Environment and natural resources


Protecting the environment in the drylands
Rural development and poverty alleviation in the rural drylands requires action on several fronts: legislation, capacity strengthening, water management, gender issues, health provision, education and many others. There is a real  challenge to ensure that policy and legislation favour people in the drylands and help end their social and economic exclusion. At the same time action is needed on the ground to help farmers and pastoralists increase their production of crops and livestock. In 2009, the UN and the EU supported rural populations in drylands in Benin, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania and Yemen.

In Benin, the support helped women generate income, for example through processing of Shea grains and grinding of cereal. Women now need less time to process cereals which means the girls who helped their mothers in these  functions are now able to attend school. The income is a welcome addition for households. A feasibility study in the community of Banikora confirmed the potential to use agricultural residues to produce combustible briquettes, substituting the use of wood and charcoal and greatly reducing pressure on forests. To promote environmental protection, specific drylands issues have been introduced in the school curriculum.

In Tanzania, women groups were trained on indigenous poultry management, business management skills and bookkeeping. 40,000 trees of different species were planted in 5 reserved areas.

Access to gas helps save forests
In Uzbekistan, since 2005, the UN and the EU have worked with 500,000 people in 300 communities to improve access to water, gas and electricity, and rehabilitate basic infrastructure including schools, kindergartens and rural medical centres.  

A participatory rural approach empowered communities to identify needs and sustainable approaches to improving their
living standards. One key innovation was to share costs of the project with local communities. Local people contributed
labor, equipment and skills. Now communities with access to gas no longer need to cut and burn trees as firewood for
heating and cooking. Gas supplies helped increase earnings since people could start greenhouses, pottery shops and
other small businesses.

In Afghanistan, in 2009 the country published its first State of the Environment Report and developed its first National Environmental Action Plan. 12 new community-based natural resource management projects were developed. Progress was made on establishment of the Shah Foladi National Park in Bamiyan province, an important water tower in the greater Hindu Kush mountain range with excellent ecotourism potential. A national plan to adapt to impacts of climate change was developed and submitted to the UN Secretariat of the Climate Change Convention. There was notable legislative progress, such as the Forest and Rangeland Laws. An innovative conflict resolution strategy developed addressed disputes between nomadic and settled people regarding access to Afghanistan’s summer rangelands in the central highlands. This in turn led to efforts to upscale community-based pasture management on a national level.

Africa, Caribbean and Pacific: To improve municipal wastewater management in coastal cities, 49 training courses were held on wastewater management 2007 to 2009, including 36 in Africa, 9 in the Caribbean, and 4 in the Pacific. Those trained included municipal wastewater managers, infrastructure planners, local policy-makers and representatives of public health, environmental NGOs, tourism and #sheries from 28 countries.

A Global Database is being developed to collect information on sites being assessed for pollution. It is organized primarily by region and secondarily by country. The database is used for ranking polluted sites by their effect on human health. By the end of 2009, the project had worked in 40 countries, and 380 specific sites had been visited. To date, 162 assessments have been completed and uploaded to the database.

Mali: Awareness was raised on the need to safeguard the Niger river’s cultural and natural wealth. Investments in local and governmental capacities in water governance were made, including waste management, water treatment, access to clear water, and river banks restoration. A “water anthropology” research centre was created at Bamako University, and a cultural inventory in 40 villages along the river was carried out. Surveys and impact assessments on sand mining along 500 kilometers of the riverbed were carried out, surveying the rice growing and #shing practices along 300 kilometers of the river. 400 meters of river banks in Mopti fish harbour were rehabilitated.

In Europe, support was provided to the sustainable use and management of the Sava River Basin. A strategic environmental management system for planning water resources use, and a pollution prevention and control mechanism were established, enhancing quality of life and sustainable economic development in the region.

Albania: Benefitting from innovative technology, Albania was able to create a sustainable market for solar water heating system. The first marine protected area was designated.