehabilitate degraded soils in order to improve the livelihoods of the rural poor, and the health of humans and ecosystems.

Transition to an independent global platform: The GSW was initiated by Klaus Töpfer, founding Executive Director of the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) in Potsdam and former Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). In 2017, with support from its partners, the GSW moved from its base at IASS to TMG Research, with the objective of creating an independent global platform. 

Global Soil Week 2019 Report

Opening Plenary

The two-day technical segment of GSW 2019 opened on Monday morning, 27 May, with introductions by the Co-Facilitators, Alexander Müller, TMG Research and Alice Kaudia, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Eco-Entrepreneurs Ltd. Noting that the adoption of ambitious global targets on sustainable development and climate action does not provide answers for how to achieve these goals on the ground, Müller emphasized the need to strengthen the “missing middle” by creating an enabling environment to link the global targets to local action. He explained that the conference would adopt a “bottom-up approach” with a view to extracting useful insights from project experiences that can inform broader development strategies and policy recommendations for achieving sustainable and climate-resilient agriculture.

Following a short film showcasing local solutions for SLM in Burkina Faso, Saydou Koudougou, Executive Secretary, Groupe de Recherche et d’Action sur le Foncier, (GRAF), outlined progress towards securing land rights for women in the country. He described how sensitization projects were organized to demonstrate the added value of giving women access to land use rights which encouraged men to support women’s land ownership and convinced the local mayor to lend his support to the project.

Welcoming participants to Nairobi, Kaudia observed that quality soil is the basis for happiness and health. She urged the representatives from governments, the scientific community, NGOs, and international organizations to “move beyond attendance” and truly engage in discovering pathways towards sustainable agriculture and increased resilience to the adverse impacts of climate change. She concluded by reiterating that women’s land rights are a prerequisite to achieving SLM in Africa.

Analysis of Cases – Parallel Implementers’ Workshops

On Monday, participants met in five parallel project implementers’ workshops to consider lessons learned from more than 20 case studies presented at the conference. This report summarizes a selection of the presented cases that were discussed in three of the workshops.

Workshop 1: This workshop was moderated by Serah Kiragu-Wissler, TMG Research and David Kersting, GIZ.

Market access for agro-ecology byproducts (Kenya): Rhoda Birech, Limbua Foundation, presented a private sector perspective on working with Kenyan small-scale farmers in Embu county in eastern Kenya to deliver high quality products to an international market. She shared how the enterprise overcame challenges through developing relationships in farming communities through interventions such as training, mentorships, and participation in certification and standards. Birech highlighted some important criteria in creating enabling environments, including access to an international market and provision of pre-financing to farmers. During discussions, participants discussed opportunities to scale successes, as well as address whether the benefits reach smallholder farmers and land workers.

Community-Led Land Lease Guidelines – a social innovation for improved land access (Kenya): Violet Shivutse, Shibuye Community Health Workers, discussed how a women-led grassroots organization is addressing inclusion of women and youth in agriculture through pioneering Community-Led Land-Lease Guidelines. Emphasizing the goal of empowering farmers to enhance SLM, she shared positive project outcomes, including: decreased conflict over land; increased yield and diversity of crops; increased food security and enhanced livelihoods; and establishment of collective farming groups. Participants applauded the development of the Guidelines and recognized the potential to scale and replicate this innovative mechanism to other regions and countries. They further noted the value of linking such initiatives to local institutions to enhance sustainability.

Conservation Agriculture in Zambia (Zambia): Conrad Muyaule, Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF), presented WWF’s experiences in working with communities adjacent to conservation areas to address increased illegal trade in wildlife products. Highlighting the importance of long-term engagement, he identified activities that created an enabling environment, such as: training community moderators and farmers to disseminate information; establishing farmer field schools and demonstration plots to enhance farmers’ livelihoods; and facilitating exchange visits to other parts of the country.

Domestication and harmonization of policies for SLM at country level (Kenya): Vincent Okoth, Deputy Director of Agriculture, Siaya County, Kenya, presented work in the domestication and harmonization of SLM policies in three counties of Western Kenya. Noting that broad regulations are often inadequate in addressing land degradation and unsustainable forest and land management, he reported on efforts to build on existing legislative and policy frameworks to develop SLM programmes. The ensuing discussion highlighted examples of citizen engagement in driving such initiatives, recognizing the need to engage key leaders at an early stage and provide opportunities to hear marginalized voices.

 Tem Sesiabun Gorado (TSG): Social innovation for strengthening farmer-to-farmer extension (Benin): Check Abdel Kader Baba, TMG Research, introduced the TSG approach, a dissemination model used to transfer knowledge among farmers, as a way of addressing challenges of soil protection and restoration for food security. Illustrating how the transfer of knowledge has been passed from trained farmers to communities, he reflected on the need to further mainstream women’s involvement to enhance outreach. On the project’s contribution to building an enabling environment at the local level, Baba said the TSG approach builds on training provided by community-based agents rather than external technical advisors, and encourages farmers to adapt and innovate the knowledge gained in order to best suit their contexts.

Lessons from agricultural extension services in India: Navin Vivek Horo, GIZ, India, identified the challenge of taking solutions to scale and leveraging expertise to empower farmers. He discussed the use of digital solutions in the delivery and transfer of agricultural technologies, noting the importance of integrating the needs of the farmers through a two-way communication system. He further noted the need to keep digital solutions as simple as possible and to enhance access and affordability by hosting them on open source platforms.

Workshop 3: This group was moderated by Margitta Minah, Olivia Riemer and Maximiliano Cortes Sotomayor, TMG Research. The following four cases were discussed.

