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[CANCUN, MEXICO] An integrated approach — involving stakeholders such as researchers, policymakers and local people — for addressing land degradation, climate change and sustainable land management challenges is beneficial than working in silos, says a conference.
According to the 3rd United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) Scientific Conference in Mexico this week (9-12 March), an integrated approach to sustainable land management should be promoted.
“There is a need to change institutional arrangements to prevent the danger of duplication and competition for resources by various stakeholders in addressing issues of sustainable land management,” says Lindsay Stringer, a professor of environment and development at the UK-based University of Leeds.
Stringer, who has conducted research in countries in Sub-Saharan Africa such as Botswana and Malawi, says indigenous knowledge among pastoral and farming communities in Africa on coping with challenges such as drought can be added to modern scientific research outcomes to promote good land management and address climate change-related impacts.

“Sustainable land management needs all these: traditional knowledge, modern scientific research yielding innovations, and methods for best practices and informing policymaking processes.”

Lindsay Stringer, University of Leeds.

“Sustainable land management needs all these: traditional knowledge, modern scientific research yielding innovations, and methods for best practices and informing policymaking processes,” she notes.
According to Stringer, working together could result in understanding the reasons people take certain decisions and create supportive context in sustainable land management.
Stringer explains that ‘climate smart’ agricultural methods such as use of mulching and building of terraces as has been done in some parts of Swaziland form part of good scientific practices that can be used to prevent land degradation while at the same time helping to meet agricultural needs of the people.
The conference, she says, should act as a platform for scientists and policymakers to realise that it is important to increase dialogue on combatting desertification, addressing climate mitigation and adaptation as well as promotion of sustainable land practices.
Monique Barbut, UNCCD executive secretary, says that land degradation is a tragedy for humanity alongside the challenges of meeting water and energy needs.
Barbut adds that climate change will decrease food production, and could increase competition and conflicts over resources.  “Competition and conflicts could set up in numbers in the Sahel region and the Middle East,” Barbut says. “Science is crucial in helping people progress. The transfer of knowledge and technology is crucial in conservation and combating land degradation.”
Richard Thomas, the director of the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems, who is based in Jordan at the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas, is advocating for integrated system research to create new science on how people can cope with problems of productivity. He adds that such knowledge should enhance resilience and help make better polices in sustainable land use.  
Scientists should come up with knowledge on operating practices that enhance competiveness, increase the value of dryland ecosystems, and explore how sustainable land management could impact livelihoods, Thomas says.
Disclaimer: UNCCD sponsored Ochieng’ Ogodo to attend its 3rd Scientific Conference in Cancun, Mexico.
This article has been produced by SciDev.Net's Sub-Saharan Africa desk.