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Connecting the Dots: UNDP projects connect land, energy and agriculture to protect the environment and build climate resilient livelihoods.

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True resilience relies on connecting the dots. Connecting the dots between nature, climate and energy. Connecting the dots between land-use, energy and agriculture, between livelihoods, natural resources, economic growth, social development and conservation, between people and the impacts climate change has on their lives.

It’s a fine balance. And as countries worldwide work to increase the ambition and accelerate the implementation of Nationally Determined Contributions to the Paris Agreement, develop national adaptation plans, reach targets outlined in the Sustainable Development Goals, reduce risks and build more resilient societies, important progress is being registered that connects the dots and identifies a pathway forward.

This means addressing micro-hydropower and snowpack in Nepal, decentralizing – and democratizing – access to basic infrastructure such as water systems in Colombia, climate-proofing rural settlements in Rwanda, connecting land management, soil conservation and agriculture with energy-saving solar and biogas systems in Ethiopia, and building more integrated National Adaptation Plans in Bhutan.

NEPAL

The land-energy-agriculture nexus is a pressing issue in Nepal. Approximately 80%of people in Nepal depend upon land for their livelihood. Land degradation, rising temperatures and lower river flows are a huge concern for both agriculture and the country’s hydropower sector.

It’s a tricky challenge that requires a holistic solution. Land degradation is on rise due to agricultural expansion and an increased demand on wood for fuel in areas without access to the energy grid. The need for clean cooking options is particularly urgent. Additionally, due to extended drought seasons in certain regions, demand on irrigation systems is also increasing. This extra demand leads to more pressure on the hydropower sector, which, in turns, can lead to more environmental damage. To provide people off-the-grid with sustainable energy solutions, UNDP is supporting the installation of solar-powered water pumping and distribution systems. These provide viable solutions to ensure more sustainable water resource management and may even offer up new entrepreneurship opportunities.

With finance from the Global Environment Facility’s Least Developed Countries Fund, UNDP is supporting the Government of Nepal with a US$42 million climate change adaptation project designed to secure sustainable livelihoods and foster food security. Led by the Department of Forests and Soil Conservation, the project is introducing and scaling-up integrated watershed management practices and climate-smart agriculture in four major watersheds. Overall, the initiative will benefit more than 120,000 people directly.

“We know that people and the planet are intertwined, and that the health of our watersheds is crucial to the resilience of communities, both up and downstream.” - Secretary of the Ministry of Forests and Environment, Dr. Bishwa Nath Oli.

RWANDA

In Rwanda, UNDP is working with the Government and the GEF to roll out the “Ecosystems/Landscape Approach to Climate Proof the Rural Settlement Program of Rwanda.”

The project will ensure that housing and communal facilities around the “*Imidugudu” *resettlement villages are climate smart. Rainwater harvesting and alternative energy options will be introduced to support resilient livelihoods, and to reduce pressure on ecosystems for fuelwood.

On energy, the project will utilize a mixture of household energy solutions that will include cheaper, more efficient biogas systems, improved energy cookstoves, and the use of solar technologies for both lighting and cooking. In connecting the dots with the private sector, the project will assist the communities to develop long-term financing and business models for the maintenance and replication of the technologies.

The concept of Green Villages was first piloted by the Government of Rwanda through a partnership with UNDP and UN Environment. The Poverty-Environment Initiative (PEI) provided an integrated approach to tackle Rwanda’s growing natural resource challenges, while at the same time providing homes, schools, water, gas and electricity for some of the country’s poorest and most vulnerable communities.

Rwanda is prioritizing adaptation in its Nationally Determined Contribution and planning processes with support from UNDP’s Climate Promise initiative. “Because Rwanda is highly vulnerable to climate change, adaptation is a key concern and a priority for the country. Reflecting these aims, in 2011 the country adopted the Green Growth and Climate Resilience Strategy (GGCRS) setting out the country’s actions and priorities on climate change relating to both mitigation and adaptation and to how these will be mainstreamed within economic planning,” according to the country’s NDC.

ETHIOPIA

Ethiopia has several adaptation projects that involve land management and clean and renewable energy options. Through these projects communities undertake livelihood diversification and implement climate-smart agriculture measures, such as promoting the use of improved varieties and crop diversification. Integrated landscape restoration along with appropriate management arrangements ensure long-term resilience building. This includes soil and conservation measures, slope stabilization and water harvesting, combined with small-scale irrigation and drinking water installations in agricultural and pastoral sites.

Communities are building more resilient economies by improving the marketing and production of their produce. The introduction of solar-powered water pumps and biogas is reducing deforestation for community groups. In connecting the dots between land-use and forestry, communities are planting fast growing trees for firewood and construction and using energy-efficient fuel-wood stoves for cleaner-cooking solutions. Partnerships with the private sector will be established to enhance to adaptation of technologies and practices to make agricultural value chains more resilient.

COLOMBIA

Climate change impacts are expected to pose significant and long-term effects on fragile and unique ecosystems, and accelerate the pace of land degradation, impact water quality and agricultural production in Colombia.

In Colombia a GCF-financed project, which is enhancing community access to safe drinking water with the use of solar-powered water pumps.

When looking at the land-energy-agriculture nexus, rural settings are extremely vulnerable. Energy grids do not reach them, fuel is either gathered from the forest or from fossil fuels, and basic services often don’t reach these remote, largely agricultural communities. In the case of Colombia the introduction of solar-powered water systems isn’t just cost-effective and ecosystem friendly, it’s also serving to democratize access to basic services such as water. This access is also helping communities to prevent the spread of COVID-19 with more effective water and sanitation services.

BHUTAN

In Bhutan, UNDP with the support of the GCF is supporting the National Adaptation Plan with a strong focus on the water sector. Improved use and management of water is inherently linked with energy production in the country which relies heavily on hydropower.

Hydropower is critical to the economy of Bhutan, making up 42 per cent of exports and 13 per cent of GDP overall. But hydropower infrastructure is highly exposed to floods and climate risks. Retreating glaciers could adversely affect hydropower facilities through floods downstream. Meanwhile, decreased water flow in rivers will have severe impacts on the country’s energy security and economy.

One UNDP-backed project has supported the construction of a climate-resilient water harvesting, storage and distribution system benefitting over 1,000 households.

BUILDING SUPPORTIVE POLICIES

Action on the ground is taking place through climate change adaptation projects like these, that directly impact local communities. But we have to work upstream, too. National stakeholders need to adopt systems-level actions to move at scale with more and more such investments.

UNDP and FAO are working with government to unpack policy priorities on land-use and agriculture with the recently launched SCALA programme. Supported by the German Ministry of Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) through its International Climate Initiative (IKI), the SCALA programme supports 12 countries, including Colombia, Ethiopia and Nepal, to translate their NDC and NAPs into actionable and transformative climate solutions in land use and agriculture with multi-stakeholder engagement. These priorities are intertwined across themes such as land, water, agriculture and energy.