Addressing the socioeconomic drivers of ecosystems degradation from a business perspective (Ethiopia): Jony Girma, Apis Agribusiness, Ethiopia, explained the focus on providing livelihood opportunities to young people by providing them with practical and business training as beekeepers. Noting that one of the objectives is to change the mindset of youth to consider livelihood opportunities from non-timber forest products, he stressed the importance of establishing trust with young people and linking forest conservation with income generation activities.

Reflecting on how the project contributed to positive change, Ann-Kathrin Neureuther, Rare, emphasized the role that human emotions play in environmental decisions and stated that interpersonal communication was the deciding factor in realizing behavior change.

Restoring degraded agricultural land into functioning ecosystems through a carbon-credit system (Madagascar/Kenya): Harifidy Rakoto Ratsimba, University of Antananarivo, described afforestation efforts in Madagascar that place local people at the center of implementation of wood fuel plantation management, and stressed the importance of developing a shared vision among all actors.

Carolyne Musee, Kenya Agricultural Carbon Project, explained the project’s objective of achieving multiple benefits for smallholder farmers by increasing soil organic carbon, hence contributing to improved soil fertility, food security, resilience to climate change and reduced emissions. She noted the importance of agroforestry in SLM, due to its contribution to increased crop yields and improved production. Musee highlighted that the training approach encouraged farmer groups to adapt the package of agricultural practices according to their local needs.

Amos Wekesa, Vi Agroforestry, noted that carbon credits generated can pay for the implementation and monitoring of such projects and explained that Kenya has developed a legal framework to scale up carbon projects.

Reversing land degradation by scaling-up Evergreen Agriculture (Africa): Leigh Ann Winowiecki, and Mieke Bourne, ICRAF, presented this regional ICRAF-led project which seeks to reverse land degradation in eight African countries. The presenters discussed the importance of scaling up agroforestry successes to impact livelihoods and facilitate interactions between farmers and researchers to embed research into development programmes. Lessons highlighted included the need to track restoration activities to inform decision making, and use methodologies that engage stakeholders across sectors to bring together evidence from science and local knowledge. The discussions also highlighted the use of online decision dashboards to make data more accessible for decision making.

Building an empowered and financially inclusive rural population (India): Shri E. Srinivas, National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) discussed financial models used by the bank to promote integrated and sustainable development of rural areas by addressing farmers’ needs for working capital and investment credit. He explained that focal areas for NABARD include working with farmer producer organizations, supporting soil rehabilitation programmes and investing in rural infrastructure, adding that the bank also provides technical advice and a market outlet for farmers. Noting that NABARD’s access to international and national climate funds facilitates such support activities, Srinivas underscored the importance of building financially viable and commercially sustainable business enterprises to sustain these investments.

Workshop 4: This workshop was facilitated by Samie Blasingame, Marai El Fassi and Nicolas Patt, TMG Research. Opening the session, Blasingame invited participants to consider what constitutes an enabling environment and how the featured cases have contributed towards this. Project teams then presented five case studies, with participants breaking out into smaller groups to review lessons presented from each project to identify gaps and broader lessons.

Chia Lagoon Watershed Management (Malawi): Zwide Jere and Richard Museka, Total LandCare, presented this case. Jere highlighted the project’s focus on bringing together all relevant stakeholders at district level for coordinated messaging and fostering the self-sufficiency of local communities. He highlighted: the creation of a community-based revolving fund to enhance farmers’ access to inputs and equipment; establishing a strong fisheries association with adequate capacity to mobilize the local community to agree on bylaws for sustainable natural resources management; the construction of a fish market at the lagoon to improve marketing of fish products; and successful advocacy for adoption of the community-agreed land governance arrangements at the district level.

Enhancing food security and market access for land-constrained women farmers in Kakamega County (Kenya): Denis Orioki, ActionAid International, discussed how the project addressed structural barriers to women’s land ownership through a focus on “strengthening and collectivizing” women to advocate for their interests. Among lessons learned, he noted that facilitating exposure visits not only contributed to a change in mindset in favor of conservation agriculture practices but also enhanced mutually beneficial relationships between government officers and farmers. He described how the project helped to challenge gender stereotypes as women-led farmer movements demonstrated success in steering advocacy to higher-level institutions, for instance through contributing to budget planning processes. 

Community-level dry rangeland management in the pastoralist Laikipia (Kenya): Joseph Lentunyoi, Laikipia Permaculture Centre, discussed how the project used permaculture as an entry point to showcase efficient resource use while regenerating the natural environment in a dryland pastoralist context. He showed examples of some of the high-quality products developed for the local and export market, including organic honey, acacia fruit jam and aloe vera soap. He noted the importance of: understanding the existing community structures and dynamics and working with all relevant stakeholders; basing income generation activities on locally appropriate products; and exploring commercial options for reducing invasive species such as acacia. Lentunyoi also explained that while the women initially had to negotiate with men to give them access to land for the project, the men were quickly convinced about the project’s value, especially at a time when pastoralist livelihoods are increasingly threatened due to reduced mobility and the impacts of climate change.

Responding to a question on whether local women’s groups can enter into equitable contract arrangements with international buyers, Lentunyoi stressed the need for mediating organizations, such as NGOs and local authorities, to oversee such agreements.

A rural smallholder financing model (Kenya): Daniel Omondi, One Acre Fund, described his organization’s business model which provides a complete bundle of services to farmers comprising asset-based financing, flexible repayments, deep rural distribution, training for smallholders and post-harvest support. He said the objective is to improve the accessibility and applicability of rural extension services for smallholder farmers. He summarized some of the lessons learned, including that: the “unbankability” of rural smallholders can be bridged through small, in-kind asset loans; flexible loan repayments improve access to small asset loans; access to agricultural extension can be improved through technology, rural data and community empowerment; and gathering qualitative feedback from farmers and testing agronomic interventions improves the applicability of agricultural programmes.

