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:: Announcement ::

Commemorating the International Year of Deserts and Desertification (IYDD), ICRISAT in conjunction with the UNCCD Secretariat, the Desert Margins Program and Oasis (the new CGIAR Systemwide Program on desertification) is organizing a Symposium/Workshop “From Desert to Oasis: Role of Science and Research in Combating Desertification in Semi-arid sub-Saharan Africa” from 23-25 September 2006 at Palais des Congres and ICRISAT, Niamey, Niger.

Background and rationale

As the world marks the International Year of Deserts and Desertification in 2006, it is timely to pause for reflection. A total of 191 nations have now ratified the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (CCD). The convention places a priority on desertification in Africa. Many nations and regions have prepared concrete Action Plans, and are actively implementing or seeking funding to implement them.

An extraordinary opportunity exists! The global will is strengthening, and interest in Africa is keen. International bodies are ready to help to fund development activities and provide technical assistance.

But is there potential for success and are the mechanisms in place for achieving even more success now?

The conventional pessimism about the development potential of the African drylands needs to be challenged. There is a need to provoke discussion about the positive potentials of the zone and the extent to which they have not been, or on the contrary are being achieved. Has some of the pessimism been overblown or even mistaken? Are there important successes that have been overlooked in the doom and gloom, instead of being recognized as turning points that could be scaled up for broader impact? If so, how do we make it happen?

As the CCD shifts increasingly to implementation, all eyes will be on the degree of progress that is achieved in actually defeating desertification. If success is not visible, the development investor community may lose faith.

To achieve a higher success rate, the next wave of effort must be more strongly based on knowledge and understanding of the issues, and participation of the stakeholders. Simple technology transfer from other parts of the globe won’t do. The new knowledge-based approach can only be realized by inculcating a strong research-for-development (R4D) dimension into the CCD process, and by increasing the sharing of knowledge between different regions.

ICRISAT and ICARDA, two international agricultural research centers within the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) are attempting to address this need by creating a broad global partnership of agricultural research institutions devoted to desertification-related issues. They call this alliance ‘Oasis’.

The Concept

This symposium/workshop will seek to identify solutions to desertification in semi-arid sub-Saharan Africa emerging from research-for-development in support of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification. Leaders of thought, scientists, and development practitioners (from international organizations and civil society organizations) will share knowledge and ideas to illuminate the importance of, and opportunities for reducing poverty while combating land degradation in sub-Saharan Africa’s drylands.

Participants will pursue the exchange knowledge and experiences to:

• Identify the factors determining past successes
• Identify how such successes could be scaled up
• Strategize how a global research-for-development alliance (Oasis) could contribute to combating desertification in support of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification
 

Some topics to be addressed will include the following:

• Converging trends, intensifying challenges facing the drylands
• Development pathways for the drylands, better livelihood options (including non-agricultural opportunities, ecotourism, solar/wind power etc., even depopulation)
• Ways to integrate care for the fragile dryland environment with the need for better livelihoods for the poor
• Consequences of doing nothing (costs of inaction)
• Roles of international trade, markets
• Land user’s perspectives, tenure, rights
• Payments for environmental services
• Public/private partnerships
• Methodology for an integrated ecosystem approach, including bio-economic models
• Success stories

We have adopted the symposium/workshop title “From Desert to Oasis” to reflect our partners’ optimism that solutions can be found and the Oasis partnership that is an important dimension of this meeting. The outcomes of this symposium/workshop will provide a critical input into defining the research agenda of Oasis.

Following the symposium, a workshop session will be organized for Oasis partners to formulate a consensus strategy for launching the partnership, including a management and governance mechanisms, as well as a timeline for developing Oasis, research priorities, and a resource mobilization plan.

Goal of the Symposium/Workshop

Identify solutions to desertification in semi-arid sub-Saharan Africa emerging from research-for-development in support of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification.

Outputs

• A call to action publicized in the media
• A report to sponsors and participants highlighting the main content and achievements of the symposium/workshop
• A high-quality publication of the symposium contributions and outcomes
• Input to the Oasis organizing workshop on critical research strategy and priorities
• Reinforce existing partnerships and forge new ones