Dr. Pradeep Monga is Deputy Executive Secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, and was a key speaker at the Global Bamboo and Rattan Congress 2018. INBAR spoke to Dr. Monga about land degradation, climate action and the need to view sustainable development holistically.
You spoke in the climate change plenary session about bamboo and land restoration. What is the big picture for land degradation worldwide?
In the global context, we have around 2 billion hectares of degraded land. Every minute, we are losing 33 hectares of productive land. With a growing population, by 2050 we will need 70% more food production and 50% more water… Land is a limited commodity, so the challenge is how we stop land degradation and make more and more land productive.
How does land restoration link to the other Sustainable Development Goals?
We need to look at [land degradation] more holistically. For instance, 10 hectares of land can lead to two to five jobs, and $1 invested in land can bring out $5. What we call the landscape approach [is where] the ecosystem services work very well with the social and economic valuations – that’s where you have sustainable jobs and income generation at the same time as ecosystem conservation. That is one of the biggest global challenges people don’t realise – how to restore land in an economic, social and ecological services way.
“If you want to address climate change, land restoration provides a very good approach.”
Soil connects land degradation to climate change. Soil holds more carbon than the atmosphere and forests together. And land use and land use changes account for 25% to 30% of emissions. So, if we want to address climate change, land restoration provides a very good approach.
At the same time, UNCCD’s work has multiple benefits which affect the other SDGs – whether it is food security, water, energy or ecosystem restoration.
That’s exactly what INBAR found when it launched its recent report, on bamboo for land restoration. The income generated from planting bamboo is an important reason why communities take part in land restoration projects.
Exactly. Bamboo may not be the answer for everything, but where it can grow, we must use bamboo, because it has multiple benefits: for the climate, biodiversity, and land restoration.
We can look at it as what we call a landscape ecosystem approach. There are building blocks to it. So the first block is awareness building – not only for communities but also policymakers.
“Where it can grow, we must use bamboo, because it has multiple benefits: climate, biodiversity, and land restoration.”
Secondly, there is capacity building. We must build capacities of local communities but also policy makers. Capacity building links with South-South cooperation very clearly, because China and others can offer their experience and knowledge to other countries. The third is an enabling policy framework. We must see that there is a very clear policy framework to use bamboo as part of solutions to climate, jobs, economic benefits and other areas.
And fourth is capital. We must have very clear, targeted financing for this. The new LDN Fund specially leverages private sector funds, because while it is important to give some grants to local communities to start the process, it can never be sustainable unless we take a business model approach. And here INBAR can play a very important role, along with partners like the UNCCD and others, to see how we can build that linkage.
I do believe that bamboo will become an important resource, particularly for countries in tropical and subtropical regions, that can make a difference. For example, there are huge opportunities for bamboo [such as in the] Great Green Wall in the Sahel, Africa – we have just scratched the surface.
“I am more and more convinced that bamboo can play an important part of the solution to achieve poverty reduction, the SDGs and climate action.”
You mentioned the importance of facilitating new partnerships in land restoration. Can you elaborate?
I think that for bamboo, a very important entry point will be to get into the carbon markets. China can be a good example, starting with the carbon trading system [mentioned in the second day plenary session of the Congress by Wang Chunfeng, Deputy Director-General of the National Forestry and Grassland Administration]. We are also linking land with peace and stability. Bamboos and some of these fast-growing species can provide a valuable answer to what we call ‘stability, sustainability and security’ – the ‘three Ss’ programme – by making the land productive for families. We need to think more holistically and this is where the UNCCD’s Land Degradation Neutrality framework can help a lot.
On the first day, the President of Colombia said in a video message that he regards bamboo as an important way to “reactivate rural areas” affected by the Colombia Peace Agreement. Is that similar?
This is the same. Bamboo can play a very meaningful role in years ahead in that equation.
Do you think the Global Bamboo and Rattan Congress has helped move this conversation forward?
As a plant species, we already knew bamboo’s benefits. At this Congress, there are such rich interactions with experts and policymakers – one can get more information. I am more and more convinced that bamboo can play an important part of the solution to achieve poverty reduction, the SDGs and climate action.
Excerpts from an interview conducted with Dr. Monga on Tuesday 26 June, at the Global Bamboo and Rattan Congress.