Agro-pastoralists in West Pokot drylands (Kenya): Linnet Gohole and Bonface Alkamoi, University of Eldoret, discussed a project working with farmers to restore degraded land in Chepareria area of West Pokot County. Gohole explained that the project adopted an ecosystem-wide approach to address systemic crop failure and food shortages based on the Farmer Research Network model. She explained that the project empowered farmers by raising awareness on the relationship between sand harvesting and land degradation, which triggered the local community to ban the sale of sand to nearby urban areas. Gohole added that this required engaging with local youth who were earning an income from collecting and selling the sand and exploring alternative livelihood options for them.

Among lessons learned, she noted the importance of: empowering farmers as decision makers by providing them with a basket of options for further experimentation at farm level; promoting inclusive community-level approaches through purposefully including women and youth in community decision making; and emphasizing integrated, systems-wide solutions.

Dimension Workshops

On Tuesday morning, Müller explained that the lessons shared during the project workshops were further consolidated into four dimensions of an enabling environment deemed to be relevant to address the missing middle. Participants then met in break-out groups to explore the four dimensions, with a final wrap up plenary at the end of the day to present key lessons and take-away messages from each dimension that would be forwarded to the High-Level Segment.

This summary provides an overview of discussions from a selection of the workshops. 

Extension and Advisory Services: On Tuesday morning, Serah Kiragu-Wissler opened the session by outlining five clusters of lessons that emerged during the project workshops, namely: enhancing adoption of SLM technologies by adapting to local needs and interests; inclusion of specific groups such as women and youth; sustaining SLM technologies through building capacity of local institutions and champions; improving decentralized public extension services through the inclusion of SLM in local development plans; and mainstreaming of successful SLM practices into policies and programmes.

Participants then discussed each cluster in turn, identifying further gaps and priority areas for action.

Issues raised included the need to: acknowledge that farmers are not a homogenous group, which requires, inter alia, bringing together groups with shared interests, and promoting dialogue and negotiation of tradeoffs among different land uses and priorities. Participants also noted the need to develop participatory and context-specific technology diffusion and transfer approaches, while also exploring good practices from other contexts that can be applied and innovated locally. One challenge raised was the issue of how to compensate farmer trainers, with a speaker proposing a model proposed by TMG Research based on the concept of “social debt” rather than financial or in-kind incentives.

Discussing institutional arrangements to foster SLM, participants highlighted the need to invest in accessible communication materials and extension services and use project experiences to address gaps in existing legislation or customary laws.

Other questions raised in the discussions included how to: incorporate cultural beliefs or farming practices that are contrary to the principles of sustainable agriculture; and ensure strong links between researchers, farmers and decision makers in the extension system to ensure continuous innovation.

Reporting back to the plenary on Tuesday afternoon, Vivek Hivo, GIZ highlighted four key strategies that emerged from the discussions: ensuring that extension services are locally contextualized and inclusive to meet the needs of farmers; promoting farmer-to-farmer extension models; mainstreaming extension into decentralized planning and budgeting processes to ensure adequate funding; and making greater use of modern digital solutions.

Local Governance and Cooperation Models: On Tuesday morning, Moderator Margitta Minah, TMG Research, presented the six projects that specifically addressed an enabling environment for local governments. She called on participants to review the six strategies that were developed based on these lessons to identify complementarities as well as any missing elements. Participants subsequently discussed the strategies in break out groups.

Some of the issues highlighted in the discussions included: options for pooling resources in economically-weak municipalities and preventing land speculation that could lead to dispossession of poor smallholders; the need to build the capacity of women and other community groups to demand their rights from duty bearers; and the role of participatory rural appraisal processes in enhancing the inclusion of marginalized groups.

Other issues raised touched on the role of alternative governance structures such as community committees, customary leaders, and community-based organizations. The importance of formal registration of such institutions was noted, as well as the importance of building synergies “for the strong to strengthen the weak.” On strategies to strengthen linkages between citizens, local government, and civil society, participants suggested holding joint activities and training workshops towards this end. They further noted that, depending on the situation on the ground, different stakeholders can kick-start the process, while stressing the need for resources to be provided to support such processes.

Presenting the outcome of the discussions during the closing plenary on Tuesday evening, Harriet Nakasi, Advocacy Coalition for Sustainable Agriculture, Uganda, reiterated the importance of alternative models of local governance where government institutions may not work optimally, but noted that these models need to be legitimized to build their capacities. She further underscored the need to use stakeholder analysis to bring more people on board, with a focus on women and youth. Mama Bassarou, Association de Développement des Communes du Borgou, Benin, called for enhanced synergies with related development initiatives to strengthen such alternative community governance models.

Finance and Markets: Moderator Olivia Riemer, TMG Research, welcomed participants and invited break out groups to engage in discussions around the themes that had emerged from the presentation of case studies, specifically in the area of market and finance. She outlined specific clusters of approaches used to create enabling environments, challenging each group to explore commonalities and differences, as well as a deeper look into identifying key actors to mobilize enabling conditions.

Julian Peach, Consultant, facilitated feedback from working groups focused on the areas of: access to finance and markets; sustainable consumption and production challenges; development of value chains; opportunities in loans and credits; and communal models of distribution of benefits.

Noting the need for interventions to be sustainable and inclusive, participants reflected on entry points for strengthening enabling environments at the local level, such as: providing business training to producer organizations and other community groups; using donor funding to catalyze sustainable finance; facilitating learning processes to inform future plans; and mapping relevant national and international policy frameworks to identify synergies.

