A six-month training is the central activity of the UNU Land Restoration Training Programme (UNU-LRT). The training starts in April and ends in October. The first half is dedicated to course work and practical training in land degradation, ecological restoration and sustainable land management. These weeks are also used for seminars in which fellows share experiences on land degradation and desertification problems in their home countries, as well as for going on excursions. Two weeks of specialized training follow the common training section. To date, two lines have been offered; one on land degradation assessment/land restoration and another on sustainable land management. The latter half of the training is dedicated to individual project work carried out by each fellow under the supervision of suitable expert(s). The aim of the project work is to deepen the participants’ knowledge and enhance their confidence of working on topics that are pressing in their home countries and have a direct relevance to their individual work at home.
The programme focal points are Programme Director Dr. Hafdis Hanna Aegisdottir, Deputy Programme Director Berglind Orradottir and Office Manager Thorbjorg Valdis Kristjansdottir.
Land degradation is a global challenge of major importance and has a severe impact on the environment, climate and human society. Land degradation — manifested in the deterioration of vegetation, soil erosion, biodiversity loss, and eventually in a more persistent form as desertification — has led to conflicts, grinding poverty, hunger, and abandonment of farms and villages for cities in many parts of the world. Large proportions of developing countries and countries in transition are confronted with severe land degradation and problems resulting from unsustainable land use and climate change. Land restoration and sustainable land management are a critical part of the daunting challenge of confronting poverty and achieving a secure livelihood in poor, rural societies in developing countries — societies that are frequently the most vulnerable and marginalised in their respective countries.
The purpose of the six-month training is to assist developing countries affected by severe land degradation to strengthen institutional capacity and motivate individuals to fight land degradation, restore degraded land and promote sustainable land management. Efforts to fight land degradation, unsustainable land use and desertification are often hampered by lack of knowledge, capacity and social motivation in the affected areas. Necessary actions are thus often poorly implemented. The programme assists people from developing countries to overcome these obstacles and make their efforts effective. This is done by offering an annual six-month postgraduate training in Iceland for professionals employed at institutions in developing countries that deal with these issues. The selected professionals are offered full fellowship from the Icelandic government for the duration of the training.
UNU-LRT emphases gender equality in all its operations. Part of UNU-LRT’s mission is to assist in strengthening institutional capacity and gender equality in the field of land restoration and sustainable land management in developing counties. that the programme also intends that an equal number of women and men should be trained in the six-month training. During the four years of operation of the programme, just over 50 percent of the fellows have been women. Moreover, gender issues, are a part of the UNU-LRT six-month training curriculum. The leaders (Director and Deputy Director) of UNU-LRT are both women, while the chair of the UNU-LRT board is a man. In addition, the proportion of men and women educators in the programme has been close to equal.
The candidates for the six-month training are specialists coming from developing countries severely affected by land degradation and desertification. The candidates are proposed by institutions and organizations that have been identified as playing a significant role in land restoration and sustainable land management in their home country. The training of the fellows is considered a contribution to the capacity building of the institute/organization.
Impact: Furthering knowledge in an academic field
Target: Fellows of the UNU-LRT six-month training course. The fellows are specialists from developing countries that are faced with severe land degradation.
How: During the first half of the six-month training, the fellows are offered a theoretical and practical knowledge base and interdisciplinary training and understanding of physical, biological, socio-economical and cultural aspect of environmental issues. The first half of the training is also used for sharing experiences through presentations and seminars on land degradation and desertification problems in the fellows’ home countries. Furthermore, the fellows are offered specialized training in which the knowledge is deepened and then, during the latter half of the training, they work on an individual project under the supervision of suitable expert(s).
Impact: Capacity development in developed/developing countries
Target: The target group for UNU-LRT are specialists from leading institutions in the field of ecological restoration and sustainable land management in the developing countries. The target countries are poor developing countries faced with severe land degradation. The training offered by UNU-LRT is considered a contribution to the capacity building of the institute/organization.
How: The capacity of these target country specialists is build by UNU-LRT’s annual offering of the six-month postgraduate training programme in land restoration and sustainable land management.
The six-month training will increase the knowledge of the fellows who participate in the training. They are expected to become not only more knowledgeable about the core issues of the training, but also to have enhanced their professional as well as personal skills as future specialists and leaders in the field of land restoration and sustainable land management.
Fellows, participating in the six-month training work on an individual project during the latter half of the training. The aim of the project work is to deepen the participants’ knowledge and enhance their confidence to work on topics that are pressing in their home countries and have a direct relevance to their employment at home. The topic of the individual project work of each fellow is chosen and developed jointly in the first weeks of the training by the fellow, the supervisors and the UNU-LRT Director and Deputy Director.
The individual projects carried out by each fellow during the six-month training are diverse. They have included field- and lab work, GIS mapping, surveys and assessment of policies and laws. The fellows are encouraged to follow up their projects and their findings at their workplace and other relevant institutions when back home after the training in Iceland. An example of a project, which has translated into policy recommendations, is the that of Ms. Emily Mutota from Namibia: A Feasibility Study for an International Year of Landcare. Ms. Emily Mutota participated in the programme in 2008.
The programme increases the knowledge within the UNU system on issues related to land degradation and restoration. It should, moreover, put more focus on United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification issues within the UN system and will thus contribute to advancing solutions to that major challenge.
The training focuses on strengthening institutional capacity in developing countries on issues related to land degradation and restoration. Strong institutes with good knowledge on these issues will help with putting land degradation and restoration issues high on the agenda of governments/policymakers.
The final reports of the fellows’ project work are published on the UNU-LRT homepage . The fellows are encouraged to introduce their research outcomes at their workplace, within their country and internationally after their graduation from the UNU-LRT six-month training course. Research outcomes from fellows will help put issues to the forefront and aid in determining how they can be solved. The UNU-LRT Director and Deputy Director will endorse further advancement of good work in meetings and/or conferences in Iceland and abroad.
The UNU-LRT six-month training takes place annually from April to October in Iceland.
A comprehensive evaluation of the six-month training is carried out from the beginning of the training every year, and is continued until its end. During the course work, the participants evaluate the training at the end of every week or at the end of each module. An extensive overall evaluationof the training is also carried out at the end of the programme every year. During these evaluations the fellows’ give feedback in group discussions, and by filling out forms anonymously. This continuous evaluation throughout the programme makes it possible to meet many of the participants’ needs and use their suggestions to improve the programme during their stay. Our experience is that such evaluation is very important for the continuous improvement of the UNU-LRT programme.
The programme is expected to run for a duration of 6 months, from 10 April 2012 through 5 October 2012.
UNU Land Restoration Training Programme
Dr. Hafdís Hanna Aegisdóttir
Keldnaholt IS – 112 Reykjavík Iceland
T: +354 433-5232
F: +354 433-5201