Due to current climatic changes and destructive land use, drylands are degrading faster than ever. Developing countries bear the brunt of this process, resulting in poverty and migration.
Since most drylands lie in marginalised, rural areas where few investments are made by central decision-makers and donors, communities themselves have a rich experience in developing their own solutions to the challenges of land degradation and drought. Many of these solutions are innovative and deserve more attention, as the largest investments in drylands still come from the local people themselves. Communities come up with their own management and delivery systems with relatively low overhead costs, and contribute labour, materials and skills. In other words, desertification could be tackled much more cost-effectively if local knowledge and action are taken into account when looking for solutions.
Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) are recognised to play an important role in mobilising and supporting communities in their efforts to combat desertification. They are often also in touch with decision-makers at various levels in their country and abroad, making them potentially a crucial nexus between local land users and national decision making. Therefore, Drynet is focusing on building capacities of CSOs working in drylands across the globe.
The partners in Drynet all work in different countries, but have observed similar issues of concern:
- Dryland development and resource rehabilitation feature low on both the national political agendas and the agendas of donor agencies. CSOs have a potentially crucial role to play in getting these issues higher on the agendas;
- Policy frameworks that should ensure political and budgetary attention for drylands have had little effect so far, and should therefore be integrated into general development processes and aid agreements;
- The majority of CSOs working in drylands are strong in working with approaches and strategies to combat land degradation locally, but weak in linking their successes to a wider political context and players;
- There is in general a need for integrating environment issues in development cooperation frameworks;
- CSOs – and many times the administrations as well – are not aware of, and are not able to utilise, the interconnection between the different development cooperation frameworks;
- There is limited access for CSOs to information on best practices and the most recent, cutting edge research results – local successes that could inspire others stay local instead of being spread and used to design innovative or replicate successful projects;
- There is limited CSO capacity in project development and management techniques to transfer ideas into feasible and bankable projects;
- Policy makers and donors sometimes consult with CSOs, but CSOs are no structural partners in the process. CSOs in drylands lack capacity to become structural partners in order to make the desired changes;
- The knowledge about and experience with methodologies to facilitate participation in planning processes differ widely in the affected countries;
- In most dryland regions in the world, CSOs working on sustainability and poverty reduction are not working together and are not organised to have a larger impact together towards policy makers and donors.
Drynet partners have taken this networking and capacity building initiative in order to start overcoming these issues – beginning in their own countries.
Drynet’s aim is to strengthen civil society networks with the right knowledge and visibility to influence dryland development policies.
The project expects Drynet partners and their national CSO networks to build the necessary instruments and capacity to participate in the political and budgetary mainstreaming of the aims of the UNCCD and its National Actions Plans. By mainstreaming we mean the integration of the environmental dimension, especially related to the dryland ecosystem, into national development priorities, processes and frameworks such as MDG’s, 5-year development plans, Country Strategy Papers and PRSPs, and trade related frameworks.
Other specific objectives of Drynet are the increase in CSOs capacity to link different cooperation frameworks, and in their ability to use the relevant planning instruments in their design of bankable projects. Drynet wants to create an operational and actively used structure for the exchange of positive project results and participatory methodologies to combat land degradation among CSOs, key stakeholders from science and key policy-makers. Drynet will strengthen national NGO networks and cooperation in order to build capacities and to facilitate the exchange of knowledge.
Drynet is not only targeting CSOs and building their capacities. The partners recognise that desertification and land degradation are major economic, social and environmental problems of concern to many countries in all regions of the world. The project is based on an integrated approach to the problem, emphasising action to promote sustainable development at the community level and linking this to the policy level.
By identifying, collecting, translating, sharing and disseminating regional inspiring initiatives, the 14 Drynet partners will strengthen national civil society networks in both knowledge and skills.
Through newsletters, radio programmes and the website, Drynet will facilitate information exchange and stimulate sustainable development. The ultimate goal is to provide key global stakeholders from science and policy-making institutions with an urgently needed practical response to combat land degradation by linking local action to global opportunities.
Additional seminars will bring stakeholders together at national level, to further discussions and cooperation. Training seminars for CSOs should prepare them to openly discuss and negotiate with other stakeholders.
In order to reach our goals, Drynet is focussing on a number of activities in each country, and as a network world wide:
- Mapping of national actors and activities and analysing of the political context related to drylands in each country, in order to build and strengthen national networks and cooperation;
- Reviewing and strategising with national CSOs in order to improve CSO participation in the development and implementation of relevant policies, to be able to jointly draw more attention to dryland issues;
- Capacity building trainings for project partners and target groups on lobby and advocacy, fundraising, project development, communication and networking;
- Collecting, translating and spreading inspiring initiatives, stories, news and relevant scientific developments on our website and in a series of national language newsletters and radio programmes;
- Joint development of positions on topics related to drylands and desertification, sharing them through position papers and side events at relevant seminars and conferences.
- Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) establish new networks and expand their existing networks.
- CSOs develop and enhance their capacity to provide input into the national and regional planning processes with regard to mainstreaming land degradation and poverty issues.
- CSOs improve the quality of their project proposals on dryland development through better access to best practices and innovative technical solutions and approaches.
- The public and political awareness of dryland development issues is improved in affected and donor countries.
Drynet is a membership funded network, which relies on membership fees to coordinate the network’s activities. The Drynet board meets (via a web conference call) once a month, to guide the network’s activities. A secretariat is currently hosted by EMG in Cape Town, South Africa, which ensures that the day to day activities of the network are carried out and service the needs of the membership
According to the specialisation of each of the partners, thematic coordinators have also been identified in the fields of pastoralism; water, oases and agriculture; climate change and adaptation; and project development/funding.