Participants discussed the pros and cons of developing specific mechanisms to enhance access to finance and markets for smallholder farmers and marginalized groups. With regard to identifying the targets of such interventions, participants proposed requesting input from local service providers and noted the need to improve awareness and information dissemination, as well as trust building among various stakeholders.

Reporting back to the plenary on Tuesday afternoon, Rhoda Birech, Limbua Foundation, noted that finance is a critical component of all SLM activities and explained that the discussions had explored various strategies to strengthen access to finance, including the aggregation of farmers’ groups into cooperatives. She highlighted opportunities to nurture niche markets that favor SLM products and a proposal to consider enabling conditions beyond farmers to include the private sector.

Shri E. Srinivas, NABARD, shared observations made about the lack of credit options for marginalized and small-scale farmers, further urging consideration of mechanisms that could increase and develop sustainable value chains. Birech concluded that government is an important player in creating enabling environments through, inter alia, developing regulations to facilitate lending to farmers, and promoting investments and financing of agricultural value chains.

In the ensuing discussion, participants raised questions relating to: harmonizing extension services among private, public and non-governmental service providers; attracting opportunities for financing efficiencies within value chains; and providing compensation to farmers for their investment in SLM.

Land Governance: During the plenary session on Tuesday afternoon, Yoda Blaise, Ministry of Agriculture, Burkina Faso, and Jael Omunyang’oli, Shibuye Community Health Workers, Kakamega, discussed lessons from their respective countries’ efforts to develop locally-led tenure frameworks to guarantee women’s access to and ownership of land. They highlighted the importance of: starting from the household and community level to ensure legitimacy; amplifying advocacy by linking with civil society organizations; and ensuring that such local agreements are formally recognized at the sub-national and national levels.

Discussing Kenya’s experience with Community-Led Land Lease Guidelines, Omunyang’oli noted that an important condition for success was their strong basis in community dialogue rather than being imposed from outside. She explained that the close involvement of village and community leaders as well as local authorities enhanced the project’s legitimacy and eased its adoption within the community and legal system.

Among key takeaways, the presenters highlighted the importance of: effectively packaging local governance initiatives and involving civil society networks to translate these messages to influence decision makers at higher levels; lobbying relevant stakeholders to ensure that community guidelines are not only incorporated in policy but are also, wherever possible, enshrined into law; and conducting awareness campaigns to ensure the implementation of such guidelines.

Closing of the Technical Segment: In closing remarks on Tuesday afternoon, Müller stressed the need to create responsible rural governance and noted the importance of strengthening micro-finance and other institutions that channel capital to farmers and other community groups. Kaudia highlighted that discussions had generated valuable knowledge and take-home messages and expressed hope that the High-Level Segment would explore modalities for apply these lessons.

High-Level Segment

Opening Statements: On Wednesday morning, GSW 2019 Co-Facilitators Alice Kaudia and Alexander Müller welcomed participants to the High-Level Segment. Remarking that “Africa’s soils are crumbling,” Kaudia urged participants to take more care to foster SLM, adding that discussions during the technical segment had clearly demonstrated that opportunities do exist to create an enabling environment for sustainable and climate-resilient agriculture in Africa.

Explaining that the launch of the GSW in 2012 was driven by the need to raise the profile of soil as the basis for our life support systems, 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?

He noted that while awareness about soils is growing, a lot of work is required to translate scientific evidence into action, for example in finding solutions to the paradox of growing hunger in some parts of the world while one-third of agricultural land globally “is used to produce food waste.” Müller reiterated that financing for the SDGs is limited, hence achieving multiple benefits for every dollar invested will require linking SLM actions to other goals at the local level.

Tony Simons, Director General, ICRAF, reported that, globally, 36 billion tons of soil - equivalent five times Kenya’s GDP – is lost each year due to erosion. He invited participants to recognize the urgency of this issue, while not losing sight of evidence of positive impacts to both environment and livelihoods as highlighted in the projects shared.

Jeanne Josette Acacha Akoha, Ministry of Living Environment and Sustainable Development, Benin, reiterated that degraded soils create constraints for livelihoods and negative consequences for economies, further reaffirming commitment to SLM through national activities such as the recent adoption of the 2019 National Action Plan for SLM.

Zacharie Segda, representing the Minister of Agriculture, Burkina Faso, shared his Ministry’s commitment to support and engage marginalized populations in SLM, emphasizing the need to scale up successful case studies and further improve technical and functional capacity building.

Etefa Diba Areri, House of Representatives, Standing Committee for Agriculture, Pastoralists, and Environmental Protection, drew attention to his Ethiopia’s soil degradation issues due to deforestation, over-cultivation, and monocropping and highlighted Ethiopia’s commitment to tackle the problem of soil fertility by promoting sustainable soil management practices.

Ony Malalaniaina Rabearivololona, Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, Madagascar, noted Madagascar’s commitment to develop value chains that are resilient to climate change and to increase the capacity of communities, while recognizing that scaling up SLM practices requires investment in sensitization and capacity building.

Heiko Warnken, BMZ, stressed the importance of soils and noted that upscaling is crucial for successful soil management. He lamented that mainstream land use is dominated by unsustainable practices due to regulations favoring short-term production.

Daniel Alker, Germany, speaking on behalf of Annett Günther, Germany’s Ambassador to Kenya, reviewed the long-standing commitment of the German government to partner with Kenya in protecting and rehabilitating soils, lauding the approach to further explore enabling environments as a path forward.

Lucy Njenga, representing Mwangi Kiunjuri, Cabinet Secretary of the Kenyan Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Irrigation, declared GSW 2019 officially open and called on participants to use the forum to share experiences in order to galvanize actions at the local level that are in line with global commitments, moving into an inclusive and sustainable transformation.

Müller presented the outcomes of the technical segment as expressed by artists following the discussions, noting the core idea communicated is that what is needed to enable global solutions at the local level is good rural governance.

