New GEF funds could help smallholder farmers with landscape planning

1 August 2018

BONN, Germany (Landscape News) — The Global Environment Facility (GEF) confirmed a record financial commitment to developing countries at a recent assembly meeting in Da Nang, Vietnam.

Funds of $4.1 billion were pledged by governments as part of the GEF-7 replenishment cycle for the next four years to tackle the planet’s most pressing environmental problems and “deliver transformative change,” which was the main theme of the conference.

Since intact dry landscapes provide freshwater, food, fuel and fiber, air and water purification, climate regulation and wildlife habitat, land use and degradation are a natural focal area for the new GEF-7 cycle, with a $905 million allocation.

The international community is working towards halting land degradation through a commitment to land degradation neutrality (LDN). This means avoiding degradation through sustainable land management plans while reducing and reversing degradation through restoration and rehabilitation projects.

Achieving LDN will secure the ecosystem services that under current degradation scenarios place the health, livelihoods and security of an estimated 1.5 billion people at risk.

At one of 14 roundtable sessions covering sustainable drylands at the Da Nang conference, Joy Tukahirwa from the Uganda Landcare Network shed light on the power of farmer associations in empowering small-scale farmers to contribute to breakthroughs in landscape planning.

“These small scale farmers are already organized,” Tukahirwa said. “They are organized in small groups. They have invested in local leaders. They believe in collective action. And they are there to move not on a plot level but on a landscape level.”

Since the high percentage share of arid, semi-arid, and sub-humid drylands belong to countries facing high poverty rates including food and water insecurity – LDN is yet another priority that needs to be integrated into government policy.

Following Togo’s example, where drought has limited agricultural productivity in the most vulnerable region in the north, their response to this challenge has been to make progress on political, technical and social challenges.

“It has been a mess until recently, when one month ago we adopted new laws,” said Andre Johnson in Togo’s Ministry of Environment and Forest Resources.

As far as financing sustainable land use practices, the director of one of Morocco’s oldest agricultural banks said that farmers should not be the sole bearers of risk.

“It means starvation for themselves, hunger for their families,” said Mariem Dkhil, Director of Morocco Agricultural Credit (MAC) whose business spans 60 years.

“We, as bankers and investors have to provide risk mitigation tools – agriculture is a very risky sector – weather, disease, market, etc. According to the risk profile of your project, you have to adapt solutions,” she added.

Mariem shared the varied way the bank caters to its clients, “the farmers,” one of which involved differing stages or payment periods scheduled at the time of harvest for example, rather than before which reduces the pressure on farmers.

Some mitigation tools include traditional and micro-credit but the most innovative of all and recognised by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Bank is their development of a meso-credit system mechanism. Started in 2010, Mariem explained that farmers are financed without collateral thanks to a public-private partnership where a warrantee fund was established with the government of Morocco.

“2018 is the first time this warrantee fund will have to be used. For eight years, there was no need to tap into these funds and farmers paid them off,” Mariem said. “This shows that there is a viable economic model in financing in these spaces, even when farmers do not have collateral.”

Born out of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, the GEF says it has provided $17.9 billion in grants and mobilized $93.2 billion in co-financing for more than 4,500 projects in 170 countries.

With files from Salina Abraham