GEF Operating Programme: OP 15 Sustainable Land Management, SP 1 and 2
Estimated Council submission: May, 2005
Global dryland assessments place Argentina amongst those countries that have large arid, semi-arid and hyper-arid areas (FAO-IIASA 2000, Annex B2). Indeed, arid and semi-arid ecosystems make-up 75% of Argentina’s territorial land. The Patagonia region constitutes almost half of this, covering a total of 780,000 km2. Land-use there has long centred on rearing livestock, principally sheep. This started at a time when knowledge of the structure and function of Patagonian ecosystems was very limited and the consequences of overgrazing on ecosystem integrity and desertification processes, were little known. As a result, many areas were overgrazed and this, together with climatic and soil conditions, has led to extensive land degradation throughout the region. Eighty-five percent of Patagonia has some degree of desertification, corresponding to 625,000 km2, unquestionably placing this as one of the most urgent issues in Argentina’s bid to combat desertification1.
Faced with this challenge, the Government of Argentina (GoA) has embarked on a Sustainable Sheep Husbandry Development Programme for Patagonia (PDGOSP). Through an innovative new Law it has provided a mechanism for the provision of resources to medium and small size producers to implement proposed sustainable livestock practices. While the Programme and Law consider some environmental prerequisites for resource disbursement, they focus principally on increasing economic profitability of producers as a means of reducing grazing pressures. Furthermore, full and effective implementation of these is impeded by a series of systemic, institutional and individual capacity barriers that reduces their contribution to arresting desertification processes in the region.
The GoA is seeking GEF assistance to complement these baseline actions and ensure they are nested within a strengthened regional framework for sustainable land management (SLM) and are undertaken in such a manner as to restore ecosystems to their full integrity, stability and functions. While preparatory activities would collaborate and further detail the proposed project, it is expected to take action both by the lifting of barriers to sustainable land management in Patagonia and through concrete on the ground investments. Cross-cutting components would include mainstreaming SLM principles into regional land-use planning and decision-making processes, through building institutional and individual capacities at the State level and providing the tools needed for informed decision-making and adaptive management. Broad-based awareness building actions would also be included in cross-cutting components to increase stakeholder participation in the implementation of SLM policies and procedures to fight desertification.
A second level of action would be on-the-ground interventions to complement PDGOSP investments and ensure that sheep farming is accompanied by alternative land-uses in those areas that are unable to provide sufficient profit from sheep alone without triggering land degradation processes. This would include developing incentives for the non-extractive land-uses such as the establishment of protected areas and agro-ecotourism ventures, as well as pilot projects using native fauna. It would also include developing value-added products through mechanisms such as certified production processes and the promotion of artisan products by local communities.
Country Driveness And Eligibility
Argentina signed the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification and Mitigate Drought Effects (UNCCD) in 1994, and ratified this in 1996 through Law 24,701. It’s National Action Programme for Combating Desertification (NAP) was developed through a two year process involving over 2,000 representatives from National and State government institutions, non-governmental organisations, legislators, universities, scientists, producers, indigenous peoples and local communities. Led by the national UNCCD focal point, the Secretariat for the Environment and Sustainable Development (SAyDS), this process culminated in 1998. The main objective of the NAP is to combat desertification and mitigate the effects of drought through the promotion of sustainable development to improve the living conditions of populations in affected areas. It outlines six main programme actions: (i) the formulation and implementation of State, inter-State and regional programmes to address desertification adopting bottom-up approaches; (ii) the formation of a national information network including monitoring and evaluation indicators and early warning systems; (iii) education, capacity building and awareness action; (iv) strengthening institutional and legal frameworks; (v) strengthening financial frameworks for combating desertification and (vi) linking the NAP with relevant regional and international programmes and action.
Patagonia plays a pivotal role in the NAP. It was catalytic in the formulation process, housing two of the regional seminars and providing key inputs to the definition of problems and solutions. It represents almost half the country’s drylands. Its land area under some degree of desertification processes corresponds to 23% of the national land territory. By implementing a programme to combat desertification from a regional standpoint, addressing the major cause to land degradation in Patagonia and building regional capacities for SLM, the proposed project clearly complies with the first strategic line of action of the NAP. As it will contain components addressing institutional and financial frameworks and information systems for SLM, as well as others for raising awareness in a range of stakeholders on desertification issues, the proposed project will also contribute directly to four of the remaining five strategic lines of action in the NAP.
GEF actions will be integrated with, and complement, the Sustainable Sheep Husbandry Development Programme for Patagonia (PDGOSP) that seeks to improve living conditions of rural populations through increasing profitability of sheep farming using sustainable practices that help combat the desertification processes. As such it is fully concordant with sectoral plans for the region as well as the NAP. This is further illustrated by the fact that the PDGOSP will be implemented through a joint agreement between the Secretariats of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Food (SAGPyA) and SAyDS, to maximize it’s contributions to combating desertification. By addressing the main cause of desertification in a region recognized as one of the world’s main drylands, and removing barriers to the implementation of SLM, the project will also contribute to the goals of the UNCCD. As Patagonia houses a grassland ecoregion flagged as a global priority for biodiversity conservation, it will also contribute to regional and global action in this arena.