Voices from the ground: Müller invited participants representing “voices from the ground” to share takeaway messages from discussions on the first two days of the conference.

Jemimah Ikalakala M’Mayi, a farmer from Kenya, noted that if we want an enabling environment for a climate-resilient agriculture the focus should be on empowering female farmers.

Gobi Gaston Yorou, Mayor of N’Dali, Benin, stressed the need for securing land quality and invited GIZ to provide help with restoring degraded land.

Paul Okongo, a farmer from Kenya, expressed that strong voices of the producers must be developed and made a call to leadership to support the provision of extension services to farmers to ensure an enabling environment.

Doreen Magotsi, Shibuye Community Health Workers, Kenya, noted the challenge of limited access to land by women in Africa and put forward an appeal for help for women at the grassroots level to have access to extension services.

Dorcas Abimbola Omole, Nigeria, presenting outcomes of the Youth on Soil Event, highlighted the need to make agriculture “cooler” to youth by including different agricultural practices, such as hydroponics.

Kaudia concluded the session noting that we are ready to face the challenges based on the knowledge gathered and advocated for safeguarding the interest of humanity to have sustainable and climate resilient agriculture.

Peer-Review Workshops: Land governance: On Wednesday afternoon, Seydou Koudougou, Executive Secretary, GRAF, highlighted strategies that emerged from discussions during the technical segment of GSW 2019. He invited participants to review the proposed strategies -  reformulating them where necessary -  to address what is needed to operationalize them at the local, sub-national and national levels.

On securing land use rights for women, discussions recognized the need to widen the scope to address redistribution of land. Among proposed actions, participants highlighted the need to identify important actors and champions to deliver awareness raising at all levels.

In a related strategy addressing how to engage civil society organizations (CSOs) in land tenure agreements, participants outlined the need to identify actors, involve all partners at all stages of the planning process, and develop inclusive platforms to operationalize actions.

One group responded to strategies recognizing community developed land tenure regulations and agreements through endorsement with local authorities along with enforcement of sustainable management of natural resources through communally developed land use regulations, agreeing that both required a policy framework. Among some recommended actions, the group proposed: supporting appropriate legal mechanisms; creating a platform to bring together local and communal legal entities for effective and meaningful consultation; and building capacity to monitor and document the success stories as evidence to further inform policy making at national and regional levels.

The group focusing on legal recognition and protection of communal land tenure, land use and land management rights for pastoral communities lauded the inclusion of “the often-forgotten stakeholder” in these dialogues. Participants discussed several concrete actions, including: developing increased political will through advocacy and lobbying; developing regional land use plans that recognize pastoralism; providing vet services along routes; building capacity of local institutions to resolve disputes; and utilizing internationally agreed transhumance protocols to allow movement of pastoralists from one country to another. On integrating local regulatory initiatives into policy, legal and institutional frameworks, participants called, inter alia, for increased advocacy and awareness raising, capacity building at institutional and individual levels, and multi-stakeholder platforms to ensure the full and meaningful participation of all stakeholders.

One participant noted that across all strategies, a participatory approach is required, that is formally recognized and supported by a public budget. Hubert Ouedraogo, Burkina Faso, concluded the workshop acknowledging the progress made to advance theory into practice.

Extension and advisory services: Building on discussions and outcomes from the first two days, Moderator Boniface Kiteme, CETRAD, highlighted the identification of five broad clusters of strategies relating to an enabling environment and welcomed the inputs of the panel of experts on the subject. The panel consisted of: Margaret Ngigi, Egerton University, Kenya; Usha Rani, MANAGE, India; Jeffreyson Kwashi Mutimba, Sasakawa African Fund for Extension Education, Zimbabwe; Samson Eshetu, ICRA, Ethiopia; and Ismail Moumouni, University of Parakou, Benin.

Girum Alemu, TMG Research, explained that the clusters were created based on the analysis of the 20 case studies and the discussions of the previous days, and presented on each cluster separately with leading questions to be discussed on the last three.

Discussing the capacity building of local institutions and champions as a means to sustain SLM technologies, the panel focused on the methods to build those capacities. They stressed that the first line champion is the farmer and underscored the need for linkages between researchers and farmers. They noted that champions should be equipped with soft skills to mobilize different institutions at the local level and be technically competent, and emphasized the importance of proper training at the university level which can enable further training in the field.

Regarding the mainstreaming of successful SLM practices into policies through stakeholder engagement at all levels, the experts focused on how to involve those stakeholders in policy-making processes. They highlighted that farmers could lobby pushing their interests to government via organized groups and engaging stakeholders from the beginning of the process to ensure sustainability at a later stage is crucial. They also suggested common advocacy platforms and interaction between parties to exchange ideas and advance development and agricultural activities.

On improving decentralized extension services through the inclusion of SLM in local development plans, the panel discussed about the ways to ensure allocation and prioritization of budget to extension services that support SLM practices. They stressed that SLM practices are not prioritized in national planning instruments and that the profile of extension should be raised by bringing evidence of success stories to policy makers.

In the ensuing discussion, participants and panelists shared views on the interrelations between the different clusters and stated that the future of extension lies with: the scalability of technologies; digital platforms; diversification of its purpose; and profiling its case to the political level.

Consultations by Heads of Delegation: In parallel to the peer-review workshops, Heads of Delegation met to discuss the Co-Host Outcome Statement of the GSW. Participants agreed on the need to stress the urgency of responding to land degradation trend and emphasized that the Outcome Statement should reflect the discussions of the GSW. The meeting further recommended that the final version should be finalized after the GSW and prior to HLPF 2019.

