The Second International Conference on Climate, Sustainability and Development in Semi-arid Regions (ICID 2010) opened on Monday, 16 August 2010 in Fortaleza, Brazil and will continue until 20 August. Participants convened in the morning for an introductory session, opening ceremony and the launch of the UN Decade on Deserts and the Fight Against Desertification. In the afternoon, participants attended thematic panel sessions.
ICID 2010 seeks to bring together participants to identify and focus on the challenges and opportunities facing the arid and semi-arid regions of the planet. Over 70 panel sessions are scheduled and participants from 100 countries are expected to attend, representing governments, UN agencies, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), academia, the media and other civil society groups. ICID 2010’s main theme “climate, sustainability and development in semi-arid regions,” will be addressed through four sub-themes, including: climate information; climate and sustainable development; climate governance, representation, rights, equity and justice; and climate policy processes.
OPENING OF ICID 2010
INTRODUCTORY SESSION: Director of ICID 2010 Antônio Magalhães opened the Conference by stressing that it is not just about climate change or desertification, but rather examining the combined challenges facing semi-arid regions and identifying opportunities and ways forward. He was followed by words of welcome from a 10-year old representing the youth of Brazil’s semi-arid regions and a presentation of the conference’s certificate of carbon-neutrality.
Several ICID 2010 partner organizations presented reports from preparatory meetings. Ambassador Alan Charlton, UK, described the UK Department for International Development (DFID) meetings in Africa on protecting agriculture from climate uncertainties. Michel Laurent, Director-General, Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD), highlighted north-south research partnerships generating knowledge on sustainable development of arid regions. Jesse Ribot, University of Illinois, said that learning and discussion on climate change, extreme weather events and their effects must continue.
José Sydrião de Alencar Júnior, Banco do Nordeste, stressed increased awareness of desertification across all sectors because of ICID 2010. Eduardo Sávio Martins, Ceará Foundation of Meteorology and Water Resources, Brazil, highlighted that knowledge on adaptation is important and structure is needed to internalize this knowledge. Luiz Antonio Elias, Ministry of Science and Technology, highlighted preparatory meetings discussing strategies for education, planning, public management and zoning control to ensure effective water management.
Dalton Melo Macambire, Department of the Environment and Water Resources, Piauí, described previous partnerships to reclaim degraded lands and appreciated the provision of financial resources and sharing best practices. José Almir Cirilo, Secretariat of Water Resources, Pernambuco, Brazil, underscored the importance of regional cooperation on issues of climate change adaptation and mitigation, but lamented the existing gap between political will and scientific discussions.
In closing, Hervé Théry, University of Campinas, Brazil, gave a detailed global presentation on deserts and desertification, noting that the most pressing concern is the rapid rate of desertification.
ICID 2010 OPENING CEREMONY & LAUNCH OF THE UN DECADE ON DESERTS AND THE FIGHT AGAINST DESERTIFICATION: Antônio Magalhães, outlined the week’s plenary sessions, stressing that the conference outcome, the Declaration of Fortaleza, will fulfill the conference’s top objective of influencing the agenda of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development 2012 (Rio+20 Earth Summit). UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) Executive Secretary Luc Gnacadja read the statement of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declaring the UN Decade on Deserts and the Fight Against Desertification. A 13-year old youth representative urged Conference participants to say “no to desertification and yes to life” for his kids. Gnacadja expressed the hope that just as ICID I had helped spur Rio Earth Summit negotiations in 1992 on the UNCCD, ICID 2010 would provide key input on dryland issues to the Rio+20 Earth Summit. He said the legacy of ICID 2010 should be a paradigm shift affecting the hearts and minds of policymakers and dispelling ignorance and common misperceptions about degradation and desertification, especially the misconception that “it is just a local, rather than a global concern.”
Federal Deputy Eduardo Vieira Ribeiro, Chamber of Representatives, Brazil, noted that ICID 2010 is a collaborative forum between policymakers and scientists allowing important discussions to take place. He noted that northeast Brazil relies on agriculture, which is causing deforestation and land degradation. He stressed the importance of implementing structures and plans to counter this.
