PSTC Researcher Investigates Accessibility of Land Degradation Data in Colombia

November 23, 2022

As part of his ongoing work with the Land Degradation Neutrality Project (Tools4LDN), Interim Director of Spatial Structures in the Social Sciences (S4) and Assistant Professor of Population Studies Kevin Mwenda and his colleagues hosted a series of virtual pilot workshops with collaborators in Colombia to assess how current datasets can be better used to monitor the impacts of global land degradation. 

Funded by the Global Environment Facility, the Land Degradation Neutrality Project is a global research collaborative that seeks to mitigate the environmental and social impacts of desertification, land degradation, and droughts by improving affected communities’ ability to access relevant measurement and reporting mechanisms. 

“The project seeks to provide improved methods and tools for assessing land degradation and understanding the socio-economic conditions of vulnerable communities in affected areas,” says Professor Mwenda. “Through the integration of free and open platforms, the project aims to support country level implementation and reporting to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).” 

In order to evaluate the effectiveness of current assessment approaches, Mwenda and his colleagues conducted questionnaire and focus group sessions with over 40 Colombian experts in the field. “Colombia is one among several UN member nations in which a significant number of households rely on degraded natural resources and low-productivity lands because of widespread deforestation and land degradation,” says Professor Mwenda. 

These workshops sought to measure the group’s existing knowledge of the UNCCD strategic objectives, their familiarity with Trends.Earth, a geospatial data and analysis platform, and identify priority needs for improving UNCCD related monitoring and reporting mechanisms moving forward. 

Through these workshops, researchers identified a need for increased funding to improve local dataset accessibility, support additional Trends.Earth training opportunities, and increase collaboration between local report authors and policy makers. In addition, participants expressed a desire for UNCCD to more explicitly emphasize the impacts of climate change in its  broader land degradation framework. 

“A robust data infrastructure is critical for positively affecting the effectiveness of climate interventions,” says Professor Mwenda. “Land degradation reduces agricultural productivity and increases the vulnerability and food insecurity in those areas already at risk of impacts from climate variability and change, especially in regions of the world where poverty rates remain high.”