GSW Lab: On Thursday morning, participants held discussions in a “lab” format, with the aim of reviewing key lessons and strategies gathered over the previous three days and testing them against the realities of day-to-day policy formulation and implementation. Panelists, including senior government officials at national and sub-national level, representatives of international and regional organizations, and civil society, drew on their experiences in policy implementation.

Opening the session, the Co-Facilitators urged participants to use the Lab to consolidate lessons learned and reiterated that the main task for GSW 2019 was to find practical ways to translate and implement global frameworks at the local level. Anna Kramer, TMG Research, gave a recap of the bottom-up approach adopted by the conference, noting it entailed collecting lessons from 22 projects in Africa and Asia and distilling these into specific strategies for creating enabling environments for SLM at the local level. Participants subsequently engaged in an interactive discussion examining some of the final messages, which were grouped around the four thematic dimensions.

Land governance: On the topic of addressing the strategies that secure access to land for women, Müller reflected on the successful bottom-up approaches presented in the case from Burkina Faso and asked panelist to provide suggestions on how to implement the lessons learned.

Juliette Biao Koudenoukpo, Director, UNEP Regional Office for Africa, highlighted challenges in upscaling SLM at the local level linked to women’s lack of access to and control over land, despite the major contribution they make to food security and household income. Calling for “mind restoration before land restoration,” she noted, for example, how women are prevented from planting trees because they are not landowners, while those engaged in activities such as charcoal burning can freely cut trees. Koudenoukpo proposed the concept of “social consensus” to describe the necessary process of engaging with men, communal institutions and other stakeholders to embrace local initiatives as well as laws that are designed to advance women’s right to land.

In response to a question from Müller on the role of UNEP in addressing the complexities at the local level, Koudenoukpo remarked that local stakeholders are often well coordinated and challenged higher-level institutions and development partners to walk the talk, stating “let us stop coordinating what is already coordinated.” She shared the example of the Ecosystem Based Adaptation for Food Security Assembly, a pan-African platform that is coordinating and engaging key stakeholders and actors to stimulate positive results in SLM.

On strategies to promote women’s rights within governance arrangements, Seydou Koudougou, GRAF, stressed the need to enhance linkages between local communities and local institutions, further noting that local organizations require capacity building support to engage effectively with higher-level actors.

Responding to strategies highlighted in the workshops on land governance, Julien Noël Rakotoarisoa, Madagascar, highlighted governance arrangements within pastoralist settings and described his country’s efforts to implement a long-term vision that combines sustainable management of soil, biodiversity, agroecological systems and water resources. He highlighted the use of inclusive landscape planning in managing conflicts between pastoralists and farmers and describe how an interministerial platform was established to ensure the engagement of all relevant ministries.

Addressing the strategy on legal recognition, recording and protection of communal land tenure use and management rights for pastoral communities, Jonathan Davies, International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), shared work being done in drylands to document traditional practices used to manage natural resources throughout vast areas of land in order to inform governments and other stakeholders, noting how this experience has stimulated a revival in the traditional decisions making systems. Referring to discussions in the dimension workshop, Koudougou reflected satisfaction in efforts to recognize the “forgotten” pastoralists, sharing the call to integrate and mainstream international instruments on transhumance mobility in order to secure pastoralists as they move through different countries.

Extension and advisory services: Presenting outcomes of the peer-review workshop on extension services, Boniface Kiteme, CETRAD, noted the shift towards digital platforms to deliver extension messages while lamenting the diminishing investment in extension services in many African countries. He called for mainstreaming of SLM practices in development policies and programmes as well as the need for raising the profile of extension services at the political level.

Rosalie Ouoba, Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa, called for building on traditional agricultural practices that add value to land and noted that extension services mostly target men, even if women are the main farmers. With regard to the specific support needed to empower women and youth once their access to land has been secured, Ouoba noted the importance of financial independence and access to training and inputs that enhance SLM.

Onesmus Makhanu, Director of Agriculture, Bungoma County, Kenya, stated that it is important to have symmetric information between male and female farmers. Regarding access to inputs for farmers, he highlighted the government’s role in creating enabling market conditions with stable interest rates to encourage the growth of sustainable agribusinesses. Müller concluded by reflecting the magnitude of the transforming and modernizing agriculture and associated policies for the “biggest workforce on our planet,” a population 1.5 billion people.

Finance and markets: Kaudia introduced representatives from development banks from Africa and India to help identify how actors in the agricultural sector can access finance. Mohamud Hussein Egeh, African Development Bank noted the Bank’s current focus on climate change as the most important development challenge of our time. He shared a number of examples of ongoing programmes towards this end, such as ‘Feed Africa - Strategy for Agricultural Transformation in Africa 2016-2025’ and the Sustainable Energy Fund for Africa.

Shri M. Soren, NABARD, added the Indian perspective, highlighting efforts to create an enabling environment by providing opportunities for refinancing and provision of loans to farmers, along with microfinancing programmes for women.

William Speller, UNEP, outlined the experience of the Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity AgriFood framework, an effort to incorporate external costs and benefits of biodiversity into economic and financial decision-making. He expressed hope that being able to measure externalities and account more accurately for the four types of capital – produced, natural, social and human – while noting that this will require a paradigm shift to incorporate externalities when making economic decisions.

Johann Fourgeaud, Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) Fund introduced the objectives of the Fund, noting it has been developed in a partnership between the UNCCD and Mirova, an impact investment firm. He described the Fund as a game changer in the market with its focus on catalyzing the private sector to direct resources to scale up SLM practices through creating a pipeline of bankable projects.

In the ensuing discussion, some speakers expressed the need for caution in promoting large-scale land investments, highlighting the risk of landgrabbing and resulting dispossession of poor farmers. Some called for more work on inclusive carbon markets, offering incentives for smallholders to invest in SLM.