José Machado, Executive Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Brazil, highlighted the importance of science for conserving and improving environmental resources. Cid Ferreira Gomes, Governor, Ceará, Brazil, underscored the importance of continued efforts in adapting to and combating climate change.
SESSION 1.3.2 DESERTIFICATION – THE CHALLENGE OF DESERTIFICATION AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT IN SEMI-ARID REGIONS: The session on the challenge of desertification and sustainable development in semi-arid regions was chaired by Luc Gnacadja, Executive Secretary, UNCCD.
On land degradation and desertification in the Arab region, Wadid Erian, Arab Center for Studies of Arid Zones and Dry Lands, stressed that much of the population is affected, highlighting that droughts are increasing. He noted ongoing adaptation work, including planting drought-resistant crop varieties and flash flood management.
Sahibzada Kahn, North-West Frontier Province Planning & Development Department, Pakistan, presenting on the management of scarce water resources in the drylands of Pakistan, outlined efforts to reclaim degraded land using hillside ditches, sand dune stabilization and conservation contour trenches. He noted challenges include free-grazing systems, high incentive-based interventions, used social mobilization strategies, community consensus and regional versus local approaches.
Ricardo Marques, Hydro-Environmental Development Project (PRODHAM), on the development of a hydro-environmental project in Canindé municipality, Ceará, Brazil, noted that the area suffered from water deficits during dry seasons and relied on agriculture and livestock for income. He highlighted techniques used in the project including dams, stepped walls and terraces, as well as incentives to switch to more sustainable agriculture, reforestation efforts in secondary forests and mini-barrages. He noted that this had resulted in improvement of road infrastructure and the development of a tree nursery.
SESSION 1.3.3 ADAPTATION WITH A LONG VIEW – PROMOTING RESILIENCE: Session Chair Don Nelson, University of Georgia, opened the session, emphasizing the need to view resilience through a development-trajectory lens.
Carol Roncoli, Emory University, presented on climate change, rural poverty and the politics of resilience in Kenya. She noted various factors needed to restore memory and trust, and thus generate adaptive capacity. She described the study, which focused on five districts in the country, and concluded that a long view on adaptation requires “understanding vulnerability as an entangled crisis.”
Line Gordon, Stockholm Resilience Center, discussed building resilience through water system innovations in drylands, noting that undernourished or malnourished populations live in most of the world’s drylands. She stressed that water system innovations are valuable in all future modeled projections, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, but suitable technologies and “relevant collaborators” vary.
On the future of maize in Mexico, Hallie Eakin, University of Arizona, reiterated the need to pay attention to future trajectories of change in terms of adaptation in order to best influence types of future adaptive capacities. She noted changing trends in the range of production mode choices, which have been favorable to commercial maize farmers but have caused sometimes unfavorable lifestyle changes for small-scale maize farmers.
SESSION 1.3.6 CLIMATE, DESERTIFICATION AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT: This session was chaired by José Geraldo Souza Sobrinho, University of Brasilia. Maria Manuela Morais, University of Évora, Portugal, discussed the issue of water availability. She said that the lack of water is already a reality in some regions, constituting a menace for both humanity and the biosphere, posing health risks and impeding economic and social development. Maria do Carmo Sobral, Federal University of Pernambuco, Brazil, discussed a study on the protection of the micro-basins of the Borborema Plateau, birthplace of six important rivers. She suggested that by using Units of Sustainable Use (APAs), instead of Areas of Permanent Protection (APPs), all the key micro-basins could be protected while allowing for human occupation and use. Manoel Serrano Pinto, University of Aveiro, Portugal, argued that policymakers and decision-makers should take into account the contributions of geoscientists when developing public policies regarding geo-resources (minerals, water, soil and physical landscape).
