Global research project advances data to support communities affected by drought and land degradation

February 26, 2021

The Tools for Land Degradation Neutrality project (Tools4LDN), a global research collaboration aimed at mitigating land degradation and better understanding the socioeconomic conditions of vulnerable communities in affected areas, has published a new report outlining frameworks and best practices for drought monitoring. Land degradation, which occurs when fertile land loses its utility (often due to a variety of factors, including drought and human activity), contributes to climate change and disproportionately affects rural communities, especially in developing countries. Desertification is a form of land degradation in which previously fertile land becomes desert, further affecting food production, livelihood and local ecosystems.

PSTC faculty associate and S4 Associate Director Kevin Mwenda co-authored the report and leads Brown’s efforts in integrating demographic and socioeconomic data with climate data as part of Tools4LDN. 

“This technical report provides spatially-explicit datasets, conceptual frameworks for evaluating approaches, and indices for assessing ecological and socioeconomic vulnerability to drought and land degradation,” Mwenda explained. “It recommends best practices for member nations for reducing ecosystem vulnerability and increasing communities’ resilience, all working towards achieving Strategic Objective 3 (SO3) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD): To mitigate, adapt to, and manage the effects of drought in order to enhance resilience of vulnerable populations and ecosystems.

Of Tools4LDN more broadly, Mwenda added, “My collaborators and I hope that this project will strengthen country-level Land Degradation Neutrality and drought resilience data, decision-making, and policies towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target 15.3, a key component of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”

As for next steps, Mwenda highlighted the ongoing development of a report of publicly available geospatial datasets and indicators in support of the UNCCD Strategic Objective 2 (SO2), to improve living conditions of populations affected by desertification, drought and land degradation. Additionally, this team plans to facilitate country-level SO2 and SO3 monitoring and implementation within a free and open geospatial platform known as Trends.Earth.

This work at the intersection of spatial inquiry, climate data, and demography underscores the dynamic nature of research conducted in one of the PSTC’s signature themes, Population and Environment.