Local governance and cooperation models: Kaudia introduced discussions around strategies focused on strengthening local and community governance structures. Zwide Jere, Total Land Care, Malawi, explained that good local governance underpins all other strategies related to supporting access to land for women, secure extension services, as well as access to markets and finance.

Jes Weigelt, TMG Research, noted challenges in linking statutory and customary governance, and noted the need to find ways to complementarities rather than competing against each other. Marai El Fassi, TMG Research, outlined some recommendations emerging from the dimension workshop on how to organize the dissemination of knowledge at the local level, noting the need for increased collaboration among different service providers and stressing the role of local governments as a platform for dialogue.

Oliver Ruppel, University of Stellenbosch, discussed how international legal frameworks can support rights-based approaches to SLM at the local level. He described a regional African project that is exploring strategies to bring together customary law with modern legal systems, many of which date back to the colonial period, with a view to mapping out options for creating model laws that can be adopted at the national level.

Responding to a question on whether law reform can also “trickle up,” Ruppel agreed that modern law can learn from applications of customary law and noted this was the case in Kenyan’s new constitution. In discussions, one speaker suggested that this process requires first ensuring that customary laws are documented and preserved. 

Ronald Vargas, Global Soil Partnership, explained the process used to develop the Voluntary Guidelines on Sustainable Soil Management as an example of “soft law.” Despite the lack of a binding international agreement on soils, he described the Guidelines as an important achievement that created comprehensive guidance for governments and other stakeholders to address ten key threats to healthy soils. Noting the need to link all levels of agricultural value chains in promoting SLM, Vargas said the next step is to develop an international code of conduct on the sustainable use of fertilizers.

Closing panel discussion: During a high-level panel on Thursday afternoon, Kaudia invited Françoise Assogba, Benin, to share her views on the strategies generated during the conference workshops. Assogba noted the interdependency of these strategies and drew attention to the capacity building of local institutions through a fund targeted at research activities to promote soil management practices. She additionally highlighted the need for integration of SLM into community development plans to ensure budget allocation and adoption of information and communications technologies by different actors.

Tim Christophersen, UNEP, underscored that it is imperative to have joint narratives around nature-based solutions and urged participants to help in upscaling learning to “think big” and re-channel global money flows.

Martin Frick, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), highlighted that the value of climate-resilient agriculture derives from the carbon benefits that accrue, stressing that these must be translated into funding for land users. He called for greater involvement of farmers in voluntary carbon offsetting schemes.

Joan Kagwanja, African Land Policy Center, explained how useful the evidence generated from case studies is in providing guidance to Member States, as well as ensuring the relevance of such advice. She raised concern regarding those who do not have documented rights to land, calling for investment models to centralize the interests of smallholder farmers and pastoralists.

Fatoumata Tall, GRAF, addressed the need to concretize the actions identified at GSW 2019, specifically: calling on politicians to invest in equity; engaging women, pastoralists and youth in the planning stages of development at the local level; and developing and sustaining monitoring frameworks.

Christel Weller-Molongua, GIZ, described a vision for a holistic approach to attract youth to a modern agricultural development that promotes healthy soils and landscapes, and further articulated the urgency of climate change in the development of solutions for farmers.

Elvis Paul Tangem, African Union, introduced the Great Green Wall for the Sahel and Sahara Initiative, stating that that soil and land are central to Africa’s transformation programme for the next 50 years, as set out in Agenda 2063.

Müller emphasized the importance of focusing on poor communities and marginalized groups by ensuring equitable access to financial resources and other support. He proposed finding a common language to communicate the urgency of the sustainability challenge and suggested that “climate change” could be renamed into “climate crisis” to highlight the need for accelerated adaptation.

Johns Muleso Kharika, UNCCD, briefed participants on preparations for the upcoming 14th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 14) to the Convention, which takes place in India in September 2019. He outlined some of the substantive issues to be discussed at the COP, including land tenure, land and climate action, youth, gender, and income generation. Kharika stressed that LDN is an “integrator and accelerator of all SDGs,” and called for enhanced synergies among the related multilateral agreements to support a balanced approach that also considers possible tradeoffs among the different SDG targets.

In his closing remarks, Hamadi Boga, Principal Secretary State Department of Agricultural Research, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Irrigation, Kenya, revealed that a challenge facing the policy reform around soils is persuading colleagues, from politicians to farmers, of the urgency of degraded soils that could be redirecting investment from fertilizers to rehabilitation. He described a new partnership with UNEP to create a centralized platform for all data related to soils to promote such reforms.

Weigelt thanked all involved in making GSW 2019 a success, including the government of Kenya, ICRAF and the GSW Co-Hosting governments (Burkina Faso, Benin, Ethiopia and Madagascar) as well as the funders and organizing partners. He also expressed appreciation to India, as hosts of UNCCD COP 14, for their strong contribution to the conference through sharing diverse project experiences and lessons in building an enabling environment for sustainable and climate-resilient agriculture.