SESSION 1.4.1 LESSONS FROM THE BRAZILIAN EXPERIENCE: This session was chaired by Egon Krakhecke, Ministry of Environment (MMA), Brazil. José Machado, Executive Secretary, MMA, outlined his Ministry’s efforts to combat deforestation, monitor the Caatinga Biome of northeast Brazil by satellite, promote access to water and sustainable water resource development, and implement the National Plan of Action on Desertification. He also argued for creating a new national commission, chaired by the MMA, to coordinate the many ministries and agencies dealing with semi-arid regions at the federal and state levels.
Adoniram Sanches Peraci, Ministry of Agricultural Development, discussed his Ministry’s efforts to promote family farming in the semi-arid regions through special financing and credits, agricultural insurance, technical assistance and providing markets for produce as through the National School Food Program. He said that there was more work to do in amplifying coverage and improving mechanisms of environmental compensation.
Athadeu Ferreira da Silva, Company for the Development of the San Francisco and Paraiba Rivers (CODEVASF), highlighted his firm’s efforts to recover degraded lands and contain erosion.
Igor Arsky, Ministry of Social Development, discussed programmes to build cisterns in schools and rural portions of semi-arid areas, provide access to water for family farms to grow food, and promote water catchment, small dam systems and subterranean dams.
José Luiz de Souza, Ministry of National Integration, underscored his Ministry’s efforts to: create geographical information sets for municipalities in the semi-arid western portion of Bahia; push for regularizing registration of rural properties in the semi-arid regions, in part to determine who has what environmental liabilities; and to promote water projects across northeastern Brazil that would ensure regularized access to water.
SESSION 1.4.2 SUSTAINABLE ENERGY FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF DRYLANDS: Larry Simpson, World Bank, noted that many consider renewable energy unreliable. He noted that for wide-scale use of renewable energy, the energy must be stored and recovered with reasonable energy losses, stressing that batteries are not feasible. He emphasized the possible suitability of renewable energy for rural dryland areas as they can be low maintenance.
Renato Rolim, Infrastructure Secretariat, Ceará, Brazil, outlined the history of renewable energy in the electricity mix of Ceará State. Noting that incentives are needed to adopt renewable technologies, he said that wave energy could be used for desalinization of sea water, which is useful for the semi-arid regions of Ceará. He highlighted the interlinkages of renewable energy production with consumers and the environment. Emilio Rovere, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, reporting on a pilot programme to combat desertification and land degradation in northeast Brazil, outlined the objectives of the project including modernization of productions systems, applied research on potential adaptation strategies and the creation of commercialization channels for agricultural inputs and technical assistance. He said that next steps in the project include increasing adaptive capacity, monitoring and evaluation of current projects, and the consolidation of previously used methods.
SESSION 1.4.3 CLIMATE CHANGE, ADAPTATION AND GOVERNANCE IN THE WATER SECTOR: Jamie McEvoy, Arizona University, chaired the session on climate change adaptation and governance in the water sector.
Maria Carmen Lemos, University of Michigan, explained the role of development and risk management in disaster response, agricultural planning and water management in response to drought in Ceará, Brazil. She underscored the need to move from a “vicious cycle” of ineffective adaptation and toward a “virtuous cycle” of effective adaptation.
Addressing desalinization as an adaptive or maladaptive response to climate change, Jamie McEvoy underscored indirect impacts of desalinization, inter alia: tightening the water-energy nexus; increased development; and increased centralization of policy processes. She said that by first ensuring implementation of conservation measures, solar desalinization and development of best management practices could reduce risks.
Barbara Lynch, Georgia Institute of Technology, discussed the challenges of glacial retreat, increased pollution and increased demand in the Puna and Quebrada Hondo River Basin, Peru. She emphasized that water demand and quality must be addressed in addition to the current singular focus on supply. Lynch said that water governance will become more equitable if the most vulnerable “speak very loudly.”
On vulnerability, adaptation and competing access to resources in Bolivia, Julia McDowell, Agua Sustentable, described the multiple stresses faced by agricultural communities in the Bolivian Choquecota River Basin and their various adaptation strategies. She cautioned that a strategy that is adaptive to one stressor may not be adaptive to a future stressor.