Upcoming Meetings

Seventh Session of the GSP Plenary Assembly: The Global Soil Partnership Plenary Assembly constitutes the main venue where all GSP partners come together to make important decisions about the global soil agenda. The meeting, which takes place annually, will seek to review and prioritize GSP actions while facilitating a balanced regional decision-making process.  dates: 5-7 June 2019  venue: FAO Headquarters  location: Rome, Lazio, Italy  www:

EAT Stockholm Food Forum 2019: Stockholm Food Forum is the annual flagship event of EAT, a science-based global platform for food system transformation, that seeks to drive progress, share knowledge and help coordinate action across sectors and disciplines. The Forum’s sixth edition will be informed by the findings of the EAT-Lancet Commission’s report titled, ‘Food, Planet, Health’.  dates: 12-13 June 2019  location: Stockholm, Stockholms Lan, Sweden  www:

International Soil Congress 2019 – “Successful Transformation toward Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN): Future Perspective”: Marking the 25th anniversary of the UNCCD, the Congress will bring together senior scientists, academicians, experts, policy makers and young researchers to analyze the current and future trends of soil and land resources.  dates: 17-19 June 2019  location: Ankara, Turkey  contact: Secretariat  email:  www:

Ecosystem Services Partnership Regional Conference Africa 2019: This biennial conference aims to draw attention to the key role that ecosystems play in the economy, human wellbeing and culture in Sub-Saharan Africa, and explore potential solutions to the threats they face. Organized in partnership with the Global Mountain Biodiversity Assessment and civil society organizations the conference will address the theme, ‘Management of Ecosystem Services for Nature Conservation and Human Well-Being in Africa.’  dates: 17-20 June 2019  location: Togo  www:

World Day to Combat Desertification (WDCD) 2019: WDCD 2019 will mark the 25th anniversary of the UNCCD. Under the slogan, ‘Let’s Grow the Future Together,’ the Day will seek to raise awareness of that LDN is achievable through problem solving, strong community involvement and co-operation at all levels. The 2019 global observance of the Day will be hosted by Turkey’s Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry in Ankara and will be held in conjunction with the International Soil Congress 2019. date: 17 June 2019 location: Ankara, Turkey (worldwide) www

Désertif’actions 2019: Co-organized by the UNCCD, Centre d’Actions et de Réalisations Internationales CARI, and the Permanent Secretariat of NGOs (SPONG), Burkina Faso, are co-organizing this international civil society summit on land, biodiversity and climate. The event will address, inter alia, the Great Green Wall for Sahara and the Sahel Initiative, land tenure, LDN, pastoralism and water use in drylands. The first three days of the summit will be dedicated to debate and knowledge exchange, be followed by a public day of “cultural manifestation and awareness” on 22 June.  dates: 19-22 June 2019  location: Ouagadougou, Kadiogo, Burkina Faso  www:

Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) Bonn: GLF Bonn 2019 will explore the contributions of indigenous peoples, local communities, and rural and indigenous women and youth to achieving the SDGs and Paris Agreement, highlighting the transformative role of rights and rights-based approaches for securing a more just, sustainable and prosperous future for all. The GLF is a multi-stakeholder platform with a global secretariat led by the Center for International Forestry Research and core funding provided by the Government of Germany.  dates: 22-23 June 2019  location: Bonn, Germany  www:

HLPF 2019: Convening under the auspices of the UN Economic and Social Council, this year’s Forum will address the theme ‘Empowering People and Ensuring Inclusiveness and Equality’ as decided by UN General Assembly resolution A/70/299. The session will undertake an in-depth review of SDGs 4, 8, 10, 13, 16 and 17.  dates: 9-19 July 2019  location: New York City, US  www:

50th Session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC): The IPCC is currently in its sixth assessment cycle, which includes the Special Report on Climate Change and Land that is tentatively scheduled to be adopted in August 2019.  dates: 13-17 August 2019 (TBD)  location: TBD  contact: IPCC Secretariat  phone: +41-22-730-8208/54/84  fax: +41-22-730-8025/13  email:  www:

UNCCD COP 14: Issues to be addressed at COP 14 include: the interaction between climate and land; the food, energy and environment nexus; rural-urban linkages; impacts of land degradation on poverty and human health; sustainable value chains; and the role of the faith communities and other land global restoration movements in achieving LDN, which is a pivotal Agenda 2030 target.  dates: 2-13 September 2019  location: New Delhi, Delhi, India  contact: UNCCD Secretariat  e-mail:  www:

SDG Summit: The SDG Summit will be convened by the UN General Assembly at the level of Heads and State and Government. Among other items, HLPF 2019 will consider the Global Sustainable Development Report, which is issued every four years.  dates: 24-25 September 2019  location: New York City, US  contact: Office of UNGA President  www:

The Future of Food and Climate Change: The Global Alliance for the Future of Food will host a one day event dedicated to achieving a sustainable and nutritious food system under the conditions of climate change.  date: 25 September 2019  location: New York City, US  contact: Global Alliance for the Future of Food  www:

World Food Day 2019: FAO designated 16 October World Food Day in 1979. The Day has been celebrated annually since 1981.  date: 16 October 2019  location: worldwide  www:

Conference on Land Policy in Africa (CLPA-2019): The third edition of the CLPA will convene under the theme, ‘Winning the Fight against Corruption in the Land Sector: Sustainable Pathway for Africa’s Transformation’. Organized by the African Land Policy Centre, a joint initiative of the African Union Commission, the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the African Development Bank, the conference will seek to deepen capacity for land policy in Africa through improved access to knowledge and information on land policy development and implementation.  dates: 4-8 November 2019  location: Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire  www:

World Soil Day 2019: World Soil Day has been commemorated annually since 2013, following the adoption of a FAO Council resolution and subsequent recognition by the 68th UN General Assembly.  date: 5 December 2019  location: worldwide  contact: Global Soil Partnership Secretariat  e-mail:  www:

Global Symposium on Soil Biodiversity (GSOBI20): GSOBI20 is jointly organized by the Global Soil Partnership, the Intergovernmental Technical Panel on Soils, the Global Soil Biodiversity Initiative and the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. The Symposium will bring together international experts with the aim of reviewing the status of knowledge on soil biodiversity and ecosystem services, the sustainable use and conservation of soil biodiversity, and the contributions of soil organisms to the SDGs.  dates: 10-12 March 2020  location: Rome, Lazio, Italy  www:

Further information


Negotiating blocs
African Union
Non-state coalitions